Skip to content

Rutgers student selected for Harvard summer fellowship in Indigenous history

Joshua Anthony, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, recently earned a summer fellowship at Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks for his research on Indigenous people under Spanish colonization and Nahuatl language studies in Zacatecas, Mexico and Mexico City. – Photo by @isacdaavid / X

Joshua Anthony, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, was recently awarded a Dumbarton Oaks summer fellowship in Pre-Columbian Studies at Harvard University, according to a press release

Dumbarton Oaks is part of Harvard University as a research institute, museum, library and garden in Washington, D.C., that helps scholars focus on a range of disciplines, including Byzantine and Pre-Columbian history. In order to become a fellow, candidates must submit an application with two letters of recommendation.

The Daily Targum spoke with Anthony about his research, his current project and his process in acquiring the Pre-Columbian summer fellowship. He studies colonial Mexico, documents in the Nahuatl language and political strife resulting from Spanish colonization among the Nahua people of the Aztec Empire, according to the release.

"These are the people who were the majority ethnicity of the Aztec Empire, and they left a lot of writings," he said. "I can go into more detail about what my particular project is — I think that's really the base of it — looking at Indigenous language sources to look at, to understand how people made sense of the coming of European imperial colonial rule."

Furthermore, Anthony said a foundational part of his studies included learning Nahuatl from Indigenous Nahuatl speakers in a program at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico.

While Anthony is currently in Mexico City for his research, he is exploring archives and visiting his Nahuatl teacher's family in the region. He said these experiences may contribute to his dissertation.

"One of my main Nahuatl teachers was like, 'Hey man, if you're going to be writing about Nahua people 500 years ago, you should come check out what it's like in my community today,'" he said. "It was really fun. It was a great time and a really cool experience for me."

Before his time at Rutgers, Anthony said a class he took during his undergraduate junior year at Fordham University helped inspire his interest in colonial Latin America.

When Anthony was applying to graduate school, he read a book called "Malintzin's Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico" by Camilla Townsend, a distinguished professor in the Department of History at Rutgers, which helped him consider pursuing graduate studies at the University.

"She said, … 'If you're serious about grad school, reach out to me next year when you're applying,'" he said. "And I did. I ended up here."

He told the Targum that his favorite class at Rutgers was one he took during his second semester about women in the colonial Americas. He said the scarcity of courses in his field made him appreciate the course selection at Rutgers.

Because Anthony said that this fellowship is for his doctorate dissertation, which constitutes a project that focuses on an Indigenous noble family from the 15th century as it faced Spanish colonization and its consequent societal restrictions. He said the archives at Dumbarton Oaks hold documents around marriage records that he intends to use for a chapter in his dissertation.

Anthony also said to the Targum that he wants to show audiences a part of history that is not discussed enough. He added that he considers empathy a critical quality in a historian.

"I think especially with Indigenous history in general, especially with the Aztecs, there's a tendency to exoticize, to show people as fundamentally, completely different, as almost alien, almost inhuman — which is first just straight up wrong but also very problematic," he said. "What I hope to show is that there's fundamental human experiences that we can all understand through the things that I'm looking at."

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe