Accepted paper:

Chasing Heresy, Creating Heretics: Inquisitorial Networks Locating Heretics


Jessica Fowler (University of California, Davis)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the Spanish Inquisition created a self-referential loop in its efforts to identify and prosecute the heresy of "alumbradismo." The burden of disseminating knowledge about heresy rested with the institution whose purpose was to eradicate the products created by this knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

The Spanish Inquisition first defined the heresy they denominated "alumbradismo" in 1525 to address a group of heterodox individuals in Toledo, Spain. Within a century and a half, these heretics would appear repeatedly not only across Spain, but also in Mexico, Peru, and even the Philippines. By identifying a "sect of alumbrados," the Inquisition forced itself into the position of guaranteeing its reality, both internally and externally. Within the institution, regulated correspondence between the Supreme Council of the Inquisition and its individual tribunals assured a flow of information across an inquisitorial network that spanned the entire breadth of the empire. To instruct the laity, the Inquisition implemented pedagogical exercises, such as the reading aloud of Edicts of Faith and public punishment at the auto de fe, to ensure that the public could identify heresy in their midst. The dissemination of this information, alongside instruction to root it out, assured that both the Inquisition and the public vigilantly guarded against alumbradismo. By identifying and teaching about the heresy of alumbradismo, the Inquisition actually encouraged the identification of an ever greater number of alumbrado heretics.

panel P29
Defining religious deviance, creating novel identities: the fruits of persecution