Religion and Empire

The Making of Blackness in Early Modern Spain: A Process of Cultural and Social Negotiation from the Bottom-Up

The Making of Blackness is a research project investigating the social and cultural agents that constructed narratives and meanings of blackness in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spain.  

The project unfolds with the hypotheses that the construction of blackness was a process of cultural and social negotiation in which black women and men took an active role; and that the ideas of blackness were disseminated in cultural and religious narratives that had an impact on the formation of mentalities. Literary texts, for instance, were a means to imagining and disseminating notion(s) of blackness as they were performed in noble houses, street parades, open-air theatres, and religious festivals attended by all echelons of society. Following on from these premises, the project has three intertwined research objectives: first, it challenges the traditional readings of blackness in cultural discourses; second, it examines the engagement of black audiences shaping narratives of blackness; and third, it seeks for an understanding of the meaning of blackness in the era’s social worldviews.

With cross-disciplinary methods and sources, as well as a multidisciplinary team of researchers —scholars of Literature, History, Historical Sociology, Ethnomusicology, and Anthropology—, the project will connect a rich scholarship on emancipatory strategies and social practices to the period’s cultural expressions. This will allow for multifaceted answers to the complex uses of ‘black’ and ‘blackness’ in the context of early modern Spain, that include the perspectives of black diasporic communities. In doing so, the Making of Blackness project will redefine cultural and social history from below.

Line of research team