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Kate Lowe (2007)

L’assimilazione religiosa al cattolicesimo degli africani neri in Italia, 1450–1550


In this paper, I shall focus on a few examples of black Africans in Renaissance Italy, enslaved or freed, who can be seen to have assimilated successfully to some basic tenets of Catholicism, and to have undergone a conversion of behaviour and mores as well as a compulsory religious conversion. To a greater or lesser extent, black Africans in Europe were unable to invent new identities for themselves if they were not prepared to conform and to learn how to lead the lives of good Catholics. On the other hand, the Catholic Church’s willingness or hestitation in welcoming black Africans into the fold is a telling marker of whether the Church genuinely believed that their souls were equal to the souls of European Catholics. There are multiple ways in which assimilation to Catholicism can be gauged. One of my examples concerns the naming practice of two black slaves, and the ordinary prejudice that undermined the attempt to give a child a Catholic name. A second investigates the figure of the donor in religious art, and a third analyses religious content in the wills of two black African women. Each of these examples allows an assessment of whether the Catholic Church had thought through the implications of demanding the religious conversion of black African slaves – slaves who would often later be freed – and whether assimilation to Catholicism had been of use to the Africans.

Abstract provided by the author.

15th century 16th century Italy black slaves conversion
by Christoph Cluse last modified 2008-05-21 13:41

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