HS/SO 333 - Discrimination and Persecution in Spain and the West

"The very ink with which History is written is merely fluid prejudice." - Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

What are the origins of modern religious, racial, and ethnic prejudice and persecution in Europe? Why have anti-Semitism and Islamophobia been so persistent throughout history? How do these paradigmatic cases help us reflect critically upon cases of discrimination and exclusion in the world today?

Spain has always occupied a conspicuous and contradictory place within the modern history of the West. Today Spain is regarded by some (although not by all) as a relatively welcoming place for foreigners. Despite the recent economic crisis, the Migration Integration Policy Index ranks Spain as having the best record among Europe's major immigration countries with respect to the integration of migrants. This, however, is a rather recent phenomenon Scholars from various disciplines have long argued that institutionalized religious and ethnic persecution began on the Iberian Peninsula with the forced conversion and expulsion of Jews and the establishment of the Inquisition during the late middle ages and early modern period. Laws regarding "purity of the blood" were later implanted and transformed during the colonization of Spanish America. Medieval and early modern persecutions served as a forerunner to the murderous industrialized regime of genocide, based on scientific and genetic theories of racial superiority and inferiority, in Nazi Germany during the twentieth century. Today, Islamophobia is widespread in Europe and the United States.

The course is divided into three sections. The first section examines Spain of the Inquisition and the empire. Section Two analyzes early modern and modern anti-Semitism, culminating with the Holocaust. Section Three explores contemporary cases of racial and religious discrimination in Europe and the Americas, including the thorny question of immigration and citizenship. Throughout the course, the instructor will use historical cases of persecution and discrimination as a means to provoke students to examine critically cases of prejudice and exclusion in the world today.

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