From Heresy in Religion to Heresy in Culture: The Symbolic Power of the 15th Century Spanish Inquisition: The Case of the Arab Muslims (Moriscos)

Latifa Safoui


The Spanish Inquisition that took over following the collapse of the Islamic rule in Spain in the 15th century is, commonly, associated with the persecution of heresy in its strict religious sense.  However, a deep probing into the history of the Spanish Inquisition, and more particularly, into its dealing with the Arab Muslims of the epoch, belies other facets of its notorious heresiological discourse.  The Arab Muslims, known historically as Moriscos, who stayed in the Iberian Peninsula after being forcibly converted to Christianity, were, nonetheless, subjected to other forms of abuse that had nothing to do with religion.  I hold in this paper that the Spanish church-state rule-- another name applied to the Spanish Inquisition-- exhibited features of a modern nation-state in the making that sought to consolidate its political hegemony, mainly by using what Pierre Bourdieu calls symbolic power.  Symbolic power is the accumulation of all capital in the hands of the modern state, a privileged status that grants the latter an unlimited scope of power, enabling it to enforce its will and establish its hegemony.  The forcible conversions of the Andalusi Arab Muslims to Christianity did not spare them the Spanish violence, and the Spanish authorities sought doggedly to strip them of all power.  The Arab Muslim culture was exterminated, and the Spanish state worked on divesting this, hitherto, Iberian minority of its political, social, and economic capitals in order to establish a modern nation-state as early as the 15th century.




Spanish Inquisition, symbolic power, heresy, Pierre Bourdieu, hegemony, capital

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