Stories of Cataclysm and Population
The introduction argues that, from its beginnings, population science has been a form of storytelling about fears of depopulation. It introduces the term “human accounting” to describe acts of counting people, before the word “population” was in wide circulation, and shows how these acts repeatedly invoked cataclysmic events like plagues, floods, and conquests. Early writing from the colonial Americas shows that colonialism especially fostered the dismantling of biblically rooted fears of counting people, such as the story of the “sin of David.” In 1616, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala provides a vivid example of intertwining biblical precedent with colonial population concerns in his El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno. This work shows an indigenous writer coming to terms with the changing forms of subjectivity produced by colonial conquest by combining the story of Noah and the Flood with the legacy of Incan censuses.
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