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Subjects of Baroque Economy: Creole and Pirate Epistemologies of Mercantilism in the Seventeenth-Century Spanish and Dutch East Indies


This essay places in juxtaposition the rise of Creole power in the Americas (as prefigured in Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora’s enigmatic text Los infortunios de Alonso Ramírez in 1690) and the rise of the modern European or Eurocentric subject in the international rights theories of Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius and British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in order to examine the divergent epistemologies of the seventeenth century with respect to the expanding global circulation of values and the role of the Americas in it. Ultimately, what these divergent epistemologies illustrate is the ambiguous and contingent nature of any supposed equivalence between modernity as a philosophical idea; and modernity as a historical event or conjunction of events. Drawing on Fredric Jameson’s contention that “Modernity is not a concept but rather a narrative category,” the author demonstrates how the histories of Spanish decline, the rise of Creole self-affirmation, and the European constitution of modern international law in counterpoint, engender the birth of multiple, coeval subjects of modernity, each of which responds to what Immanuel Wallerstein calls the “worlding of the world” and (in doing so) articulates new values that reflect the new forms of agency within that expansion.

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