Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
Johns Hopkins 
     Magazine Home

APRIL 1998

H U M A N I T I E S    &    T H E   A R T S

Two Andean scholars who "wrote back"... Peabody ventures into tech transfer... lessons in love... a new outlet for regional books

An Andean reversal of roles

When Spain completed its conquest in 1532 of what is now Peru, two indigenous Andeans named Guamán Poma and Garcilaso de la Vega, Inca, found themselves in limbo. The Spanish had destroyed the Andeans' social hierarchy, dismissed their history and religion, supplanted their languages, and overthrown their authority. Guamán Poma and Garcilaso no longer had their Andean identities. But they were not, and could never be, Europeans. Who were they now? They answered this fundamental question by writing responses to the discourse of their Spanish colonial masters, thereby creating new identities to fit the new circumstances of their peoples.

Sara Castro-Klarén, professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at Hopkins, has spent the last few years assembling a book of essays on Guamán Poma and Garcilaso. She says that European chroniclers and commentators justified the Spanish conquest by constructing an identity for the Andean peoples as different from--and threatening to--Europeans: the Other, in scholarly terminology, whom it was necessary and morally right to subdue.

These efforts began with Columbus and the whole notion of the "New World"--which was no newer than Europe, of course. But by characterizing the indigenous peoples as "new," Europeans began defining them as different from the "Old World." Says Castro-Klarén, "Even the things that were exactly the same were constructed as differences."

For example, she says, the Incas had vast irrigation systems, just like those in southern Spain. But when writing about the Inca system, Spanish commentators used it as an example of how the tyrannical Inca rulers had forced thousands of workers to build "useless" canals.

Guamán Poma and Garcilaso de la Vega "wrote back," arguing that the Andeans had much in common with Europeans. Moreover, they could teach their colonial masters a thing or two about how to effectively govern a society and be good Christians. Under the guise of serving the Spanish by improving their understanding of the Andean cultures, says Castro-Klarén, the two Andean authors reversed the roles of master and subaltern-- lecturing, reeducating, and criticizing their colonial overlords.

Guamán Poma, who lived in what is now Ayacucho, worked as a translator in the Spanish law courts. He wrote a 1,200-page letter to Philip III of Spain that was never published but, somehow, found its way to the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen, where it was discovered in 1908. In the letter, he suggests that the Spanish take the gold that they want and control the coastal regions, but leave the rest of the country under Andean governance, because the Andeans will do a better job. He also notes the significant gap between the Spaniards' Christian preaching and their practice. Furthermore, he argues that the Andeans had been practicing a faith consistent with Christian morality before the Spanish arrived.

Garcilaso was the son of a Spanish father and an Inca mother. He grew up in Peru, but traveled to Spain, where he lived for 60 years and came under the influence of the European Renaissance humanists. His Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru challenged the Spanish assertion that the Incas had no past because they had no written history. "How do you make claim to civilization if you do not know your past?" Castro-Klarén says, paraphrasing the Spanish argument. "Garcilaso's answer was, `We know our past. We don't have writing like you do, but we have discourse, oral history, and so forth.'" --DK

Marketing the fruits of musical research

One does not ordinarily associate technology transfer with a conservatory of music. But to Geoffrey D. Wright, head of Peabody's Computer Music Department, the two go together. He looks at the technology and intellectual property developed by Peabody faculty and students and sees commercial opportunities.

The conservatory recently appointed Wright as director of technology transfer. In that capacity, he is coordinating Peabody Ventures, an effort to bring Peabody-developed products to market.

"For years, there's been technology transfer at the Medical Institutions," Wright says. "As early as the 1980s, there were some ideas starting to come out of Peabody. These ideas were brought to the administration, but the mindset of Peabody was that tech transfer was not a traditional conservatory's mission. Nor was there seed funding. Two or three ideas went out to the private sector and ended up having corporations formed around them."

When Hopkins first offered technology grants from the Provost's Subcommittee on Electronic and Distance Education (SEDE), Peabody won five of them. Says Wright, "Five projects got started, and it was pretty clear that at least one or two of them had commercial value." Peabody recognized the opportunity and formed its office of technology transfer last year.

