Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS


CORPI Informe resumido

Project ID: 323316
Financiado con arreglo a: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
País: Spain

Mid-Term Report Summary - CORPI (Conversion, Overlapping Religiosities, Polemics, Interaction: Early Modern Iberia and Beyond)

The long-term goal of the CORPI project is to reevaluate the consequences of the mass conversions of Muslims and Jews in early modern Iberia. We seek to understand in what ways the “converso question” has informed the emergence of new forms of religious, ethnic, and political identities, among them rigid Catholic orthodoxy, racial conception of difference, and proto-nationalism. The project aims to situate Iberia and the contested history of its minorities at the center of broader early modern transformations, but also to view inner Iberian developments as influenced by, or reacting to, larger European and Mediterranean trends. CORPI has detected three major spheres in which this broad question could be fruitfully explored: cross-confessional polemics, the emergence of new forms of doubt and skepticism, and the creation of new religious visions.
In the first phase of the project we have focused on polemics as a central question that organizes our multifaceted research. We have discovered that although neither Jews nor Muslim were officially part of Iberian society, polemics texts directed against them were a widespread phenomenon. Through the examination of these polemical texts in their various forms and contexts, our research came to the conclusion that polemics were one of the most important tools for (re-)defining the religious contours of Catholicism in the period. Moreover, polemics were equally important as an instrument for the definition of a Catholic heresyology which is also an “heterology”, that is the definition of the Other, and through it, of the Self.

One of the more innovative aspects of CORPI’s research was to discover that the confrontational method of comparison inherent in the Christian tradition of religious polemics became a flexible means to create and defend different religious identities. Unintentionally, therefore, it placed the idea of truth — originally depended in the uncontested authority of the Church -- in a new context, one that engendered vacillation, doubt, and skepticism. Polemics not only destabilized older concepts of truth but allowed new forms of knowledge to emerge. Polemical texts from the period usually include translations of Jewish and Muslim sacred texts. We related this aspect to the beginnings of Modern Orientalism, but also considered through this phenomenon the powerful processes of transmission of concepts, their evolution, and re-signification. Writers and readers of polemical texts thus had access to knowledge of the Other. This was sometimes problematic, as converts could learn about the religion of their ancestors, and learned men could be persuaded that alternatives to Catholicism are valid. Yet it was not only the content of the polemical text that had unintentional consequences. We have shown that the militant tone and pressing polemical atmosphere have affected forms of religiosity and behavior, most prominently in the re-articulation of the boundaries between private and public and in consequence, in the emergence of the new problems of dissimulation and inner religiosity.

These broad social, cultural and intellectual processes cannot be explained only by the imposition of reason or scientific new knowledge over religion. In fact religion was a central player in these processes, as both the organizing principle of debate and, through polemical texts, the medium. In consequence, the deep political and cultural transformations, as well as the radical shift in epistemological paradigm, appear as inextricably intertwined to religious problems, and most particularly, to the consequences of mass conversions.

CORPI’s research is suggesting to rethink the relations between the dramatic religious change in Iberia, that is, the mass conversions, and broader cultural and intellectual trends that we usually associate with northern Europe and with the Enlightenment. It also reconnects Iberia to larger early modern European trends, and thus offers a more integrated history of the Counter-Reformation. In sum, the achievements of the project so far signify an important contribution to our understanding of the role of religion, of minorities, and of Iberia in the larger story of early modern Europe.

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