Dr Joshua J Fitzgerald

Jeffrey Rubinoff Junior Research Fellow (Churchill College)
Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Lecturer, Centre for Latin American Studies
Dr Joshua J Fitzgerald

I am an ethnohistorian of Nahua peoples of Central Mexico (commonly known as the "Aztecs") researching Indigenous and Indigenous-Colonial learning modalities, material culture, and local perseverance after the advent of European acculturation in the sixteenth century.

I have a BA History (2010, minor in Archaeology) from the University of Utah and I completed the MA and PhD with the University of Oregon in Colonial Latin American Studies. My emphasis is Early Modern Mexico, Postclassic into Spanish Colonialism (~1200 to 1700), and I also received certification in Museum Studies in educational programming and cultural museum curation. My teaching strengths are Mesoamerican and Spanish-Colonial art and architecture, early modern World and Indigenous Studies, and European settler-colonialisms in the Americas. My archival and in situ research in Mexico and abroad has been supported by international institutions that include: UKRI AHRC, British Academy/Leverhulme, National Endowment for the Humanities, US Dept. of Education, Global Oregon, the Rubinoff Foundation, and Julie and Rocky Dixon Foundation.

As the 2020-24 Rubinoff JRF with Churchill College, I have been researching and publishing on the theme of 'art as a source of knowledge' in the context of Colonial Mexico. My first book An Unholy Pedagogy: Mesoamerican Art, Architecture, and Learningscapes under Spain (1300-1700) identifies place-based learning and material culture as having been critical to Nahua historical perseverance. My other research topics and publications explore early-modern Nahua artistry and transatlantic exchanges, ethnohistories of warrior women, zooarchaeology vs ethnographies, food-object ritual practices, and representations of the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica in digital games, among others. I have also enjoyed teaching and supervising the University's brilliant undergraduates and MPhils in all aspects of the Americas.

I have a background in Museum Studies and have worked as a researcher for several local and international museums in the U.S. and U.K., including interning for the Director's Office of the Getty Research Institute on the Digital Florentine Codex Initiative (2019-2020). Recently, I contributed to COLOUR: Power, Science, and Art (2022-23) at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. My affiliations include: Depts. of History, History of Art, Archaeology; the McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research; and the Royal Historical Society (AF 2023). I have also been a co-organiser for the Americas Archaeology Group, Garrod Seminar series (Lent 2022), Multidimensional Dialogues CRASSH research network, and UK Latin American History conference.

My interests include: the Science of Learning, History of Education in Mexico, Place-Identity Theory, Indigenous Studies, History of Art and Architecture, Visual and Material Culture Studies, Double-Mistaken Identity Theory and transatlanticisms, Mesoamerican archaeology, Human-Animal intercommunication, popular culture and folk art, and educational video games.

As the Rubinoff JRF, my aim is to facilitate the study of great works of art, from sacred to mundane, and explore the ways in which authors and artists have imbued their work with knowledge relating to a community's sense of place. Interdisciplinary research is crucial in my lines of inquiry, and I am deeply invested in Archaeology and Anthropology, History of Art, Ethnolinguistics, and Computer Science. Thus far, I have been investigating didactic art and architecture in the context of Nahua communities, exposing the import of local knowledge and place-based education practices for Indigenous students of Catholicism, especially how locals shaped colonial schooling materials. This research into the persistence of Mesoamerican art and architecture into the Nahua-Christian world is the subject of my first book, _An Unholy Pedagogy: Mesoamerican Art, Architecture, and Learningscapes under Spanish-Catholic Schooling_. _An Unholy Pedagogy_ is an education history that contributes to the discourse by added more nuance to current interpretations of Indigenous perspectives on place, art, and knowledge. It will reveal more of the significance of Theory of Place-Attachment in learning environments and the power of Indigenous learning modalities.

My other, current works-in-progress are about Mesoamerican material culture and knowledge transference relating to the themes of "Aztec" motherhood and warfare, Science of Learning relating to animal symbolism and Nahua natural science, and the archaeology of educative spaces and experiential learning before the Spanish invasion (~1500 CE). I have been a content specialist and guest curator with several world-renowned museums and will be continuing to develop my museum professional skills in Cambridge, especially with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and I look for opportunities to democratize and decolonize collections in line with source communities.

Upcoming talks:

2021. “Mexica Mothers, Maidens, and Monsters: The Place of Terrifying Women in Mesoamerican Vs. Modern Museums” & “A House Like a Mirror to All: Friar-Architects, Local Iconographies, and the Other Juan in Mexico’s First Churches;” Universities Art Association of Canada 2021; virtual event (both papers accepted May 2021).

2021. " Early Modern World History Group, October, 26 2021

Recent/Select talks:

2021. “Art Ripened Red: ‘Cactus-Blood’ and ‘Chili-Red’ Texts, Textiles, and Things from Mesoamerica and the Andes,” Material Culture Forum: COLOUR: Art, Science, & Power, Department of Archaeology, Lent Term.

