Irene Silverblatt

Irene Silverblatt

Professor Emerita of Cultural Anthropology

External address: 
500 W 111th St, Apt 2B, New York, NY 10025
Internal office address: 
Box 90091, Durham, NC 27708-0091
(919) 641-0319

Irene Silverblatt researches the cultural dimensions of power. She studies how “race-thinking” and gender relations were integral to the making of the modern world as well as how historical memory has shaped feelings of national belonging and demands for universal rights. These interests are both historical and contemporary, and have taken Silverblatt to the Inca Empire, the colonial Andes and contemporary Central/Eastern Europe. Her goal has been to explore the profound transformations in social identities, political sensibilities, and categories of “humanness” spawned by the “modern/civilized” world. With support from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Wenner Gren Foundations and Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, she has explored the Spanish Inquisition as a modern institution as well as the ways that gender construed power relations in Inca and Colonial Peru. These concerns about the cultural expressions of power, combined with an interest in the politics of memory and its relation to art, orient her next project. Research in central and eastern Europe explores the ways in which historical memory, particularly of the holocaust, is playing a role in the transformation of national ideologies as well as in the conceptualization of transnational, human rights. Her initial foray into this new arena was to edit Harvest of Blossoms: Poetry of a Life Cut Short. (with Helene Silverblatt). This volume is a collection of the poetry of our cousin, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, who died in an SS labor camp in 1942.


  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 1981

Silverblatt, I. “Political Disenfranchisement.” In Latin American Cultural Studies Reader, edited by A. del Sarto, A. Rios, and A. Trigo. Duke University Press, 2004.

Silverblatt, I. “New World Christians and New World Fears in Colonial Peru.” In From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures, edited by B. K. Axel. Duke University Press, 2002.

Silverblatt, I. “Power and Memory in Latin America: The Uses of the Pre-Columbian Past.” In Archaeology and Society in the 21st Century: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Case Studies, edited by N. A. Silberman and E. S. Frerichs, 21–32. Jerusalem: The Dorot Foundation, 2001.

Silverblatt, I. “Definiciones de la Modernidad y Inquisiciones Modernas.” In Reestructuracion de Las Ciencias Sociales En Los Paises Andinos, edited by S. Gomez. Bogota: Instituto Pensar, 2001.

Silverblatt, I. “The Inca’s Witches: Gender and the Cultural Work of Colonization in Seventeenth Century Peru.” In Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America, edited by R. St. George, 109–30. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

Silverblatt, I. “Becoming Indian in the Central Andes of Seventeenth Century Peru.” In Imperial Aftermaths and Postcolonial Displacements, edited by G. Prakash, 279–98. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Silverblatt, I. “Andean Witches and Virgins: Seventeenth Century Nativism and Subversive Gender Ideologies.” In Women, Race and Writing in the Early Modern Period, edited by M. Hendricks and P. Parker, 259–71. London: Routledge, 1994.

Silverblatt, I. “Cristianos nuevos y miedos a proposito del Nuevo Mundo en el Peru del siglo xvii.” In Auto de La Fe Celebrado En Lima a 23 Enero de 1639, Al Tribunal Del Santo Oficio de La Inquisicion by Fernando de Montesinos. Madrid, Spain: Iberoamericana editorial Vervuert, n.d.

Silverblatt, I. “Family Values in Seventeenth-Century Peru.” In Envisioning Women in Latin America History, edited by C. Nava, n.d.


Silverblatt, I. “Women in States.” Annual Review of Anthropology 17, no. 1 (October 1988): 427–60. Full Text

Silverblatt, I. “Imperial Dilemmas, the Politics of Kinship, and Inca Reconstructions of History.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30, no. 1 (January 1, 1988): 83–102. Full Text

Silverblatt, I. “The evolution of witchcraft and the meaning of healing in colonial Andean society.Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 7, no. 4 (December 1983): 413–27. Full Text