Iberian Collective Memory and the Politics of Pluralism


The course is both an introduction to Iberian antiquarianism in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and an exploration of the divergent uses to which these early modern materials have been marshaled in the modern period. It fulfills the graduate studies distribution requirement for an “early modern peninsular” class in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures.

This class is at once an introduction to the material archive and scholarly practices that characterized early modern Iberian antiquarianism and an exploration of how modern political polemics have transformed the meaning of that archive. Our first of two principal goals will be to examine the works of sixteenth-century peninsular antiquarians such as Pedro de Medina and Ambrosio de Morales, who catalogued and studied buildings, monuments, landscapes, neighborhoods, ruins, manuscripts, coins, relics, and myriad other sorts of artifacts. The compilations produced by these scholars did not simply function as inventories of ancient and medieval antiquities, which local, regional, or imperial apologists might then celebrate as a source of pride. They also established these antiquities as “sites of memory,” to borrow a term from the French historian Pierre Nora. By experimenting with different ways to document and interpret the peninsula’s multiconfessional past, early modern antiquarians moreover demarcated the conceptual territory upon which conservative apologists for a Catholic Spain and liberal proponents of religious and cultural pluralism have subsequently clashed.

In order to trace this modern debate over the legacy of pre-modern material culture, which is the second main goal of this class, we will balance our early modern sources with interdisciplinary scholarship on collective memory and the anthropology and sociology of religion. Readings include early modern texts and visual materials by Francisco Bermúdez de Pedraza, Rodrigo Caro, Pablo de Céspedes, Pedro Díaz de Ribas, Pedro de Medina, Ambrosio de Morales, and Lucius Marineus Siculus, as well as scholarship by Eric Calderwood, Astrid Eril, Barbara Fuchs, Maurice Halbwachs, Andreas Huyssen, Susan Martín-Márquez, Pierre Nora, and Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar, among others.

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