2021. “Displacing Water Rites: Contested Martial Mothers in Assemblages and Arrangements from the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley” Americas Archaeology Group Series, Department of Archaeology, Lent Term.

2019 . “Caped Crusaders: Tlahuiztli Illuminations and Nahua Military History from the Estranged Calmecac,” The Getty Center and California State University, Los Angeles Symposium: 1519, The Arrival of Strangers: Indigenous Art and Voices During and After the Spanish Conquest of Mesoamerica, October, 2019.

2020. “Workshop: The Florentine Codex Initiative” & “Workshop: Teaching Ethnohistory;” ASE, Virtual Event: https://sites.duke.edu/ethnohistory2020/2020- program/, Duke University, Durham, NC.

2020. “A K-12 Virtual Teacher Workshop: Teaching the Conquest of Mexico through Indigenous Eyes;” Getty Center, Getty Digital Share 2020 (So Digital, It’s Virtual), Los Angeles, CA.

2019. “Cross-Pollinated Coyote Wisdom: Persistent Memories of Nahua-Animal Reciprocity and Natural Science;” ASE, Station College, PA.

2019. “Curating Coyote Tales: A Digital Tour of Human-Animal Lore from Colonial Mexico;” Data/Media/Digital Graduate Student Symposium, UO Digital Humanities, Eugene, OR.

2018. “Mounting Evidence: Tepeilhuitl, Shaping Landscapes, and the Franciscan Frame of Mind;” ASE, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mex.

Key publications

2022 “Visualizing Martial Mothers, Eagle-Women, and Water Warriors in the Florentine Codex,” Getty Research Journal, No. 16 (2022), Los Angeles, CA.

2022 “Rethinking the Double-Headed Serpent at the British Museum: A Terrifying Turquoise Caterpillar?” Mexicolore blogpost,  https://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/artefacts/rethinking-the-double-headed-serpent-in-the-british-museum

2020 “Mistaken Places: Mesoamerican Meaning in the Sixteenth-Century Catholic Courtyards of Mexico” for Dak Kopec and AnnaMarie Bliss (Editors), Place Meaning and Attachment: Authenticity, Heritage and Preservation, Routledge.

2020 “Aztec Art and Feasts for the Dead,” in Smarthistory, October 30, 2020, accessed December 3, 2020, https://smarthistory.org/aztec-art-feasts-dead/.

2020 “Who Writes History? Competing Narratives about the Conquest of Mexico and the Fall of the Aztec Empire,” with Kim N. Richter and Alicia Maria Houtrouw. The Iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty (blog), March 26, 2020: https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/who-writes-history-competing-narratives-about-the- conquest-of-mexico-and-the-fall-of-the-aztec-empire/

2018 “Partitioning Schools: Federal Vocational Policy, Tracking, and the Rise of Twentieth-Century Dogmas,” with Michael Their and Paul Beach; AND “Cutting- Edge (and Dull) Paths Forward: Accountability and Career and Technical Education under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” with M. Their, P. Beach, and Christine Pitts. In Educating a Working Society: Vocationalism, the Smith-HughesAct, and Modern America, edited by Glenn Lauzon, Organization of Educational Historians, Information Age Publishing.

Book projects:

- An Unholy Pedagogy: Mesoamerican Art, Architecture, and Learningscapes under Spain (Under review).

Ready Conquistador 1: Digital Colonial Game vs. Mesoamerican Heritage (tbd; several chapters and proposal drafted).


“As the Digital Teocalli Burns: Mesoamerica as Gamified Space and the Displacement of Sacred Pixels” for the Sacred Spaces in the Americas (Vol. 17, no. 1, Spring-Summer 2023) issue, Review of International American Studies.

“Mesoamerican Paste Makers: Early Modern Edible Arts, Amaranth Seed-Dough Crafts, and Promises from Indigenous Knowledge,” Latin American & LatinX Visual Culture Journal (Submitted for review, Sept. 2022).

“Regenerative Not Recumbent: Nahua Artistry, Chacmool Historicity, and Moore’s Meaningful Lacunae” (forthcoming).

“Amaranth Mothers: Indigenous Timekeepers, Mountain Killers, and Dough-Body Crafters of Ancient Mexico” in Beyond Cooking [working title], by Melissa Calaresu and Marta Manzanares Mileo (eds.), for the Food Culture, Food History before 1900 series, Amsterdam University Press (tbd).

“In the Red: Honouring Heritage Debts, Colour-Language, and Colonial Ecologies in Museology” [working title]; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Digital Lab Blogpost, https://maadigitallab.org/

Curated panel descriptions for “Book 12: Spanish Conquest,” in Digital Florentine Codex, Getty Research Institute (forthcoming).