Professor to discuss crypto-Jewish practices in early modern period

Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns, assistant professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, will discuss “Conversas in Diaspora: The Second Inquisitorial trial of Isabel de Carvajal” at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 4 in the McKillop Library.

The Sephardic Diaspora in the early modern period saw transatlantic exchange of religious and cultural practices as well as economic activity. Conversos and Jewish families participated in a global trade network that connected Iberia, Europe, the New World and Africa. Amidst this dynamic exchange, women tactically used the private realm of the home to maintain and preserve rituals and faith practices.

The lecture will focus on the material observance of crypto-Jew Isabel de Carvajal as described in her Inquisition manuscripts. Themes of religious hybridity will be discussed – Carvajal publicly acted as a Catholic and attended Mass, but in her home secretly practiced Judaism. This mixed identity is one of the key features of converso identity. Carvajal and the rest of her family were brought up on judaizing trials in 1595-1596 in New Spain, today Mexico, and ultimately burned at the stake in an auto-da-fe.

A graduate of Hamilton College, Colbert Cairns received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of California Irvine. Her research focuses on conversos and crypto-Jews in the early modern period in the Spanish-speaking world.

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