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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Laura Leon Llerena, MA, PhD Princeton University

Assistant Professor / Deputy Director for Postgraduate Studies (Research Degrees) in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures

(email at

The larger frame of my work is concerned with the circulation in America and Europe of knowledge produced by and about indigenous peoples from the 16th to the 18th centuries. My published work has analyzed translation and colonization of indigenous languages, the complex coexistence of indigenous and European media, and the ways in which material culture and notions of the sacred and religion redefined social and cultural identities in early modern contexts. Methodologically and theoretically, my scholarship is anchored in literary studies with an interdisciplinary framework that draws on the fields of history, indigenous studies, and anthropology.

My teaching practice at undergraduate and postgraduate levels encompasses colonial, postcolonial, and decolonial analysis of Latin American cultural productions from early modernity up to the 21st century. 

My current monograph Restoring the Illegible: Indigenous Writing and the Limits of Colonial Hegemony in the Andes focuses on the long first century of colonial Peru (1532-1648). It introduces the notion of legibility to discern the dynamic ways in which in a multi-lingual and multi-media colonial landscape, indigenous Andeans and colonizers articulated various epistemological strategies in their uses of alphabetic writing and indigenous media. Legibility emphasizes how the multiple practices of production of meaning were embedded in the constant negotiation of power in the religious, social and economic spheres, moving away from a traditional understanding of literacy that presuposes that the production of meaning was inherent to specific media. The monograph is currently under consideration.

Office Hours

Easter term 2020-21 [26 April - 25 June]: Thursdays from 11:00-12:00

To register for a 15-minute advising time slot (ZOOM) please click here

Research Interests

  • Colonial Latin American Literature and History
  • Ethnography of Writing
  • Indigenous and Native American Studies
  • Religion and Culture Studies

Selected Publications

Authored book

  • Leon Llerena, Laura (Submitted). Restoring the Illegible: Indigenous Writing and the Limits of Colonial Hegemony in the Andes (under review).

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Book review

Translated Book

Show all publications


Selected Grants

  • 2017: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Volkswagen Stiftung, Dahlem Humanities Center Freie Universität Berlin, Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities
  • 2016: John Carter Brown Library, Donald L. Saunders Long-Term Research Fellowship
  • 2016: Newberry Library, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Long-Term Faculty Fellowship (declined)
  • 2012: Northwestern University Weinberg College Fellow
  • 2008: Princeton University Center for the Study of Religion Graduate Research Fellow
  • 2005: Edward C. Armstrong Fellowship Fund, Princeton (2005-2009)
  • 2004: Eleanor Green Fellowship, Princeton