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Race in the Archives (Talk by Vanicléia Silva Santos)

February 17, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Vanicléia Silva Santos

Demonization of African People and Religion: Race in the Holy Office of the Portuguese Inquisition


This presentation aims to explore the “Holy Office Portuguese Inquisition” papers and show how they define “crimes” against the ​Faith​ in ​racial and social terms. The institutional status of the “Inquisition Regiments” (statutes) officially established structural racism. “In the name of the Faith”, between the XVI e XVIII centuries, the Portuguese Crown prosecuted “Others” in its Kingdom and its Empire (such as Brazil, Cabo Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola, Guinea and Goa). The “Others” included Jews, Moors and their descendants. Most scholarship on the Inquisition in Iberian societies has focused on the persecutions of Jews. I will examine racial categories present in an Inquisitorial trial against an African. The inquisitorial trial against Crispina Peres, a woman from Cacheu, contemporary Guinea-Bissau, provides a picture of the Inquisition in West Africa and the application of religious statutes used against Africans.



Vanicléia Silva Santos is the Associate Curator of the Penn Museum Africa Collections; and she is on leave from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil where she is Associate Professor of the History of Pre-colonial Africa in the Department of History. Professor Santos was one of the curatorial advisors in the redesign of the Penn Museum Africa galleries. Her research focuses on African History and its Diasporas, and Atlantic History. Santos has edited four books about material culture in Africa. She is a Member of UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee for the Ninth Volume of the General History of Africa (2013-2018). She edited the volume on the African Diaspora. She is the co-coordinator of the international project “African Ivories in the Atlantic World” between UFMG, the University of Lisbon and University of Evora. Finally Professor Santos is currently completing a book on Gender in West Africa and is editing a catalogue for the Africa Galleries of the Penn Museum.

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