Daniel Grana-Behrens, Diel, Lori Boornazian: The Codex Mexicanus. A Guide to Life in Late Sixteenth-Century New Spain. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 216 pp. ISBN 978-​1-​4773-​1673-​3. Price: $ 55.00 in:

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Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774,

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take an example within Mexico) is reshaping imaginar‐ ies of mobility, the national longing they foment, and the very relationship between state and nation. Rihan Yeh ( Diel, Lori Boornazian: The Codex Mexicanus. A Guide to Life in Late Sixteenth-Century New Spain. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 216 pp. ISBN 978-1-4773-1673-3. Price: $ 55.00 This book is highly welcome as a first-time documen‐ tation and in-depth analysis of the Codex Mexicanus, which as one of many native manuscripts was produced in colonial times in New Spain (geographically equiva‐ lent to present-day Mexico) and finally ended up in European libraries. The Codex Mexicanus, consisting of 102 pages of information conveyed in native painting tradition and hieroglyphic signs as well as in alphabetic Nahuatl writing, was made of native bark paper, stored in a screenfold fashion and, some time later on, bound like a book. As the author states in her “Epilogue” (164–166), the Mexicanus – which is the short name the author gives the manuscript – initially remained in na‐ tive hands for almost two hundred years. It may have been used and consulted by the so-called wise man (tla‐ matinime) before it was acquired. From the person who acquired it the manuscript may have been passed on to the hands of Antonio León y Gama before 1802 and then on to the hands of Father José Antonio Pichardo. After Pichardo’s death in 1812, parts of his collection returned to the heirs of Antonio León y Gama who then may have sold the Mexicanus to Joseph Maria Alexis Aubin in the 1830 s. A few years later, in Paris, the book was one of those which Aubin sold to Eugene Goupil, whose widow donated it to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is still home to the Mexicanus today (164, 166). Diel, who is a professor of art history, provides such useful information at the end of her book, which is in line with what she does throughout the six chapters structuring her book. She keeps providing the reader with the broader cultural and historical context of the elaboration, which the Mexicanus has gone through un‐ der Spanish colonial regime and European influence. This approach allows the reader to better understand the content and structure of the Mexicanus and, at the same time, get an idea why it might have been hidden from Spanish authorities for so long. Chapter by chapter, she presents her historical and cultural analyses of the Mex‐ icanus including partially palaeographic and epigraphic transcriptions – in particular in two appendixes related to certain sections of the manuscript – although as such her book is not intended. A full-color reproduction of the Codex Mexicanus makes her book even more in‐ triguing with notes, bibliography, and an index comple‐ menting this excellent work. Chapter 1 focuses on the aspects of manuscript pro‐ duction. Here Lori Boornazian Diel outlines how Span‐ ish books called reportorio, en vogue during the 15th and 16th centuries, might have inspired the native pro‐ duction of the Codex Mexicanus and its particular con‐ tent (1, 7). Her comparison and arguments are well ac‐ ceptable. In particular, her assumption that just as the reportorio was a guide for people’s identification with early modern Spain, the Mexicanus might have served natives in Central Mexico in a similar way and helped them identify themselves with a new Christian era brought about by colonialism (2). She identifies the Colegio de San Pablo, founded in 1575 and located in San Pablo Teopan (today Mexico City), as the place the Mexicanus was most likely elaborated by the end of the 16th century (7 f.). Diel shows that the elaboration of the codex at the end of the 16th century happened at a time when a tense atmosphere existed with doubts and uncertainty over the natives’ intellectual capacity and their full adoption of the Christian faith. The creation of the Mexicanus may have been the educated Nahuas’ re‐ sponse which proved that they were indeed exemplary Christians within their own world guided by a new kind of identification which was free from Spanish control (12). In the same chapter, the author gives a brief overview of the different sections of the Mexicanus (6, Table 1.1). The Mexicanus as a hybrid manuscript con‐ tains European-inspired parts, such as a catechism or as‐ trological medical charts as well as sections related to the native calendar, to the genealogy of the Aztec dy‐ nasty and to the annals history of the Aztec Empire, and may – by content and by form – appear exclusively na‐ tive but definitely also mirrors European influences. Chapter 2 focuses on native preoccupation with time and its relation to the sacred, as belief shared by natives and Spaniards alike. Chapter 3 refers to astrology, health, and medicine and in particular to the connection between stars and the human body based on a reporto‐ rio. Chapter 4 analyzes the genealogy of the Tenochca, the ruling house of the Aztecs, outlined in the Mexi‐ canus on just two pages. Chapter 5 continues to analyze the historical account of the Codex Mexicanus. Here the story of Aztec migration, starting, as usual, in Aztlan and ending up in their later capital Tenochtitlan, is seen against the background of other well-known native sources from the early colonial epoch that include a similar historical account. In particular, Diel presents what she terms a “reading of this pictorial history” (17) which is not a full transcription but rather an in-depth historical and cultural analysis of the Mexicanus’ longest section spanning from page 19 to page 85. While chap. 1 serves as a broad historical and cultural introduction into the time of the elaboration of the Codex Mexicanus, chap. 6 provides her conclusions and the “Epilogue.” In her intriguing book, Diel finds many arguments which seem to corroborate the view that the natives may have adopted European ideas in order to shape them in their own way. This can be seen when they transformed a reportorio calendar into a pictorial form to establish a continuity between their native past and the present, compared to the Spanish roman past and their Christian 208 Book Reviews Anthropos 115.2020 present (25). The same applies to the way the Mexi‐ canus was used during the time of native possession pri‐ or to the acquisition by outsiders. Referring to the calen‐ dar section, which she analyzes in chap. 2, she argues that the poor condition of the lower section in contrast to the upper section might be an indicator of a purpose‐ ful effacement to escape Spanish censure (43). But she is careful enough to recognize that there are pieces of information the Mexicanus offers which sometimes do not match analytical curiosity. For example, she cannot explain how the months of the perpetual Christian cal‐ endar in form of dominical letters correlate with the na‐ tive month of the 365-day calendar called Xiuhpohualli and has to settle for the statement they were added “in maintaining knowledge of the Aztec rituals” (45). Besides the many ideas and answers she provides us with in her in-depth analyses she raises many questions throughout her work, so that this book may also serve as a source for future studies in the field of Central Mexi‐ can native cultural identity in colonial times. For exam‐ ple, with regard to the genealogy explored by the author in chap. 4, she shows how the natives that composed the Mexicanus where less interested in making family ties to land by highlighting single dynastic branches like Moteucuoma II, the Aztec ruler defeated by Hernán Cortés. Instead, the Mexicanus extends his line to the ancestors and focuses “equality” by only mentioning a few places without clear pattern. This given, the author suggests a more broader intention to put the native ge‐ nealogy in line or compared to the Habsburg line (92). Or to give another example, among many other topics, that cannot be discussed here, the migration account an‐ alyzed in chap. 5 reveals that most part of the native in‐ formation, structured by a continuous band of native year signs, is placed above the year signs while some‐ times “more complicated events” are given below this register (99). Daniel Grana-Behrens ( Dupré, Wilhelm: Paul J. Schebesta mit Briefen aus dem Urwald. