Article Review Paper Example: The Slippery Earth by Louise M. Burkhart

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George Washington University
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Article review
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This particular article was authored by Louise M. Burkhart, and published on the first day of May 1989. It addresses matters that surrounded the processes of religious syncretism that happened after the Mexican conquest. The excerpt taken for analysis in this case only constitutes the first two chapters of the book, entitled Evangelization, Dialogue, Rhetoric, and Missionary Missionized respectively. The article is unique in its presentation in the sense that it triggers the reader to review Evangelism in its very nature.

Burkhart's primary intent in the article is to investigate the endeavors of many scholars of the sixteenth century who scripted religious texts in Nahuatl to encourage the indoctrination of the native congregation in central Mexico. Burkhart is specifically concerned with the way they translated Christian ideas of sin and morality into Nahuatl. Additionally, she has applied innovative analysis to assess the comparative success by which the ideas were communicated against language barriers and formidable culture.

Burkhart based her study on half-dozens of primary sources various types of religious texts. The sources include one confessionario, catechisms and several sermonarios, and one psalmodia by friars. She also sought assistance from the native informants. Burkhart is biased in terming the situation as a dialogical frontier. She further becomes controversial when she notices that the settings of the dialogue were neither democratic nor equal.

The author contributes to the evaluation of how useful the moral terms of Christians were presented in the Nahuatl language. She analyzes this in two ways. First, she examines the textual sources on sin and morality where concepts and Nahuatl words were employed. Secondly, Burkhart traces the majorly borrowed and restructured Nahuatlisms concerning their original context. The two assessments give her different insight of the friars' evangelical success. She concludes, however, that the enterprise of accurate and adequate translation of moral concepts all over the Nahua-Spanish conversational frontier was precarious.

The shortcoming of this interesting piece of article arises from the authors assumption that she has the privilege from her access to the general references of the contemporary linguistics. She positions herself as a revisionist who is skeptical over what Richard formally termed as the "Spiritual Conquest School." Further studies should be done to give more synthesis of classic treatments of the subject in question. The Tales of Two Cultures

Mark Christensen is the author recognized as the writer of this piece of work. In building the body of his arguments, he employs two simple texts to explore the effect of non-official religious texts together with their respective authors on the native Catholicism versions received, and the probability for these versions to be unorthodox. The two-tales referred above are: Nahuatl sermon Pauls Conversion and The Creation of Adam by Yucatec Maya. Moreover, Christensen further uses these tales to illustrate the difference that existed between the Catholic messages for the Nahuas and the Mayas.

The author biasedly outlines that there are insufficient pieces of information that can be drawn from the ecclesiastical Maya texts and this has tremendously discouraged similar research on the Yucatan. According to Christensen, quite some ecclesiastical books were written in the indigenous languages, which are known today, are majorly based on the Central Mexican Nahuas. In response to these needs as a matter of contribution, this article constitutes a larger part of the dissertation project that takes into account Maya and Nahuatl texts of ecclesiastics to evaluate the emergence of many Maya and Nahua Catholicism. The said catholicisms were tailored both locally and culturally.

The primary sources used in crafting this article, as we can identify, are the ecclesiastical texts that have been discussed previously as well as their authors. They have made it possible for the author to achieve his objective of demonstrating circumstances under which the emergence of personal and unorthodox texts occurred in a colonial society. All these are driven to promote the uniformity and purity in religion. He has also managed to analyze the manner in which the pre-existing cultural preferences transformed their messages of Catholicism to include unconventional doctrine added flesh on culturally-specific Catholic interpretations.

Mark Christensen comes to a conclusion that the two-tales discussed demonstrates the incidence of informal Catholic discourses that triggered many colonial Catholicism versions and interpretations. However, the fact that the information from the texts was insufficient still raises doubts to the readers into such conclusions. Therefore, the further comprehensive study still needs to be conducted.

Imparting Discipline on the Indians

The author of the article bearing the above title is named Inga Clendinnen. He directs his primary focus on presenting a particular missionary group from France that worked with the Indians in Rigorous training. He seeks to demonstrate how the training yielded positive impacts on the lives of the Indians. Inga's most pressing concern is to find out the way in which new experiences and challenges faced by the Mexican missionaries shifted their attention from the Franciscan ideology. In addition to that, the author also intends to identify the exact Yucatan context which led to the new emphases, to enable scholars to understand how the hostility and confusion arose.

Among the primary sources that the author has genuinely used include Juan's Monarquia Indiana, The Oroz Codex, and The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico. Ideally, It is from these texts that the author finds out how the missionaries from Mexico punished the Indians. And he acknowledges that they were mighty. The biasedness of this study emanates from its real focus on just one particular aspect of the missionaries, that is, their hostility. This ought to have been accompanied by other natural qualities because hostility could be the only effect that the missionaries could induce.

The author has contributed significantly in laying more emphasis on the impact of the missionary activities on the ancient Indians. Readers can pick from the writing, the fundamental positive transformation the missionaries had on the lives of these group of people. Apart from all the above evidence, future research works should be done to assess the extent to which the disciplinary actions of the missionaries affected the Indians up to date.



Burkhart, Louise M. 1991. "The Slippery Earth. Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue In Sixteenth-Century Mexico". The Americas 47 (3): 363. doi:10.2307/1006806.

Christensen, Mark Z. 2010. "The Tales Of Two Cultures: Ecclesiastical Texts And Nahua And Maya Catholicisms." The Americas 66 (03): 353-377. doi:10.1017/s0003161500005770.

Clendinnen, Inga. 1982. "DISCIPLINING THE INDIANS: FRANCISCAN IDEOLOGY AND MISSIONARY VIOLENCE IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY YUCATAN." Past And Present 94 (1): 27-48. doi:10.1093/past/94.1.27.


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