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Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru

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When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1532, men of the Inca Umpire worshipped the Sun as Father and their dead kings as ancestor heroes, while women venerated the Moon and her daughters, the Inca queens, as founders of female dynasties. In the pre-Inca period such notions of parallel descent were expressions of complementarity between men and women. Examining the interplay betwe When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1532, men of the Inca Umpire worshipped the Sun as Father and their dead kings as ancestor heroes, while women venerated the Moon and her daughters, the Inca queens, as founders of female dynasties. In the pre-Inca period such notions of parallel descent were expressions of complementarity between men and women. Examining the interplay between gender ideologies and political hierarchy. Irene Silverblatt shows how Inca rulers used their Sun and Moon traditions as methods of controlling women and the Andean peoples the Incas conquered. She then explores the process by which the Spaniards employed European male and female imageries to establish their own rule in Peru and to make new inroads on the power of native women, particularly poor peasant women. Harassed economically and abused sexually, Andean women fought back, earning in the process the Spaniards' condemnation as "witches." Fresh from the European witch hunts that damned women for susceptibility to heresy and diabolic influence, Spanish clerics were predisposed to charge politically disruptive poor women with witchcraft. Professor Silverblatt shows that these very accusations provided women with an ideology of rebellion and a method for defending their culture.


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When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1532, men of the Inca Umpire worshipped the Sun as Father and their dead kings as ancestor heroes, while women venerated the Moon and her daughters, the Inca queens, as founders of female dynasties. In the pre-Inca period such notions of parallel descent were expressions of complementarity between men and women. Examining the interplay betwe When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1532, men of the Inca Umpire worshipped the Sun as Father and their dead kings as ancestor heroes, while women venerated the Moon and her daughters, the Inca queens, as founders of female dynasties. In the pre-Inca period such notions of parallel descent were expressions of complementarity between men and women. Examining the interplay between gender ideologies and political hierarchy. Irene Silverblatt shows how Inca rulers used their Sun and Moon traditions as methods of controlling women and the Andean peoples the Incas conquered. She then explores the process by which the Spaniards employed European male and female imageries to establish their own rule in Peru and to make new inroads on the power of native women, particularly poor peasant women. Harassed economically and abused sexually, Andean women fought back, earning in the process the Spaniards' condemnation as "witches." Fresh from the European witch hunts that damned women for susceptibility to heresy and diabolic influence, Spanish clerics were predisposed to charge politically disruptive poor women with witchcraft. Professor Silverblatt shows that these very accusations provided women with an ideology of rebellion and a method for defending their culture.

30 review for Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru

  1. 5 out of 5

    sage short

    I had to read this book for my history class and I really enjoyed it! It was fast-paced and easy to read with pretty accessible language. The content was very interesting to learn about and please pray for me that I get an A on my final! lol

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Parkinson

    According to Silverblatt, "This book examines the complexities of interplay between political hierarchy and gender . . . It explores how empire building transformed gender ideologies as the Incas, followed by their Iberian conquerors, strove to dominate the Andes." Andean culture viewed gender ideologies as both complimentary and parallel. The Incas used gender hierarchy to create relations of domination and compel the lower classes to give up their autonomy. The Incas had used cultural structur According to Silverblatt, "This book examines the complexities of interplay between political hierarchy and gender . . . It explores how empire building transformed gender ideologies as the Incas, followed by their Iberian conquerors, strove to dominate the Andes." Andean culture viewed gender ideologies as both complimentary and parallel. The Incas used gender hierarchy to create relations of domination and compel the lower classes to give up their autonomy. The Incas had used cultural structures of gender create social classes and order their society. But the Spanish came along and viewed women differently from the Incas. For one, they saw women as "dependent, childlike, and incapable of independent autonomous, responsible action." The Spanish came to the new world with their own views of class and gender. They considered men to be more well prepared for public life. And so class supplanted gender as more important to society. Incan gender parallelism had given them control over their own political and religious institutions. But now native women witnessed the decline of cultural traditions and institutions that offered access to societies resources. The only way that women could protest changes to society was by continuing to practice traditional religion and defend their culture. Coming from a Europe filled with witch hunts, the Spanish clerics, not surprisingly, found many native women guilty of being witches, and this was particularly true for poor women.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    Very interesting. Great to see the feminist perspective of conquest and resistance. This book also is a good precursor to reading about the Incan indigenous and seeing just how advanced they were, in their economic, farming, social and religious power structures. When looking at conquest its important to read about various tribes, not just about ones in America so we can see that there were different dynamics of resistance of conquest by the different groups of indigenous peoples.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Martin

    Although this book is not without fault, it is still an excellent exploration into the gendered world of Inca and colonial Peru. The assumption that complementary gendered worlds = no gendered prejudice is problematic. The witches section is also a little shaky. Overall, however, this is a very worthwhile read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    TRXTRMXTR

    The title is way more interesting than what's in the book. The author repeats herself a lot and the ending doesn't synthesize her ideas in an appealing "I think I learned something and changed my perspective after reading this" kind of way. Lots of liberal arts jargon. But if you like learning about the Incan Empire, I found that to be the most interesting part. The title is way more interesting than what's in the book. The author repeats herself a lot and the ending doesn't synthesize her ideas in an appealing "I think I learned something and changed my perspective after reading this" kind of way. Lots of liberal arts jargon. But if you like learning about the Incan Empire, I found that to be the most interesting part.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    It gets more interesting towards the end, but much of it is too dry and academic, more description than critique. A more overt critical viewpoint would have done it well. Still, maybe the best book on the history of gender in Peru.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    I was especially interested in the first half of the book which focuses on Andean experiences before and under the Inca Empire. Silverblatt uses sources in a really powerful way to paint a picture of Inca Imperialism and the various ways in which gender has been utilized in Peru's history. I was especially interested in the first half of the book which focuses on Andean experiences before and under the Inca Empire. Silverblatt uses sources in a really powerful way to paint a picture of Inca Imperialism and the various ways in which gender has been utilized in Peru's history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

  9. 4 out of 5

    Justine

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Marcus

  12. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  13. 5 out of 5

    Juliette Godot

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  15. 5 out of 5

    Veritatem

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tayler K

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Jo

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Edward Cornejo

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  22. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette Patricia Sutto

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alfonso Sintjago

  24. 5 out of 5

    Derek Nichols

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kera

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ricky

  28. 5 out of 5

    Will Baldwin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sayword Eller

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary Grace

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