Allison Bigelow

allison bigelow
Tom Scully Discovery Chair Associate Professor of Spanish
Office Hours: 
TuTh 3-4 pm (on Zoom; see link in syllabus)

Research Summary

I study the history of science and technology within the early modern Spanish empire and its global colonies, especially Latin America. In projects on mining and agriculture, I have developed methods that document the intellectual contributions of scientific actors who are often overlooked, like women, Indigenous, and African diasporic knowledge holders. Most of my methods focus on language, such as analyzing discrepancies in witness testimonies to identify Andean women miners (Ethnohistory 2016) or studying the pronouns ascribed to botanical matter to show how authors in colonial Virginia encode women's and men's silkwork in different ways (Early American Literature 2014). My book, Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World (UNC Press/OIEAHC 2020), brings together linguistic, historical, and visual methods. My next project builds from that work and is tentatively titled Women of Corn, Men of Corn: The Meanings of Maize Agriculture in the Early Americas. 
At UVa, I teach graduate courses on colonial literature (SPAN 5800), colonial science (SPAN 7800), and Latin American digital humanities (SPAN 7559), which I co-taught with Rafael Alvarado (Data Science). At the undergraduate level, I teach seminars on colonial translation (SPAN 4500), Indigenous literatures (SPAN 4500), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and research-focused independent studies (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 my colonial survey (SPAN 3420), please click here. I'm affiliate faculty in Latin American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality, so my courses often count for those majors or minors. Students should check with me and their advisors before enrolling.
As part of my service to the university, I coordinate the Maya K'iche' classes (1010-2020), which are taught by professor Mareike Sattler as part of the Duke-UVA-Vanderbilt Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages. With Rafael Alvarado (Data Science), I co-direct the Multepal Project, an independent research initiative in digital Mesoamerican studies. Come join our team! Our student researchers do amazing work (see some of it here and here and here). Outside of UVA, I am the chair of the MLA Comparative 18th Century Studies Forum and a councilmember of the American Society for Ethnohistory.
For updates about my research, 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.

Articles (2015-2021)

With Rafael C. Alvarado and Aldo Ismael Barriente, “Popol Wujs: Culture, Complexity, and the Encoding of Maya Cosmovision.” Ethnohistory 68.4 (2021): 491-516. Forthcoming, Oct. 2021.

“Gained, Lost, Missed, Ignored: Vernacular Scientific Translations from Agricola’s Germany to Herbert Hoover’s California.” Modern Philology 119.1, Special Issue, “Multiplicities: Recasting the Early Modern Global,” ed. Carina L. Jonson and Ayesha Ramachandran (2021): 127-146. Available:

“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).

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 (2015-2021)

Graduate Education and Professional Development in the MLA Forums.” Profession (Winter 2020). 2,400 words.

"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.

Selected Digital Projects & Student Collaborations

Multepal Project. (Spring 2017-present). Current focus: collaborating with K'iche', Q'eqchi', Tz'utujil, and Yukatek Maya scholars at the Universidad de Oriente (Yucatán, México) and Universidad Rafael Landívar (Antigua, Guatemala). Repository of work available 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 (2015-2021)

AHSS/VPR Collaborative Research Award (with Eve Danziger, Anthropology), UVA, Summer 2021
Mellon Faculty Fellow, Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, UVA, 2020-2021
Margaret Hannay Fellowship, Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender-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
AHSS/VPR Summer Research Award, UVA, Summer 2016
Huntington Library Fellowship (NEH/OIEAHC), Pasadena, CA, Summer 2016
Faculty Summer Stipend for Research in the Humanities, UVA, Summer 2015
Pablo J. Davis Award for Undergraduate Teaching/Mentoring of Latinx Students, UVA, Spring 2015
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