Visual Arguments and Entangled Ethnographies in the Boxer Codex
Pacific Islands Languages and Societies
This article examines the Boxer Codex (BC, ca. 1590), which is a manuscript that contains illustrations and narratives describing ethnic groups of the western Pacific islands and continental Southeast and East Asia. The article examines the codex in relation to early modern costume books by examining the role that images played in the creation of ethnographical knowledge. Divided into four parts, the first and second sections examine the opening foldout drawing and the first account of the codex, which both deal with the native people of the Ladrones Islands. The third part put the codex in dialogue with other Iberian manuscripts and it focuses on cases that incorporate images made by native artists. The last section analyses how the codex depicts costumes and body ornaments to fabricate ethnic and gender distinctions. After analyzing the relationship established between images and words, I argue that visual depictions in the Boxer codex played the role of visual arguments that enabled the author to fabricate and make visible ethnic differences.