Monday workshop
Monday, October 25, 2021 - 3:30pm


In keeping with current Covid-19 recommendations, this workshop will follow a hybrid format. The presentation will occur in-person with a small audience of Penn faculty and students and will be streamed via Zoom for all those wishing to join remotely. Participants on Zoom will be able to participate in the Q+A.

"From Egyptian Gold to Chichimeca Silver: Extractive Rhetoric and Praxis in 16th-century Mexico"

This talk examines the relationship between silver mining and the rhetoric of extraction that accompanied it in sixteenth-century Mexico. Focusing on Franciscan missionary Diego Valadés’ Rhetorica christiana (Perugia, 1579), I trace the adaptation of Augustine’s trope of “spoiling the Egyptians” for the sixteenth century missionary enterprise in the silver-rich region known as the Chichimeca. In describing God’s mandate that the Israelites take Egypt’s riches as they fled slavery, Augustine interpreted the passage in Exodus as a metaphor for the utility of pagan knowledge in Christian hands. If, for Augustine, Egyptian gold is a metaphor for appropriating Platonist philosophy, Valadés reworks this trope in three ways: by evoking it as a rationale to compose a Christian rhetoric, that is, to use the “pagan” art of rhetoric for Christian means; by implementing it when appropriating the conventions of the indigenous technology of the painted account book –which depicted tribute in coin and kind– in his own didactic engraving of creation rendered as a hierarchical and monetized cosmos; and by using it as an exemplum in a proselytic speech to exhort and recruit missionaries willing to evangelize in the silver-rich Chichimeca region, where silver was not a metaphor, but a concrete promise.