CORPI. Conversion, Overlapping Religiosities, Polemics and Interaction: Early Modern Iberia and Beyond.

CORPI. Conversion, Overlapping Religiosities, Polemics and Interaction: Early Modern Iberia and Beyond.

Mercedes García Arenal

European Research Council Advanced Grant. GA 323316 (2013-2018)

This project is concerned with questions of religious change and specifically of the change brought about by forced mass conversion in Late Medieval / Early Modern Iberia. It will study adversarial relationships reconceived as dependencies, against a complex backdrop of dramatic religious change.

It departs from two convictions:

  •  Firstly, that new Converts constituted complex groups, in dialogue both among themselves and with Old Christians, and were open to the transmission and translation of ideas, images, and religious emotions. It will bring under close analysis the existence in sixteenth-century Iberia of cross-currents common to different religious groups, areas of local religiosity in which different religions overlapped, and vague or hybrid sorts of religiosity which indicate the blurring of clear ascriptions, categories, and borders including confusion, doubt, unbelief.
  •  Secondly, that the desire to eradicate difference within the majority society was always combined with the fear of infiltration and contamination, and that the disappearance of differences exacerbated the search for allegedly essential characteristics in those with Jewish and Muslim ancestors, who were generally seen by Christians as crypto-Jews or crypto-Muslims.

The project is at the same time concerned with the impact that forced conversion had on intellectual life (including the substitution of memory and re-invention of the past), and with the emergence of shifting identities and new religious attitudes. It will recalibrate the traumatic transition that led to the birth of the Inquisition and a mono-confessional Spain, and will convey the incredulous reaction of those who had to live through it, establishing what they read and what solutions they proposed.

Both aspects of overlapping and redefinition will be viewed in connection with the increasingly intense polemical engagement which was taking place in Europe, and against the backdrop of the movements of proselytization, migration, and religious conflict stimulated by the Reformation and by the Ottoman invasions. This broader framework needs to be taken into account in order to properly assess the nature of numerous phenomena in Late-Medieval / Early Modern Iberian intellectual and social history, and which have been exclusively attributed to the existence of Jewish and Muslim minorities in the Peninsula. The broad framework includes the Iberian works of Islamic thought and anti-Christian polemic that were translated into European languages (Latin or vernacular), and used as a tool with which dissident elements reinforced a radical critique of Christianity and the Christian world. In the seventeenth century Islam was once more the vehicle for criticizing an intolerant Christianity, and in this process the Moriscos and their writings played a role that this project will explore.

The multi-faceted analysis of these phenomena will involve unearthing new archival material, most notably Inquisition trials, as well as numerous sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts (both manuscripts and early modern editions) ranging from new translations of the Qur’an and other Jewish and Islamic classics (in Arabic and Hebrew) to a rich polemical literature (disputes, controversies, apologies, polemical hagiographies), as well as theological treatises on new converts, both in Latin and Spanish.

PI: Mercedes García Arenal

CSIC Members: Fernando Rodríguez Mediano; Carlos Cañete; Katarzyna Starczewska; Teresa Madrid; Jessica Fowler; Teresa Soto; Eduardo Fernández Guerrero; Carla ramos; Javier Albarrán; Jesús Téllez; Isabel Boyano.