Peter Sorensen

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20222023 Forum on Heritage

Peter Sorensen


Rutgers University, 2022

Peter Sorensen earned his Ph.D. in History with specializations in Latin American and Global Comparative History from Rutgers University in 2022. His research focuses on sixteenth-century Mexico City and the intellectual and cultural history of the city’s Nahua residence. Sorensen’s work focuses on Nahuatl language documents, and specifically popular song lyrics, to engage the voices of the Nahuas during a time of great upheaval and conflict. By contextualizing the song lyrics within indigenous annals (or, xiuhpohualli), and other colonial sources, Sorensen shows how precolonial history and history keeping were cornerstones of how Nahua residents of Tenochtitlan saw and embraced their heritage.

‘I am a Singer, I Remember the Lords’: History in the Sixteenth-Century Aztec Cantares

Sorensen’s book project examines how the daily communal activity of playing and singing music was central to history keeping, political debates, and discussing the transition from indigenous belief systems under the Aztec Empire to Catholicism during the early colonial period. The singers and musicians that performed these songs used stories of their ancient past and the Aztec Empire, and especially the challenges their people faced, to better articulate and understand their present under Spanish colonialism. Sorensen’s work connects Nahua ideas of performance, linguistic expressions, and memory to show how the songs were a public form of negotiation meant to express dissatisfaction with political realities (both precolonial and colonial) while celebrating their own ethnic pride and imperial past. Sorensen’s project relies on a highly contentious corpus of Nahuatl song lyrics commonly referred to as the Cantares Mexicanos.

In addition to his work on transforming his dissertation into a monograph, Sorensen is completing a primary source translation and transcription with accompanying analysis of three songs about the Conquest of Mexico from the Cantares Mexicanos that will soon be under contract."