Allison Bigelow

allison bigelow
Tom Scully Discovery Chair Associate Professor of Spanish
Office Hours: 
Virtual Meetings Tuesday & Thursday 11:00am-12:00pm

Research Summary

Allison (she/her/hers/ella) studies colonial science and technology, especially vernacular sciences like agriculture and mining. Her work applies literary methods to texts that bridge the gap between history and literature – scientific treatises, memoriales de arbitristas, legal papers, woodcuts, copperplate engravings, manuscript illustrations – to unearth the contributions of understudied groups, like women, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant artisans.
Her book, Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World (UNC Press/OIEAHC 2020), examines how Amerindian, African diasporic, South Asian, and Iberian miners responded to the same metallic materials -- gold, iron, copper, and silver -- in ways that reveal epistemological, ideological, and technological overlaps and divergences. Allison's research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies (2017-2018), Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation at UVa (2016), Huntington Library (2012, 2016, 2017-2018), John Carter Brown Library (2010, 2018), Latin American & Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico (2013), National Endowment for the Humanities (OIEAHC, 2012-2014), and US Department of Education (FLAS: Yucatec Maya, 2009 and 2011).
At UVa, Allison teaches graduate courses on colonial literature (SPAN 5800), colonial science (SPAN 7800), and Latin American digital humanities (SPAN 7559), co-taught with Rafael Alvarado. At the undergraduate level, she teaches seminars on colonial translation (SPAN 4500), Indigenous literatures (SPAN 4500), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and independent research projects (SPAN 4993 -- see "Student Collaborations" below). Students in these courses can pursue creative projects and publish original research for scholarly audiences and general readerships. To see a sample syllabus in Allison's survey of colonial literature (SPAN 3420), please click here.
As part of her service to the university, Allison coordinates UVa's Maya K'iche' classes (1010-2020), which are taught by Mareike Sattler as part of the Duke-UVa-Vanderbilt Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages. From 2018-2023, as part of her service to the profession, Allison serves on the MLA Comparative 18th Century Studies Forum.
For updates about her research and teaching, please visit or ORCID.


Ph.D., English, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2012)

M.A., English, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2007)

B.A., Spanish, University of Maryland-College Park (2003)

B.A., English, University of Maryland-College Park (2003)



Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture for the University of North Carolina Press, 2020). 376 pp. Available from UNC and BIPOC-owned bookstores nationwide.


“Digital Resources: Multepal, Mesoamerican Studies, and the Popol Wuj,” with Rafael C. Alvarado. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History (online publication: Oxford University Press, 2020). doi: (8,900 words).

With Catherine Addington, Karina A. Baptista, and Rafael C. Alvarado, “Decolonizing the Digital Humanities: Remediating the Popol Wuj.” Transformative Digital Humanities: Challenges and Opportunities, ed. Mary Balkun and Martha Deyrup (New York: Routledge, 2020), 7-17. (googlebooks link)

“Transatlantic Quechuañol: Reading Race Through Colonial Translations.” PMLA 134.2 (2019): 242-259. Available:

Traduttore, traditore o traduttore, soccorritore: La traducción y la recuperación del saber andino en la época colonial.” ISTOR: Revista de historia internacional, Special Issue: “El estudio de la minería latinoamericana: Escalas de abordaje, diversas fuentes y reflexiones teórico-metodológicas,” ed. David Navarette G. and Lorena B. Rodríguez 19.73 (2018): 41-56.

“Imperial Projecting in Virginia and Venezuela: Copper, Colonialism, and the Printing of Possibility.” Early American Studies, Special Issue: The Global Turn and Early American Studies, ed. Mary Eyring, Chris Hodson, and Matthew Mason. 16.1 (2018): 91-123. Available:

“Imperial Translations: New World Missionary Linguistics, Indigenous Interpreters, and Universal Languages in the Early Modern Era.” American Literature and the New Puritan Studies, ed. Bryce Traister (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 93-110. (googlebooks link)

“Colonial Industry and the Gendered Language of Empire: Silkworks in the Virginia Colony, 1607-1655.” European Empires in the American South, ed. Joseph P. Ward; aft. Kathleen DuVal (Oxford, M.S.: University of Mississippi Press, 2017), 8-36. (googlebooks link)

“La dote natural: género y el lenguaje de la vida cotidiana en la minería andina.” Anuario de estudios bolivianos 22, vol. II (2016): 145-168. ISSN: 1819-7981.

“Women, Men, and the Legal Languages of Mining in the Colonial Andes.” Ethnohistory 63.2 (2016): 351-380. doi 10.1215/00141801-3455347.

“Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into Extractive Economies: The Science of Colonial Silver.” Journal of Extractive Industries and Society 3.1 (2016): 117-123.

“Conchos, colores y castas de metales: El lenguaje de la ciencia colonial en la región andina.” Umbrales 29 (2015): 15-47. ISSN: 1994-4543. Digital copy available from la Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (La Paz, Bolivia).

“Gendered Language and the Science of Colonial Silk.” Early American Literature 49.2 (Summer 2014): 271-325. doi: 10.1353/eal.2014.0024

“Lost in Translation: Knowledge Transfers and Cultural Divergences in Early Modern Spanish and English Silver Treatises.” Moneta, ed. Georges Depeyerot, Catherine Brégianni, and Marina Kovalchuk (Wetteren, Belgium: Agence Nationale de la Recherche-Dépréciation de l’Argent Monétaire et Relations Intérnationales, 2013): 237-260. Collection Moneta #156. ISBN: 9789491384240.

