Takes Arendt’s writings on modernity as point of departure–locating the submerged “dark currents” of western civilization, the “subterranean stream of western history” on the “road to making sense of the morally insensible.” 

As Foucault and Bourdieu explored the evolution of bureaucratic institutions and “art of government” (Foucault) in the 17th century, when dynastic power was losing its stronghold across European regions, they failed to account for the globalizing (or at least transoceanic) factor brought in by the expansion of Spainish colonialism. Thinking, therefore, transatlantically via centering Spanish theorizations on state-formation both in the peninsula and in the Americas, allows Silverblatt to propose a variety of interventions:

  1. That “Spain, Spaniard, Spanishness” were (are?) categories in constant negotiation–as their floating signifiers traveled across the Atlantic, Spaniards’ anxieties about encounters with difference mixed with blood anxieties mixed with the need to justify the subjugation of the Other. Race thinking emerges, partially, as a response to relief those tensions. There was no Spanish nation in the 15th-17th centuries. When the first Spaniards landed in the Americas they called themselves Christians. It wasn’t until a nationalization process began in the Americas that a sense of Spanishness began to coalesce. This process coincided with the cultural dialectic out of which institutionalized and juridical race came forth. It was then that Spanishness as a caste became racialized, and so did its modern counterpart–the Spanish proto nation.  
  2. Foucault and Bourdieu place the emergence of modern bureaucracy in the 17th century–Silverblatt interrogates this by asking why it is that our historical sensibilities do not allows us to see the Inquisition as a highly bureaucratic institution–one that stands as an unquestionable precedent to modern bureaucracy.
  3. Important questions about our relationship to the past: the Inquisition being customarily regarded as a pre-modern entity, and this being, she demonstrates, untrue, why such covering up? Why this “effort at historical distortion”? What does this say “about our claim to the mantle of progress” that defines the core of who we say we are? 

My question, linking state- and race- with subject- formation: as these large-scale administrative units–these bureaucracies–were being formed, and in so doing were giving legitimacy and symbolic power to the state (as a new geopolitical formation), wasn’t a new subjectivity—the bureaucrat and his subjects, the citizen, the slave, the indio—also being formed? A question that is useful if we think about what those constructions then enabled: the subject of Man–the human. And, if that is so, could we posit that the Inquisition was a fundamental factor in the formation of the Man = human of which Foucault and Wynter and others theorize?

Peru in the 17th century was populated by a vast array of diverse populations–Lima was a bustling cosmopolitan center, with a heavy population of merchants, many of them Portuguese. In this diverse milieu, the Portuguese became racialized subjects via anxieties of heretic blood: they were suspect crypto Jews because after the expulsion from Spanish Iberia, many had migrated from Spain to Portugal to create New Christian lives for themselves. In the “New World” (sigh… bad language) context, it was particularly anxiety-inducing for Spaniards to discern who was who. These equivocations made it so that “Portuguese,” as a denomination became, in Lima, another name for “New Christian.”  

Chapter: Three “Heretics” cases 

Author’s stated hope in bringing this cases to the fore: to make the archive come alive, to give them flesh, to give human life to the men and women caught in the battle for sanctity waged by the Inquisition. 

Of interest to me, in relation to Sound: Maria Pizarro’s case: she heard things, voices, and was regarded a beata by many. Conflict over the nature of her ventriloquizing: demonic or divine?  

Chapter: Verdicts Foretold 

Author recognizes that despite high adherence to very strict procedures was not uncommon, still, specially in Peru, norms were sometimes skipped. Reasons? some of them having to do with a general angst to uncover the complicidad grande: used “razones de estado”–state security–as excuse. Ultimately, she concludes that a general regard for the bureaucratic process made it possible for cases to find “justice”–not all verdicts were foretold. 

Chapter: States and Saints 

Two race-thinking designs: on blood and on geopolitics. The blood one wasn’t new–but it increasingly was applied to nationality (Portuguese example as explained above) and to economic activity/behavior (mercantile class, specially Portuguese New Christians): entangling mercantile economy and hunt for heresy: increasing equivocation emerges: merchant = Jew; prosperous = Jew–specially in Peru, a place for peninsulars of all kinds to go profit off a growingly globalize mercantile system. Hence, blood anxieties and their enmeshment in the economic/activity behavior of subjects.   

This is interesting in relation to the emergence of a state-linked subjectivity (ie citizen?). Everyone was obligated to narrate themselves as subjects of these two race-thinking designs: all accused by the Inquisition were asked to locate themselves in the social and global fabrics established by the emerging twofold race thinking design: family, legal and class status, on the one hand; casta y generacion on the other. 

The Interstices of the Empire (provisional name for, something (?)):  

The factors that compose a work of art are varied. Interstice means a space that intervenes between things. The interaction of the audience, time, place and space forms the dialogue between artworks and creates interstices. 

Where did Empire reason fail? Under what spatial conditions did a clandestine sense-making take place? These are my corollary questions to Silverblatt’s question: “Where did New Christians communicate their heresies to one another, express their hatred of Christianity, as well as turn “simple peoples” away from the faith?” (150) 

These spaces were the “hubs, routes, and outposts of colonial mercantilism”–interstices for various reasons, id est, of various worlds: slave markets—the first stop beyond the door of no return; port cities/entrepots; land and sea, city to city, merchant to merchant, a threshold where goods gained or lost value because moved/ing through space; “along the peddling routes stretching from Lima into the Andean highlands”; Lima’s marketplaces—plazas, bancos, mercados. 

  • Of interest re Sound: (“a secret language, [spoken] right in front of Old Christians who just heard normal words, not that out-of-the-ordinary language”)  45. AHN, Inq., leg. 47, no. 13, fol. 266.  

Miscellaneous notes:

Analyzing the Inquisition as a bureaucratic institution, in a transatlantic context and with an eye on the emerging configuration of the state, and the also emerging categorization of difference in racial terms, we can discern what I could be labeled the quintessential triangulations of modernity: 

1. black/indian (or: indian, asian, mestizo)/white 

2. personhood, political experience, and the state  

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