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Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru Paperback – March 29, 1999

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“It is fascinating to revisit the history of Cuzco through the gates of the convent. Burns’ clear, succinct prose, her gift for narrative, her eye for detail, and her engagement of larger issues of power, gender, and race make this an attractive book for a wide variety of readers.”—Brooke Larson, SUNY Stony Brook


Burns’s important and highly readable work takes a fresh look at the key economic, social, and cultural relationships that created and sustained a densely woven urban-centered colonial society in the Andes. Among its new findings: at the heart of the economy of colonial Cuzco, a credit institution run by women favored the conquered indigenous elite with long-term finance at concessionary interest rates.”—John Coatsworth, Harvard University


“[A] thoughtful and well-written study. . . [and] an important contribution to the understanding of Andean and Latin American history.”
(Kenneth Mills American Historical Review)

“[I]maginatively conceived and expertly executed. Dr. Burns writes a graceful and lucid prose that enlightens and delights. This is a book for specialists, for general readers curious about its subject matter, and for anyone who loves insightful and engaging works of history.”
(John C. Moore Report of the Chairman of the Committee on the John Gilmary Shea Prize, The Catholic Historical R)

“[I]maginatively researched, logically organized, and intelligently constructed. . . . [T]his is a wonderful study. Colonial Habits makes an elegant and a major contribution to the history of women and gender in colonial and nineteenth-century Spanish America. Its accessibility will make it a natural assignment for undergraduates; its content will make it a standard for experts.”
(Ann Twinam Journal of Women's History)

“[M]eticulously researched and exquisitely written. Burns is one of the best prose writers working in the field today, and her story unfolds effortlessly and harmoniously. . . . With her excellent book Kathyrn Burns, has thrown the evolution of Peru’s Andean region into new relief, and produced a leading work within this emerging field.”
(Ellen Gunnarsdóttir Latin American Studies)

“Burns provides an important means of addressing the role of Colonial Cuzco’s convents, in a well-written and engaging narrative that incorporates archival documents from both administrative and religious archives. Vivid accounts of individual lives are well integrated with discussion of how Cuzco’s nuns mediated the sacred/secular divide to advance or simply preserve their corporate interests.”
(R. Alan Covey Comparative Study of Society and History)

“Burns’s fine study reveals the nuns as a critical factor in the subjugation of the Incas, the creation of a creole Peruvian elite, and in the annual provision of finance for the whole regional economy.”
(Iain S. Maclean Religious Studies Review)

“Carefully researched [and] well-written, . . . Colonial Habits makes important contributions to the historiography of colonial Spanish America, and deserves a wide readership.”
(Kenneth J. Andrien The Journal of Interdisciplinary History)

“Except as saints and sinners, women have been marginalized in the study of colonial Peru. Kathryn Burns, however, in Colonial Habits, reconstructs the world of Cuzco by placing women at the center. The realignment is original and instructive, and, by focusing on convents, the author chooses virtually the only institution where women exercised real authority and gained some independence. . . . [H]er book is a product of perseverance as well as of scholarship.”
(Times Literary Supplement)

“In a well-researched and carefully considered study, Kathryn Burns makes a serious case for the important role cloistered nuns played as the center of economic and spiritual life in colonial Cuzco from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, a role that remains influential to this day. . . . Colonial Habits is a highly readable work that introduces valuable historical data and provides a fascinating analysis of the economy and spiritual interests in colonial Cuzco.”
(Sister Maria Consuelo Sparks Colonial Latin American Historical Review)

“In this fascinating and well-researched reconstruction of convent life, Burns lays the axe to several widespread assumptions. . . . It is frequently said that to understand colonial religious life one must understand colonial society. But Colonial Habits suggests that the reverse is equally true—to undersand colonial society fully one must enter the inner world of its convents and monasteries.”
(Jeffrey L. Klaiber Church History)

“Kathryn Burns’s book provides original insights into several of the most significant and contested areas of colonial history, particularly those concerning race, religion, family history, and economic development. Scholars of colonial Latin America will find much of interest in this fascinating, multi-faceted book.”
(Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof The Americas)

“Richly textured, this work is well anchored in archival research and fulfills the ambition of its author to create a new historical locus for the institutions as well as for the women who created and managed them.”
(Asunción Lavrin The Catholic Historical Review)

From the Back Cover

Burns's important and highly readable work takes a fresh look at the key economic, social, and cultural relationships that created and sustained a densely woven urban-centered colonial society in the Andes. Among its new findings: at the heart of the economy of colonial Cuzco, a credit institution run by women favored the conquered indigenous elite with long-term finance at concessionary interest rates."--John Coatsworth, Harvard University
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; 1St Edition edition (March 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822322919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822322917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Colonial Habits analyzes the roles that convents played in Cuzco, Peru--and by extension, in Latin America in general--from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. Cuzco got its first convent, Santa Clara, in 1558, within a generation of Spanish conquest, and two more convents, Santa Catalina and Santa Teresa, in the seventeenth century. Burns argues that the convents, though walled off from the hustle and bustle of the city, played important roles in Cuzco's community life: first as environments in which the mestiza daughters of the conquerors could be educated, converted, and assimilated to Spanish colonial society; then as powerful landlords and lenders in mature colonial society; and always as power brokers in Cuzco's "spiritual economy," dispensing both prayers and social capital to the families that patronized them. After independence, Cuzco's convents declined in size and importance as new secular schools and charities took on some of their earlier roles.

One of the charming features of this book is that Burns discusses her research process as well as her conclusions: the types of documents she found, the nuns' interpretations of and responses to her research agenda, and the experience of returning daily to the locutario, the grille through which cloistered nuns communicated with the outside world. Burns's descriptions of the locutario, in particular, are wonderfully evocative. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Katheryn Burns has written a great book. Her discussion of the spiritual economy is innovative and needs to be explored by more people. Burns uncovers a history that has been neglected by most historians but is integral to one's understanding of colonial Latin America. In short, this is must read for anyone interested in the subject.
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Extraordinary book.
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Very well written!
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