Gabriela Ramos and Yanna Yannakakis
This volume offers a framework for approaching and understanding indige-
nous intellectuals and their knowledge in the colonial context. Although we
recognize that classifying knowledge into neat categories obscures histori-
cal realities it is useful for analytical purposes to conceive of it as primarily
pragmatic or ideological. By pragmatic, we mean knowledge acquired and
expressed through habitus and performance, which could be mobilized and
put into action. By ideological, we mean knowledge in its discursive forms,
more widely recognizable as intellectual production. We assume that indige-
nous intellectuals produced and made use of both forms simultaneously. The
challenge for historians is to move beyond the assumption that intellectu-
als were those who wrote, an assumption reinforced by the fact that writing
provides the most accessible evidence of intellectual work. We can access
traces of the pragmatic work of indigenous intellectuals by paying attention
to their practical action and by focusing on what they did to make colonial
society viable.
To further our understanding of indigenous agency in colonial life, we
must broaden our conception of intellectual work to encompass this prag-
matic aspect. In this regard, we find particularly useful Antonio Gramsci’s
definition of an intellectual. In principle, all people are intellectuals in that
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