Peabody Ventures has two initial projects. One is computer software called SoundView, a tool for advanced analysis and manipulation of sound. The second is a CD-ROM for earlychildhood music education, to help very young violin students practice at home. Says Wright, "We're talking about 75,000 new Suzuki-method violin students every year in the United States alone, and that's just one system. If we produced a CD-ROM that went along with a beginning instruction book, and sold it for $49.95, there might be as much as $1 million in sales on a yearly renewable basis."

Wright hopes that Peabody Ventures will attract what he calls "musical Renaissance men and women of the 21st century" to the conservatory: "Over the last decade or so," he says, "we have added technology-based programs, like computer music. The students coming into those programs are really bright. They have studied music early, and also have broad technical, mathematical, or scientific interests. They're excellent at combining things. We want more of them. The more we get, the more exciting it becomes." --DK

Illustration by Bruno Paciulli
A scholarly look at love

The course is about love. Not how to get it, but how to look at it from a cultural viewpoint.

Nonetheless, 160 undergraduates showed up in the first days of Course No. 070.367, The Anthropology of Love. Only about 30 students were expected. Hopkins assistant professor Sonia Ryang scrambled to meet the demand, dividing the class into five sections and adding Anthropology Department teaching assistants.

Ryang created the course to focus on the cultural study of romantic love, including love in politics. Some of the questions evaluated: Is our Western nation's fixation on "falling in love" the product of an increasingly technical and alienating society? Or is the love thing an innate human quality?

Ryang says it's clearly not an advice course, though some of America's higher-placed politicians could get something out of it. One reading is titled "Lovers and Leaders: A Comparison of Social and Psychological Models of Romance and Charisma." --JPC

Wilhelm (left) and Weese had
a great first year.

Photo by Jay Van Rennselaer
Regional press debuts

Among publishing houses bringing forth their fall 1997 lists, there was a tiny newcomer named Woodholme House. Woodholme's first offering consisted of four titles, each with a Baltimore connection: a play by a Baltimore professor of philosophy, a book of photographs of children treated for cancer at Hopkins, a collection of short stories set in the city, and a volume of cartoons by the political cartoonist of The Sun. In a field dominated by media conglomerates, this new house hopes to succeed as a modest player in a publishing niche.

So far, so good. Woodholme, which grew out of a successful bookselling venture founded by Brian D. Weese (SAIS '82), reports encouraging sales of its first titles. The Fountain of Highlandtown, stories by Rafael Alvarez, has gone into a second printing. Fighting Chance: Journeys Through Childhood Cancer, photographs of Hopkins cancer patients by Harry Connolly, was recently the subject of national attention on NBC television's The Today Show.

"We had a great year, especially for a new press," says Gregg A. Wilhelm, Woodholme's director and editor. "Books are a difficult product, especially in competition with other media."

Weese opened his first Bibelot book and music superstore near Baltimore in 1995, after three years in the Foreign Service and a stint as president of Encore Books, a mid-Atlantic chain store. He now has a trio of Bibelots in greater Baltimore, with plans for more. Woodholme House arose from a proposal brought to him by Wilhelm, a former editor at Johns Hopkins University Press. Wilhelm believed there was sufficient market for Maryland regional books to support a small publisher.

"We said, `Let's do a few books and see what happens,'" Weese recalls. "Local books sell very well, and local authors are outstanding at presenting themselves. There has been no shortage of manuscripts and proposals. It's been daunting as well as gratifying." Wilhelm estimates that since November 1996, he has looked at more than 500 manuscripts, proposals, or queries from authors.

Woodholme plans to release four new titles in the coming year. Among them will be Oysterback Spoken Here, by Helen Chappell, a collection chronicling the quirky life of a fictional Chesapeake Bay town, and Mad Dash: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe, by Baltimorean Leo Bretholz. The latter, co-written by Baltimore Sun journalist Michael Olesker, is a memoir of Bretholz's escape from the Nazis and his years as a refugee. --DK

Written by Dale Keiger and Joanne P. Cavanaugh.