Amerasia (Hardcover)

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Amerasia By Elizabeth Horodowich, Alexander Nagel Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

It wasn't just Columbus that didn't know the difference between Asia and the Americas, and this confusion persisted in many ways for at least 200 years after those of us today would think logical. Horodowich and Nagel examine various objects to explore this history. But this isn't a gotcha book written to poke fun at people that thought an illustration of a Mayan wolf was a Chinese dragon. Instead it's a scholarly examination of what we could learn about people who had no separation in their minds between the two continents—hence, Amerasia. Europeans had a world view of places they had never visited that was often based on biblical stories or Greek and Roman classics. They knew their origins were from the Garden of Eden and knew that peoples had been dispersed by the flood. They had maps of these places that they had never visited (and had never existed). And as their armchair travel theories came in stark contrast with what real explorers were finding, it was easier for them to bend new information to fit their own belief systems than to accept a new reality. 

— From Jason's Picks


A connected world as imagined by early modern European artists, mapmakers, and writers, where Asia and the Americas were on a continuum

America and Asia mingled in the geographical and cultural imagination of Europe for well over a century after 1492. Through an array of texts, maps, objects, and images produced between 1492 and 1700, this compelling and revelatory study immerses the reader in a vision of a world where Mexico really was India, North America was an extension of China, and South America was marked by a variety of biblical and Asian sites. It asks, further: What does it mean that the Amerasian worldview predominated at a time when Europe itself was coming into cultural self-definition? Each of the chapters focuses on a particular artifact, map, image, or book that illuminates aspects of Amerasia from specific European cultural milieus. Amerasia shows how it was possible to inhabit a world where America and Asia were connected either imaginatively when viewed from afar, or in reality when traveling through the newly encountered lands. Readers will learn why early modern maps regularly label Mexico as India, why the "Amazonas" region was named after a race of Asian female warriors, and why artifacts and manuscripts that we now identify as Indian and Chinese are entangled in European collections with what we now label Americana. Elizabeth Horodowich and Alexander Nagel pose a dynamic model of the world and of Europe's place in it that was eclipsed by the rise of Eurocentric colonialist narratives in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To rediscover this history is an essential part of coming to terms with the emergent polyfocal global reality of our own time.

About the Author

Elizabeth Horodowich is Professor of History at New Mexico State University and the author of Language and Statecraft in Early Modern Venice and The Venetian Discovery of America: Geographic Imagination and Print Culture in the Age of Encounters. Alexander Nagel is Craig Hugh Smyth Professor of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, author of The Controversy of Renaissance Art and Michelangelo and the Reform of Art, and coauthor of Anachronic Renaissance.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781942130833
ISBN-10: 194213083X
Publisher: Zone Books
Publication Date: August 8th, 2023
Pages: 464
Language: English