The Andes and native North America present a cultural landscape that confounds notions of a “great divide” between oral and literate societies. In the absence of alphabetic and hieroglyphic writing systems, native peoples in these two regions developed communications systems that defied the oral-literate binary. For example, the khipu — the Andean knot record — and wampum — native North American beadwork — communicate without recording speech or words and are accompanied by oral performance, forcing scholars to move beyond the narrow confines of “literacy” to take on wider media panoramas.

Colonial Mediascapes is an attempt to embrace that challenge by bringing together scholars — mainly literary scholars, with some exceptions — examining a range of media in the colonial period in the Andes and native North America. At first glance, the two regions could not be more different. For the most...

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