Images at War

Mexico From Columbus to Blade Runner (1492–2019)

Images at War

a John Hope Franklin Center Book

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 20 b&w photographs, 1 map Published: June 2001

Author: Serge Gruzinski

Translator: Heather MacLean

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

“If colonial America was the melting pot of modernity, it was because it was also a fabulous laboratory of images. . . . Just as much as speech and writing, the image can be a vehicle for all sorts of power and resistance.” So writes Serge Gruzinski in the introduction to Images at War, his striking reinterpretation of the Spanish colonization of Mexico. Concentrating on the political meaning of the baroque image and its function within a multicultural society, Gruzinski compares its ubiquity in Mexico to our modern fascination with images and their meaning.
Although the baroque image played a decisive role in many arenas, especially that of conquest and New World colonization, its powerful resonance in the sphere of religion is a focal point of Gruzinski’s study. In his analysis of how images conveyed meaning across linguistic barriers, he uncovers recurring themes of false images, less-than-perfect replicas, the uprooting of peoples and cultural memories, and the violence of iconoclastic destruction. He shows how various ethnic groups—Indians, blacks, Europeans—left their distinct marks on images of colonialism and religion, coopting them into expressions of identity or instruments of rebellion. As Gruzinski’s story unfolds, he tells of Aztec idols, the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe, conquistadors, Franciscans, and neoclassical attempts to repress the baroque. In the final chapter he discusses the political and religious implications of contemporary imagery—such as that in Mexican soap operas—and speculates about the future of images in Latin America.
Originally written in French, this work makes available to an English audience a seminal study of Mexico and the role of the image in the New World.


“A fascinating and creative history of Mexico . . . . The book at once telescopes onto colonial Mexico and wide-angles onto a global picture, and its fine translation into English by Heather MacLean will no doubt give it a visibility that accords with its breath. Mr. Gruzinski’s essential task is to show how the history of colonialism in Mexico has been bound to the status, use, and understandings of religious images. The task is enormous and enormously complex, and the author manages to meet it with a combination of ingenuity and wide-ranging scholarship.” — Laura Bass , Washington Times

“Gruzinski brings a Parisian postmodern flourish. Rooting his account in how Mexico’s various ethnic groups left their own distinct marks, his stimulating discussion ranges from the history of the country since the early Spanish conquistadors to the programs produced by the powerful TV network Televisa. This rich hybrid culture continues today, he writes, and helps Mexico manage its baroque pluralism.” — Kenneth Maxwell , Foreign Affairs

“Images at War remains an important, original and stimulating study, painted on a broad canvas with verve and insight. Pursuing the metaphor, which seems appropriate, one could say that the brushwork is boldly sweeping rather than carefully meticulous; and the resulting canvas is therefore more Baroque—rich, jumbled, and evocative—than cautiously and lucidly neo-classical.” — Alan Knight, EIAL

“Serge Gruzinski reinterprets the Spanish colonization of Mexico, concentrating on the political meaning of the baroque image and its function in a multicultural society, comparing its ubiquity in Mexico to our modern fascination with images and their meaning. He shows how various ethnic groups left their distinct marks on images of colonialism and religion.” — Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

"Images at War remains a powerful contribution to the field of Latin American colonial studies. Moreover, it should find an audience interested in the politics of cultural production in settings outside of the colonial era and/or Latin America." — Michael Ennis , Nepantla

"[A]n important work that contributes to the understanding of the effects of colonization on the peoples of Mexico. . . . It offers the reader a magnificent documentation, a series of insightful readings performed by an acute observer, and a focus on the hitherto neglected role of the image in the colonization of that important region." — Gustavo Verdesio, New Centennial Review

"Gruzinski skillfully moves from high theology to heterodox cult and back again, seamlessly combining social and cultural history of a high order in ways that make one sometimes gasp at the fruitful interpretive leaps he makes." — Colonial Latin American Review

"Heather MacLean’s translation of this work into English is especially welcome. . . . This is an imaginative, highly original, and ultimately path-breaking work. . . . The book is . . . fun." — James Krippner-Martinez , Hispanic American Historical Review

“A magnificent study—already influential in its field. One gets a far richer sense of colonial Mexico in these pages than is offered by the kind of literary or cultural history that can only draw on a few scanty documents and verbal testimonials. This book speaks powerfully to our contemporary appetite for a renewal of our views of the colonial and postcolonial eras.” — Fredric Jameson


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Serge Gruzinski is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and author of several books, among them The Conquest of Mexico and Man-Gods in the Mexican Highlands.

Heather MacLean is a translator who lives in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations


Chapter One: Points of Reference

Chapter Two: War

Chapter Three: The Walls of Images

Chapter Four: The Admirable Effects of the Baroque Image

Chapter Five: Image Consumers

Conclusion: From the Enlightenment to Televisa

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2643-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2653-3
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