Latin America Otherwise: Languages, Empires, Nations is a critical series. It aims
to explore the emergence and consequences of concepts used to define ‘‘Latin
America’’ while at the same time exploring the broad interplay of political, eco-
nomic, and cultural practices that have shaped Latin American worlds. Latin
America, at the crossroads of competing imperial designs and local responses, has
been construed as a geocultural and geopolitical entity since the nineteenth cen-
tury. This series provides a starting point to redefine Latin America as a configu-
ration of political, linguistic, cultural, and economic intersections that demands a
continuous reappraisal of the role of the Americas in history, and of the ongoing
process of globalization and the relocation of people and cultures that have charac-
terized Latin America’s experience. Latin America Otherwise: Languages, Empires,
Nations is a forum that confronts established geocultural constructions, that re-
thinks area studies and disciplinary boundaries, that assesses convictions of the
academy and of public policy, and that, correspondingly, demands that the prac-
tices through which we produce knowledge and understanding about and from
Latin America be subject to rigorous and critical scrutiny.
The Incas were a great mystery—at least according to many Western pun-
dits who could not understand how a complex, highly stratified empire, stretch-
ing from southern Colombia to northwest Argentina, with a road system larger
than Rome’s and a political organization that incorporated millions—could have
existed without a ‘‘true’’ or European-like system of writing and accounting. The
Incas’ closest instrument was the khipu—a set of knotted cords that served, in
ways we hardly understand, as the nerve system of an empire.
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