Chapter

The Universe of the Human

in The Unconverted Self

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226069197
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226069142 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226069142.003.0005
The Universe of the Human

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The tendency to see 1492 as the year modernity began has one unfortunate effect: it has led to assumptions that racial discourses characteristic of modernity did not exist in Europe before that year — or, at least, that we can safely speak of “boundaries of humanity” known unproblematically to European Christians before Christopher Columbus embarked on his first voyage. Where, how, and whether to locate within some problematic category of shared humanity such figures as Jews, Muslims, and Indians — as well as those who personified them — has long been an aspect of European Christendom's negotiations with its others. Indian humanity was the subject of acrimonious debates in sixteenth-century Spain, prompting such men as Bartolomé de Las Casas to try to establish once and for all that they were part of the human community. The rhetorics that deployed the perceived relations between Christianity and the categories of race and kinship in late antiquity were based on the synthesis of fixity and fluidity.

Keywords: modernity; humanity; Jews; Muslims; Indians; Europe; Christianity; Bartolomé de Las Casas; race; kinship

Chapter.  9175 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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