WMU News

Julien honored for re-discovering an ancient history

Nov. 26, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- For an ancient people with no system of writing, the Incas and their culture and history have been receiving an unusual amount of attention in the literary world lately, thanks to a Western Michigan University professor's award-winning book.

The book, "Reading Inca History," by Dr. Catherine Julien, WMU associate professor of history, has won two distinguished awards: the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize from the American Society for Ethnohistory and the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize from the Modern Language Association.

Published in September 2000, Julien's book looks at the written history of the Inca civilization found in 16th and 17th century Spanish literature. She specifically looked at official accounts of the genealogy of the Inca dynasty and life histories of Inca rulers that appeared in the narratives, noting similarities and using these to find a reliable representation of Inca life. The Inca empire was the largest pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas, included some 13 million people and stretched from what is now Ecuador to Chile.

"This book suggests a productive way to interpret Spanish translations of Inca history," says Julien. "The Incas had no system of writing. There were Inca people who kept this historical knowledge and talked to the Spanish. Therefore, much of Inca history was recorded through the view of the Spanish."

Julien received the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize at the October meeting of the ASE at the University of Arizona. Chosen from 40 books reviewed by the ASE, her book was selected as the "best book-length work in the field of ethnohistory for the year 2000."

The second prize the book has garnered, the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, will be presented in December at the 2001 MLA convention in New Orleans. This award honors an outstanding book of essays by a single author in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures.

Julien has been a part of the WMU faculty since 1996. She is the author of several articles and books on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Andes in the 16th century, including "Condesuyo: The Political Division of Territory under Inca and Spanish Rule" and "Hatunqolla: A View of Inca Rule from the Lake Titicaca Region."

Media contact: Scott K. Crary, 616 387-8400

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400