Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Colonial Cruelty: The Expression and Perpetuation of Violence in Theodor de Bry’s America

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2018), 95, (2), 145–162.

Abstract

The images accompanying the Girolamo Benzoni account of Spanish colonization in the New World are characterized as some of the most violent of Theodor de Bry’s collection, America. Revisiting these depictions with an explicit focus on violence reveals the different ways in which violent acts are either justified or condemned in colonial discourse and power structures. The purpose of this discussion is twofold: first, to examine how violence is defined and represented in this early modern visual context; and second, to explore how the De Bry illustrations advance an equally violent colonial discourse. A juxtaposition of expressions of both indigenous and Spanish violence from parts four through six of De Bry’s America highlights the argumentative substratum of the images – mainly that European acts of aggression are justified actions of colonial control, while indigenous aggression is unbridled brutality, thus consequentially promoting colonial efforts that directly affect that very America in focus.

Las imágenes que acompañan la cuenta de Girolamo Benzoni de la colonización española en el Nuevo Mundo se caracterizan por ser algunas de las más violentas de la colección de Theodor de Bry titulada América. Al revisar estas representaciones con un enfoque explícito sobre la violencia, se revela cómo los diferentes actos violentos fueron justificados o condenados dentro de las estructuras de poder y discursos coloniales. El propósito de esta discusión es doble: examinar cómo se define y se representa la violencia en este contexto visual de la primera modernidad, y explorar cómo las ilustraciones mismas promueven un violento discurso colonial. Una yuxtaposición de expresiones de violencia tanto indígena como española en las piezas cuatro a seis de América resalta el sustrato argumentativo de las imagenes, es decir, que los actos europeos de agresión son acciones justificadas del control colonial mientras que la agresión indígena se categoriza como brutalidad desenfrenada.

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Tun, Molly