“La técnica de la colaboración: redes científicas e intercambios culturales de la minería y metalurgía colonial altoperuana.” Anuario de estudios bolivianos 18 (2012): 53-77. ISSN: 1819-7981.

“‘Baço’, ‘Brown’ y ‘un milieu’: La traducción de los colores y las categorías de las castas de metales,” De quelle couleur est le sang? Sémantiques et représentations sociales de la race: Une perspective globale du Moyen Âge tardif au XXIe siècle, ed. António de Almeida Mendes and Alejandro E. Gómez (Madrid: Collection de la Casa de Velázquez). Due 10 September 2017; submitted 7 June 2017. 6,000 words.

  • Portuguese translation: “‘Baço’, ‘Brown’, e ‘un milieu’: a tradução das cores e as categorias das castas das metais,” As minas e o cotidiano do mineral: experiências humanas colonais, ed. Alexandre Belmonte and Christine Hunefeldt (Rio de Janeiro: Estudos Americanos, 2018), 123-138. Translated by Alexandre Belmonte and Leonardo P.B. da Costa.

Edited Volumes

With Thomas Miller Klubock, "Latin American Studies and the Humanities: One Year Later." Latin American Research Review 54.4 (2019): 970-1022. Essays by Hugh Cagle, Jason Oliver Chang, and Eileen J. Findlay.

With Thomas Miller Klubock, "Latin American Studies and the Humanities: Past, Present, Future.” Latin American Research Review 53.3 (2018): 573-626. Essays by Karin Rosemblatt, Jafte Dilean Robles Lomeli and Joanne Rappaport, and Arturo Arias.

Forums, Talks, and Digital Writing

"Teaching Colonial Translations Through Archives: From Ink and Quill to XML (Or Not)." Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Special Issue: Teaching and Researching with Archives, edited by Danica Savonik, Jojo Karlin, and Stephen Klein 14 (2019).

Allison Bigelow, Vivienne Westbrook, Daniel Carey, Carlo M. Bajetta, Mark Nicholls, Gordon Braden, Catherine Bates, Judith Owens, Claire Jowitt, Thomas Herron, Nicholas Popper, Eric Klingelhofer, Willy Maley, “Ralegh at 400,” Spenser Review 48.3 (Fall 2018).

“Seasons of Gold: Rethinking Indigenous Knowledge Production in the Siglo de Oro.” Indigenous Knowledge and the Making of Colonial Latin America. Getty Museum/USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, Getty Center, Los Angeles, 8-10 December 2017. Available:

“Feminism in the New Millennium: Reflections from a Colonial Classroom.” Feminist Forum with ed. Whitney Leeson, Sixteenth Century Journal 48.4 (2017): 896-900. Essays by Kathryn Brammall and Whitney Leeson, Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Allyson M. Poska, Sheila ffolliott, Allison Bigelow, Bronagh Ann McShane, and Karen Nelson.

Mining the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas.” The Appendix 2.1 (2014): 14-21.

Selected Digital Projects & Student Collaborations

Multepal. Collaborative effort to digital editions of the Popol Wuj (Spring 2017-present). Working drafts available here and here.

“Recreating the Archive.” Faculty Global Research with Undergraduate Students (Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation; with Rebecca Graham, CLAS 2017).

Podcast: “The Science of Colonial Silver: Rethinking the History of Mining and Metallurgy in the Early Americas.” History Hub: Kingdom, Empire, and Plus Ultra (University College Dublin), 8 August 2016.

Guest editor, Early Americas Digital Archive. Eleven digital critical editions of colonial-era texts translated, transcribed, and annotated by undergraduate and graduate students at UVa and William & Mary.

Wikipedia editor, “Literatura indígena” (SPAN 4500, Spring 2016). Students could choose to write seminar papers (individually) or Wikipedia pages (in groups) about indigenous literatures and cultures. Projects include: deities from Mesoamerica and the Andes; musical traditions of the Suyá people of Brasil; spiritual practices of the Achuar people of Ecuador; Nahua writer Hernando de Alvarado Tezozómoc; León Portilla’s Visión de los vencidos; modern retellings of Guaman Poma.

Selected Grants & Awards

Mellon Faculty Fellow, Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, UVa, 2020-2021
Margaret Hannay Fellowship, SSEMWG-Folger Shakespeare Library, July 2020
Faculty Summer Stipend for Research in the Humanities, UVa, Summer 2019
Mellon Faculty Fellow, Indigenous Arts Initiative (UVa), 2018-2019
American Council of Learned Societies Fellow, 2017-2018
Barbara Thom Postdoctoral Fellowship, Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA, 2017-2018
Faculty Global Undergraduate Research, Center for Global Inquiry & Innovation, UVa, Fall 2016
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Research Award, University of Virginia, Summer 2016
Huntington Library Fellowship (NEH/OIEAHC), Pasadena, CA, Summer 2016
Faculty Summer Stipend for Research in the Humanities, University of Virginia, Summer 2015
Pablo J. Davis Award for Undergraduate Teaching/Mentoring of Latinx Students, UVa, Spring 2015
Richard E. Greenleaf Fellow, Latin American and Iberian Institute, UNM, Albuquerque, Jan. 2013
Dibner Fellow in the History of Science, Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA, Summer 2012
Mellon Summer Dissertation Fellowship, Institute for the Study of the Americas, UNC, May 2012
Dissertation Fellowship & Summer Research Award, Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, UNC, Summer & Fall 2011
John Carter Brown Library Fellow, Providence, RI, Spring 2010 (4 months) and 2018 (3 months)
FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Study), Yucatec Maya, US Dept. of State, Summer 2009 & 2011
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Office Address: 
New Cabell Hall 433
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