Allison Bigelow

Assistant Professor of Spanish
New Cabell Hall 433
Office Hours:
On leave until January 2019

Research Summary

I study the history of colonial science and technology, especially vernacular sciences like agriculture and mining. I apply literary methods to texts that fall between the “gap” of history and literature – technical treatises, memoriales de arbitristas, legal papers – to unearth the rich literacies and intellectual agencies of understudied groups, like women and indigenous experts.
My book project, Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas (committed to UNC Press/OIEAHC), examines how European and indigenous empires responded to the same metallic materials in different ways. Each chapter focuses on a specific metal – gold, silver, copper, iron – and a discursive question that emerges from writers’ treatment of them: time, translation, form, and genre. My research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies (2017-8), Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation at UVa (2016), the National Endowment for the Humanities (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2012-2014), Huntington Library (2012, 2016, 2017-2018), Latin American & Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico (2013), John Carter Brown Library (2010, 2018), and the US Department of Education (FLAS: Yucatec Maya, 2009 and 2011).
At UVa, I teach graduate courses on colonial science (SPAN 7800) and Latin American digital humanities (SPAN 7559), co-taught with Rafael Alvarado. At the undergraduate level, I teach seminars on colonial translation (SPAN 4500), indigenous literatures (SPAN 4500), and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and I collaborate with students on research projects (SPAN 4993 -- see "Student Collaborations" below). Students in these courses have opportunities to pursue creative projects and publish original research for scholarly audiences and general readerships, two ways of making academic research available to the public. I also coordinate our Maya K'iche' classes (1010-2020), which are taught by Mareike Sattler (Vanderbilt, Anthropology) as part of the Duke-UVa-Vanderbilt Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages.
From January 2018-2023, as part of my service to the profession, I will serve on the MLA Comparative 18th Century Studies Forum.
To learn more about my research and teaching, please consult my C.V.


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)


Book project (in progress)

Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas (committed to the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture for the University of North Carolina Press)


“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.

“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.

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

“Feminism in the New Millennium: Reflections from a Colonial Classroom.” Roundtable on Early Modern Feminist Studies with Merry-Weisner Hanks, Allyson M. Poska, Sheila ffolliott, Bronagh Ann McShane, and Karen Nelson, ed. Whitney Leeson, Sixteenth Century Journal (forthcoming, winter 2018). 2,300 words.

“Transatlantic Quechuañol: Reading Race Through Colonial Translations.” PMLA. 9,000 words. Accepted for publication on 19 June 2017.

Traduttore, traditore o traduttore, soccorritore: La traducción y la recuperación del saber andino en la época colonial.” ISTOR. Special Issue: “El estudio de la minería latinoamericana: Escalas de abordaje, diversas fuentes y reflexiones teórico-metodológicas,” ed. David Navarette and Lorena Rodríguez (forthcoming, Summer 2018). 7,100 words. Revisions due 22 Dec. 2017; submitted 4 Dec. 2017.

“‘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.

Selected Digital Projects & Student Collaborations

Multepal. Collaborative effort to build a digital edition of the Popol Wuj (Spring 2017, as part of SPAN 7559/4993).

“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.

Mining the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas.” The Appendix 2.1 (2014): 14-21. This quarterly journal encourages interdisciplinary approaches to experimental and narrative histories, especially image-rich, interactive articles that are designed for digital platforms.

Selected Grants & Awards

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
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