The Dissertation Workshop is a graduate educational seminar open to graduate students and their advisors. Spring workshops will be held in-person and are only open to Harvard and MIT affiliates who are on a regular University COVID-19 testing cadence. The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) invites graduate students who are interested in presenting their research or to RSVP for this workshop to contact CES Dissertation Workshop Coordinator Hansong Li.
In his doctoral research, Sergio Leos probes the shifting intellectual perspectives of early modern Europe, especially throughout the Iberian Atlantic world of the 16th and 17th centuries. He is keenly interested in the way Europeans grabbled with, interpreted, and accommodated the unfamiliar realities of the New World. In this work-in-progress, Leos examines the way "America" was invoked and imagined in early-modern times. Contemporary scholars regard the terms America, New World, and Indies as practically synonymous when discussing the regions across the Atlantic Ocean increasingly in contact with Europeans on account of the many voyages beginning in the sixteenth century. This etic interchangeability, however, assumes an emic homogeneity and consistency in the usage and meaning of these terms among the different early modern individuals who lived through the moments of reconnaissance and conquest. This paper will press against the ineluctable story where Florentine navigator Americo Vespucci became the namesake of the new continent on account of self-promotion and good fortune, to consider the particular places and spaces in Spain where the term “America” first caught on and how this particular framework varies from other contemporary terms and perspectives. Leos considers the particular social world of maps, including their making and consumption, as well as the rise of classically-based allegorical depictions of the four continents to suggest that “America” had currency in elite and international contexts as opposed to popular and administrative contexts.