La utopía biopolítica: Bartolomé de las Casas y la gestión de la vida indígena en el Memorial de remedios para las Indias (1516)


This article examines the relationship between biopolitics and colonialism in the Memorial de Remedios para las Indias (1516) by Bartolomé de las Casas, a detailed government plan proposed to the Sovereign in response to the exploitation of indigenous people and the catastrophic depopulation of the Antilles. Las Casas argues that indigenous life is the responsibility of the Sovereign and that the economic prosperity of the kingdom depends on the care of the precarious lives of the population that works in the mines and agriculture. Lascasian design includes a series of agrarian communities of Spaniards and indigenous people organized under a governmental and biopolitical rationality that takes care of life management and health care (refugee camps, hospitals, food, reproduction and miscegenation), at the same time it delineates a series of anthropomorphic policies (education, evangelization, discipline). Las Casas advocates a sort of “peaceful coloniality” and a benevolent regulation of labor that is unraveled with the violent realities of primitive colonial accumulation. The interest in life is not simply a product of the Christian caritas or a Renaissance humanism interested in good treatment, but a proper biopolitical calculation.


Key words: Colonial biopolitics, humanitarianism; government; agrarian communities, La Española; Carib; public health; refugees; human rights; remedial colonialism.

Author Biography

Carlos Jauregui , Universidad de los Andes

Carlos A. Jáuregui

Associate Professor of Latin American Literature and Anthropology, University of Notre Dame. Author of Espectros y conjuras: asedios a la cuestión colonial (forthcoming 2020); Canibalia (Casa de las Américas Award 2005; Iberoamericana 2008), Theatre of Conquest: Carvajal´s Complaint of the Indians in the “Court of Death” (Pennsylvania State UP 2008). Coeditor of Heterotropías (Iberoamericana 2003, with Juan Dabove), and of Colonialidad y crítica en América Latina (Universidad de Puebla 2007, with Mabel Moraña), Revisiting the Colonial Question (Iberoamericana 2008, with Moraña), Coloniality at Large. Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate (Duke UP 2008, with Enrique Dussel and Moraña), Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín (Vanderbilt University 2008, with Joseph Mella and Edward Fischer) and Emiliano Zapata: 100 años, 100 fotos (Universidad de los Andes; forthcoming  2020; co-edited with David Solodkow and Karina Herazo) .


David Mauricio Adriano Solodkow

Associate Professor of Latin American Literature and Director of the Center for Research (CIC) in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. Author of Ficción biopolítica y eugenesia en el Martín Fierro (Ediciones Uniandes, 2014); Etnógrafos coloniales. Alteridad y escritura en la Conquista de América. (Siglo XVI) (Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 2014); Coeditor of Sujetos múltiples. Colonialidad, indigenismo y feminismo. Homenaje a Betty Osorio. (with Carolina Alzate Cadavid. Ediciones Uniandes. 2014); Perspectivas sobre el Renacimiento y el Barroco (Ediciones Uniandes. 2011); and Poéticas de lo criollo. La transformación del concepto ‘criollo’ en las letras hispanoamericanas (siglos XVI al XIX) (with Juan Vitulli, Corregidor, 2009); Emiliano Zapata: 100 años, 100 fotos (Universidad de los Andes; forthcoming  2020; co-edited with Carlos A. Jáuregui, and Karina Herazo) .

Articles / Artículos