Envisioning New Worlds: The Visual Construction of Religious and Racial Difference in Early Modern German Print, 1491-1700

Kowalski, Micaela, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lambert, Erin, AS-History, University of Virginia

“Envisioning New Worlds: The Visual Construction of Religious and Racial Difference in Early Modern German Print, 1491-1700” examines images of “new worlds” produced predominantly in German-speaking Europe; it seeks to decenter European depictions of the Americas, and instead to equally investigate European encounters in multiple parts of the early modern world, including in West and South Africa, India, and the Pacific Islands. Within this framework of “new worlds,” “Envisioning New Worlds” demonstrate how models of religious difference like infanticide, cannibalism, and devil worship, which were frequently used to depict religious outsiders and minority groups back in Europe, were also similarly utilized to imagine these new worlds together. In closely examining these visual cues used in a variety of printed images, this project demonstrates how differences based in religion were crucial to the European imagining of cultures abroad, just as they were in much more local contexts. Unpacking the visual strategies used to construct images of far-off peoples and places in similar terms lays bare a clear system of managing difference based in European religious categories that came to be expressed globally not just locally. “Envisioning New Worlds” deviates from previous scholarship by including a wide variety of printed sources on different parts of the non-European world, which reveals the encompassing reach of this visual vocabulary, and reveals as well the centralizing importance of religious difference in visual depictions of the other. Overall, this project both contributes to the field of early modern history in providing a global look at constructions of alterity in print and also importantly shows a history of prejudice and racialized attitudes that were in part created, maintained, and communicated in popular print.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Global history, Prints and Printmaking, German history, European history, Visual studies, Cultural history, Religious difference, The Reformation, Cartography, Iconography, Cannibalism, Americas, New Worlds, Witchcraft, Popular print
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