The "contagious stench" of idolatry: The rhetoric of disease and sacrilegious acts in colonial New Spain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the colonial theater of New Spain, multiple actors utilized the rhetoric of disease to discuss and describe the ongoing discoveries of indigenous traditional religion, which they termed idolatry. Focusing primarily on Yucatán, this article closely analyzes these usages, arguing that the two primary modes of understanding the spread of illness in the early modern world, that of miasmic factors and that of contagion, provided rationalizations for the perseverance of idolatrous practices, informed the institutionalized prevention of these heretical acts, and ultimately provided models for their possible cure. As the definition of idolatry was expanded to include all religious crimes committed by New Spain's indigenous population, it was severed from the material aspect (idol worship) that had originally defined it. The result was the conceptual conflation of two of the defining characteristics of early colonial experience: epidemic disease and ongoing idolatries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-515
Number of pages35
JournalHAHR - Hispanic American Historical Review
Volume96
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The "contagious stench" of idolatry: The rhetoric of disease and sacrilegious acts in colonial New Spain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this