Allison Bigelow

allison bigelow
Tom Scully Discovery Chair Associate Professor of Spanish
Office Hours: 
Tues & Thurs 2:30-3:20 pm, NCH 433 or on Zoom

Research Summary

I study the history of science and technology in the early Americas, from Virginia to Potosí. I am especially interested in developing language-centered methods that document the ideas and practices of historically marginalized actors, such as women, Indigenous, and African diasporic knowledge holders in vernacular sciences like mining, metallurgy, and agriculture.
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 (School of Data Science). That seminar led us to create the Multepal Project, a transnational research initiative with collaborators from K'iche', Q'eqchi', Tz'utujil, and Yukatek Maya communities, as well as UVA. Our student researchers do amazing work (see some of it here and here and here).
At the undergraduate level, I teach the colonial survey (SPAN 3420), 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). My students 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. Because of my work with Maya communities in Mexico and Guatemala and, locally, the Monacan Indian Nation, I am also a faculty affiliate at the Equity Center: A UVA Democracy Initiative for the Redress of Inequity Through Community-Engaged Research. Students interested in meaningful, reciprocal forms of community-based research should stop by office hours to talk about their ideas.
As part of my service to the university, I coordinate the Maya K'iche' classes (1010-2020), which are taught by professor Mareike Sattler through the Duke-UVA-Vanderbilt Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages. Click here to learn more about professor Sattler and the K'iche' program. I am also one of the coordinators of the Interdisciplinary PhD Fellowship in Indigenous Studies (2021-2024) and I serve on the advisory council for UVA's certificate in Digital Humanities (2021-2023). Outside of UVA, I am the chair of the MLA Comparative 18th Century Studies Forum, a councilmember of the American Society for Ethnohistory, and I chair the nominating committee for the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender.
For the 2022-2025 academic years, I will be teaching in the Engagements program for first-year students. I'm excited to teach a new course on theories and practices of sovereignty in the Americas and Europe, 1450-1700 (ish). 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). Available from UNC and independent, women- and BIPOC-owned bookstores.
Articles (2016-2021)

With Pablo Cruz, "Ingenios and ingenuity: Rethinking Indigenous Histories of Silver in the Colonial Andean Mining Industry." Colonial Latin American Review 30.4, Special Issue, "A New Mining and Minting History for the Americas," ed. Tatiana Seijas and Dana Velasco Murillo (2021 [January 2022]): 520-544. DOI: 10.1080/10609164.2021.1996989.

With Rafael C. Alvarado and Aldo Ismael Barriente, “Popol Wujs: Culture, Complexity, and the Encoding of Maya Cosmovision.” Ethnohistory 68.4 (2021): 493-518. DOI: 10.1215/00141801-9157219.
“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:
“Colonial Latin America.” Cambridge Companion to Early American Literature, edited by Bryce Traister (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 218-232. (googlebooks link)
  • Named as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2022)
“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.
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 (2016-2021)
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 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 who work independently and at the Universidad de Oriente (Yucatán, México) and Universidad Rafael Landívar (Antigua, Guatemala). Repository of work available here.
     * Supported by: National Science Foundation-National Endowment for the Humanities Documenting Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages ($249,101, 2022-2024); 3C Seed Grant from the Vice President for Research ($60,000, 2021-2022); Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation ($15,000, 2020-2021); Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative ($1,500, Fall 2020); Mapping Indigenous Worlds Lab ($3,000; Summer 2020); Office of Undergraduate Research (student researcher, 2018-present); Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative (course buyout, 2018-2019); Americas Center/Centro de las Américas ($2,000, 2017-2019).
"Bilingual and Intercultural Education in Guatemala." Independent Study (SPAN 4993, Summer 2021) to translate Aj Xol Héctor Rolando's B'ich Q'eqchi' (Canto Q'eqchi') from Spanish to English.
“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 (2016-2021)

Democracy Initiative Working Group in Indigenous Studies, 2022-2024
National Science Foundation-National Endowment for the Humanities, Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages, 2022-2024
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
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Office Address: 
New Cabell Hall 433
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