Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kimmel on conversion in early modern Spain

Out with the University of Chicago Press' Law and Society series, we missed this one when it appeared in 2015. Seth Kimmel (Columbia University) has published Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the end of Islamic SpainThe book was awarded the American Comparative Literature Association's Harry Levin Award in 2017. From the press:
Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, competing scholarly communities sought to define a Spain that was, at least officially, entirely Christian, even if many suspected that newer converts from Islam and Judaism were Christian in name only. Unlike previous books on conversion in early modern Spain, however, Parables of Coercion focuses not on the experience of the converts themselves, but rather on how questions surrounding conversion drove religious reform and scholarly innovation.
In its careful examination of how Spanish authors transformed the history of scholarship through debate about forced religious conversion, Parables of Coercion makes us rethink what we mean by tolerance and intolerance, and shows that debates about forced conversion and assimilation were also disputes over the methods and practices that demarcated one scholarly discipline from another.
 Praise for the book:

"In Parables of Coercion Kimmel succeeds wonderfully in excavating the intersection of early modern Spanish socioreligious and intellectual history and in deciphering its various discourses....Kimmel further uncovers the dialectical relationship between socioreligious discord and innovative cultural production by religious intellectuals in seventeenth-century Spain, and in the process he manages brilliantly to render meaningless the conventional, simplistic characterization of early modern Spain as a purely intolerant society. It was far more complicated during the sixteenth century afterlife of Islamic Spain than historiographical orthodoxy suggests." -Modern Philology

"Ranging across canon law, sacred philology, and history in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Spain, Seth Kimmel aims to demonstrate how the phenomenon of Muslim converts to Christianity was entertained by experts in those disciplines, as well as the ways in which the Morisco question affected the disciplines themselves." -Renaissance Quarterly

"Kimmel has written a fascinating study of the learned cultures built out of a century of Spanish Christian intolerance toward Islam, beginning with the coerced conversion of Spain's Muslims to Christianity in the early sixteenth century, to the expulsion of the Moriscos (as the converts and their descendants were called) in the early seventeenth. He shows us how the evolving  'Morisco question' animated the emergence of disciplines such as philology, history, theology, political theory, and economics. In the process, he provides us with an alternate and disquieting history of our own scholarly, political, and religious practices." -David Nirenberg

Further information is available here.