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New World GoldCultural Anxiety and Monetary Disorder in Early Modern Spain$
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Elvira Vilches

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226856186

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226856193.001.0001

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Gold: A Problematic Standard

Gold: A Problematic Standard

(p.95) 3 Gold: A Problematic Standard
New World Gold
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the practices and discourses of value generated by the quest for gold. It discusses the organization of ethnographic discourse in relation to the Canary Islands and the Caribbean, considers the debates about dominium, looks at the organization of value across colonial frontiers, and describes the development of the quest for gold. The chapter argues that, although conquistadors and settlers experienced gold as a problematic standard, colonial writing reasserts its goodness by exaggerating the difference between the civilized man and the barbarian in terms of the absence of money, property, and writing. While gold was valued by both Spaniards and Amerindians as the symbol of divinity and power, the former believe that gold subordinates the aesthetic and the ethic to the monetary. The discursive complicities organized by gold are exemplified by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, who connects gold with navigation, hygiene, sexuality, and commerce.

Keywords:   gold, value, Canary Islands, Caribbean, dominium, Spaniards, Amerindians, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, money, commerce

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