NEH Grant to Support History Research on South American Indigenous War and Mission Militias

(May 1, 2024)

University of Arkansas News 

Shawn Austin, associate professor of history, received a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend — one of two recipients of NEH support in the state of Arkansas in the 2024 cycle — for his book project titled Guaraní Militias and the Politics of Defense in the Spanish Río de la Plata, 16th-19th Centuries.

The NEH was created in 1965, is an independent federal agency, and is one of the top national funders for the humanities. NEH awards are highly competitive; the NEH funded just 13% of the total summer stipend proposals this year. Kathryn Sloan, interim dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and Latin America historian, congratulated Austin on receiving the stipend, noting that "it is an honor to receive a National Endowment for Humanities award and bespeaks the project's originality and high caliber."

Austin explained that "historians are finding more and more that Indigenous and African militias constituted some of the most important fighting forces in the Spanish Americas. This bears out in the Río de la Plata as well, where Guaraní militias were the military backbone of the region until military reforms and the gradual decline of the Guaraní missions after 1750."

Austin's approach to this topic is unique in that he employs linguistic methods via original readings of Guaraní-language texts. He explains that after Nahua, Maya, and Quechua, Guaraní constitutes one of the largest indigenous language-corpora for Spanish America.

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