2023-24 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow
'As Moorish As Those in Barbary': Forming Morisco Identity in the Spanish-Maghribi Borderlands, 1609-1631
Between 1609-1613, Spain expelled three hundred thousand Moriscos, the descendants of Spanish Muslims forced to convert to Christianity, on charges of treason and crypto-Islamic heresy. Spanish officials deported most of the refugees to the Maghrib (Islamic North Africa) on the grounds that the Moriscos shared a religious and ethnic identity with Maghribi Muslims. But Maghribis did not always share this assumption: sources record that their reception of the Moriscos ranged from generous hospitality, to political rivalry, to violent hostility and religious coercion. My project looks at representations of the Moriscos expelled to the Maghrib in contemporary Spanish and Arabic sources in order to analyze the sociocultural factors that shaped how Muslims in the Maghrib received the Moriscos and interpreted their identities. By analyzing these sources in the context of Spanish and Ottoman imperialism in the Maghrib and the resulting dynamics of frontier warfare, captivity, and conversion that shaped the region, I try to move beyond the question of whether the Moriscos were ‘sincere’ Muslims or Christians, considering instead the circumstances under which cultural boundaries were drawn, enforced, and reimagined.
Kate Randazzo is a History PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on conversion, migration, and cultural exchange in the early modern Western Mediterranean.