or indirectly with the question of writing in Meso-
merica and the Andes have been published,' and a manu-
script dealing with similar topics is in press.' All of these, in one way or
another, cast doubt on current conceptions of writing and bring new light
to the understanding of the kinds of writing systems that were not consid-
ered to have played a very important role, from a Western perspective,
in the histories of writing. They all contribute, directly or indirectly, to
the understanding of alternatives as well as conflicting literacies during
the colonial period.
In her introduction to this volume, Boone addressed the issue of evo-
lutionary models, which cast the history of writing as an ascending and
triumphant move toward the invention of the letter and its conceptual-
ization as the representation of speech. Pre-Columbian writing systems
in the New World have more often than not been left out of the pic-
ture, though they have sometimes been used, locally, as a prehistory
to the introduction of the Latin alphabet. In what follows, I would like
to address the coexistence and interactions, during the colonial period,
of alternative and conflictive literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes,
seeing them as a consequence of the Occidentalization of the globe and
as a challenge to canonical histories of writing based on evolutionary
models and monotopical hermeneutics. The coexistence of conflictive
literacies brings about the need, first, to theorize coevolutionary histo-
ries of writing and, second, to move toward a pluritopical interpretation
of the history of writing in colonial situations when alphabetic literacy
coalesced with non-Western writing systems.
One of the consequences of alphabetic writing in the history of the
West was its close association with speech and the increasing distinction
between writing and drawing. While, in medieval illuminated books,
connections were made between the forms of letters and the expressions
of the human body and manual labor, the printing press detached the
hand from drawing and writing and contributed to the subordination of
drawings and illustrations to alphabetic writing and to the conception
of alphabetic writing as an inscription of speech. Writing and paint-
ing became, in the European Renaissance, more autonomous than ever
Reents-Budet (1994) has observed, in the introduction to
Painting the
Maya Universe,
The origin in painting of Maya pictorial pottery, and of much of
Maya art, is underscored by the fact that in all Mayan languages
Walter D. Mignolo
Writing and
Recorded Knowledge
in Colonial and
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