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Irene Silverblatt, Professor Emerita of Cultural Anthropology

Irene Silverblatt

Please note: Irene has left the "History" group at Duke University; some info here might not be up to date.

Irene Silverblatt researches the cultural dimensions of power. She studies how “race-thinking” and gender relations were integral to the making of the modern world as well as how historical memory has shaped feelings of national belonging and demands for universal rights. These interests are both historical and contemporary, and have taken Silverblatt to the Inca Empire, the colonial Andes and contemporary Central/Eastern Europe. Her goal has been to explore the profound transformations in social identities, political sensibilities, and categories of “humanness” spawned by the “modern/civilized” world. With support from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Wenner Gren Foundations and Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, she has explored the Spanish Inquisition as a modern institution as well as the ways that gender construed power relations in Inca and Colonial Peru. These concerns about the cultural expressions of power, combined with an interest in the politics of memory and its relation to art, orient her next project. Research in central and eastern Europe explores the ways in which historical memory, particularly of the holocaust, is playing a role in the transformation of national ideologies as well as in the conceptualization of transnational, human rights. Her initial foray into this new arena was to edit Harvest of Blossoms: Poetry of a Life Cut Short. (with Helene Silverblatt). This volume is a collection of the poetry of our cousin, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, who died in an SS labor camp in 1942.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  500 W 111th St, Apt 2B, New York, NY 10025
Office Phone:  (919) 641-0319
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:  http://fds.duke.edu/db/aas/CA/isilver/research.html


Ph.D.University of Michigan, Ann Arbor1981
MAUniversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor1971
BASwarthmore College1970

Comparative Colonial Studies
Race and Ethnicity
Research Interests:

Irene Silverblatt, Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1981, researches the cultural dimensions of state- building and colonization in Latin America. She is particularly interested in the relation of gender, racial discourses, and historical memory to the construction and experience of power. As a Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, she will be writing a social history of Peru's political ideologies and the making of colonial Andean subjects. These concerns, combined with an interest in the history of anthropology, orient her next project on the emerging fields of Andean ethnography--in the United States and Peru--during World War II and the first decades of the Cold War. Her publications include Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru (1987); "Imperial Dilemmas, the Politics of Kinship, and Inca Reconstructions of History," (1988), winner of the American Society for Ethnohistory's Heizer prize; and numerous articles.


Politics of culture • state making • colonization • ethnohistory • gender • South America

Current Ph.D. Students  

  • Anna Kivlan  
  • Lorien Olive  
  • Leigh Campoamor  
  • Arianne Dorval  
  • Kataki Pant  
  • Tracy Brown  
  • Gonzalo Lamana  
  • Tracy Brown  
  • Gonzalo Lamana  
Postdocs Mentored

  • Paloma Fernandez-Racines (1998/08-1999/07)  
  • Paloma Fernandez-Racines (1998/08-1999/07)  
Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. with Irene Silverblatt and Helene Silverblatt editors and introduction, translated by Jerry Glenn and Florian Birkmayer with Helene Silverblatt and Irene Silverblatt, Harvest of Blossoms: Poems from a Life Cut Short (October, 2008) [html]
  2. Silverblatt, I, Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World (2004), Duke University Press  [abs]
  3. Silverblatt, I, Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru (1987), Princeton University Press  [abs]
  4. Silverblatt, I, The Black Legend and Global Conspiracies: The Spanish Inquisition, Race-Thinking and the Emerging Modern World, in Rereading the Black Legend, edited by Greer, M; Mignolo, W (2008), University of Chicago Press
  5. Silverblatt, I, New World Christians and New World Fears in Colonial Peru, in From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and its Futures, edited by Axel, BK (2002), Duke University Press (Reprint of "New World Christians...." published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2000.)

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