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Lecture: “¡Cierra, España, Cierra!: Religious Difference and Racialization in the Expulsion of Moriscos” with Dr. Elsa Costa (virtual)

November 22, 2021 | 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm


The 1609 Spanish expulsion of the “moriscos,” communities of Arab-speaking Christians who had chosen to convert and stay in Spain in 1492, was a turning point in European statecraft. The expulsion of populations, typically Jews, on the grounds of religious difference had occasionally occurred in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. While these expulsions were politically motivated and sometimes condemned by the established Church, they categorically excluded Christians with non-Christian ancestors. The expulsion of moriscos, by contrast, relied on a heuristic of suspicion, on an unproven assumption of crypto-Islamizing: the fact that the moriscos did not assimilate culturally, in terms of language and dress, was taken as proof that they had not assimilated religiously. This talk examines several arguments for and against the expulsion of moriscos, revealing the factors that led to a religious expulsion which was in fact a racial expulsion: millenarianism, reason of state, systems of forced labor in the Old and New World, purity of blood and the rise of modern racism.


Elsa is an intellectual historian concentrating on Spain and its possessions in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Her dissertation explores how changes in the definition of public happiness accompanied the rise of absolutism in Spain. Originally from Chicago, Elsa has a BA in Latin American studies from Bennington College and an MA in Ibero-American history from Duke. She has published or presented papers on all these topics. Her dissertation research took her to Madrid and to Mexico City on a Fulbright-Hays grant, and she is now Bass instructional fellow and Capper fellow at Duke.




Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (AMES), Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke University Middle East Studies Center, The Religions and Public Life Initiative at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Romance Studies.


Duke University


November 22, 2021
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
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