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akade‐ mie der Wissenschaften, 2017. 298 pp. ISBN 978-3- 7001-7873-6. (Veröffentlichungen zur Sozialanthropo‐ logie, 23) Preis: € 49,00 Fünfzig Jahre nach dem Tod Paul J. Schebestas SVD (1887–1967) legt Wilhelm Dupré die erste umfangrei‐ chere Überblicksdarstellung über Leben und Werk die‐ ses berühmten Mitglieds des Anthropos Institutes vor. Der ehemalige Student Schebestas und spätere Religi‐ onsphilosoph Dupré bietet in der vorliegenden Studie deutlich mehr als eine Darstellung der äußeren Biogra‐ fie des Missionars und Ethnologen Schebesta. Bereits der Titel mag andeuten, dass das Buch zweigeteilt ist. Der erste Teil bietet eine Biografie und eine systemati‐ sche Aufarbeitung wichtiger Themen im Leben und im wissenschaftlichen Werk des Missionarsethnologen. Im zweiten Teil spricht Schebesta dann selbst zur Leserin oder dem Leser. Dupré konnte Privatbriefe ausfindig machen, die der Feldforscher während seiner Reisen in Zentralafrika, Malaysia und auf den Philippinen ver‐ fasste und nach Österreich schickte. Diese Briefe edierte Dupré und fügt sie als zweiten Teil seiner Studie bei. Ein Fazit unter dem Titel “Als Mensch unter Menschen” schließt den Band ab. Hier arbeitet Dupré den speziellen Charakter und die Bedeutung der von ihm edierten Kor‐ respondenz heraus. Diese Anmerkungen können als eine Interpretationshilfe für die Lektüre der Briefe die‐ nen. Die Biografie spricht trotz ihrer Kompaktheit die vielfältigen Facetten des Lebenslaufes von Schebesta an. Sie zielt darauf ab, ein ganzheitliches Bild des Bio‐ grafierten zu zeichnen, der im multilingual geprägten Oberschlesien in einer Mährisch sprechenden Familie aufwuchs. Nach der Lektüre dieser Biografie erscheint Schebesta nicht nur als der Zentralafrikaforscher, als der er in das kollektive Gedächtnis der Ethnologie einge‐ gangen ist. Seine Tätigkeit als Missionar in Mosambik in der Zeit vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg, seine Forschun‐ gen in Südostasien und auf den Philippinen und seine Zeit in Wien, in der er auch seelsorgerlich tätig war, tre‐ ten in dieser Darstellung gegenüber seiner Zeit im Kon‐ gogebiet nicht zurück. Ein für den weiteren Aufbau der Studie zentraler Punkt besteht darin, dass er bereits in den biografischen Ausführungen aufzeigt, dass Sche‐ bestas Lebenslauf nicht nur der eines Forschungsreisen‐ den und Wissenschaftlers, sondern auch der Lebenslauf eines katholischen Priesters ist, der lebenslang der Seel‐ sorge verbunden und aktiv seelsorgerlich tätig war. Einem ganzheitlichen Zugang zum Verständnis des Biografierten verpflichtet, beginnt Dupré die systemati‐ sche Darstellung mit Ausführungen zur Spiritualität P. Schebestas, die eingebettet sind in Reflexionen über die Möglichkeit der Ausbildung einer eigenständigen Spiri‐ tualität im Kontext traditionell überlieferter Religiosität (58). Im Rahmen der Darlegungen zur Spiritualität wird auch seine Positionierung gegenüber der Kolonialpolitik und kolonialen Praxis thematisiert, was zunächst ver‐ wundern mag, aber konsequent auf die praktische Seite religiöser Einstellungen verweist. In Rückbezug auf Ge‐ danken Johannes Fabians, stellt Dupré für Schebestas Haltung fest: “Nachdem sich die koloniale Weltordnung zu Beginn des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts definitiv durchgesetzt zu haben schien, gab es für P. Schebesta keinen direkten Grund, dagegen anzukämpfen. Auch wenn damit noch nicht das letzte Wort gesprochen war, nahm er diese Ordnung gewissermaßen als historische Tatsache zur Kenntnis – so wie er auch die Geschichte seines Heimatdorfes mit wechselnden Formen politi‐ scher Zugehörigkeit zur Kenntnis nehmen mußte” (67). Gleichzeitig klagte er Ungerechtigkeiten der kolonialen Praxis an und unterstrich nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg ausdrücklich die Legitimität des antikolonialen Befrei‐ ungskampfes (68). Im Anschluss an die Ausführungen zur Spiritualität richtet sich der Blick auf Schebestas Positionierung in‐ nerhalb der damaligen ethnologischen Theoriediskussi‐ on, die mit den Stichworten Evolutionismus, Kulturhisto‐ Book Reviews 209 Anthropos 115.2020

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Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.


Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.