Towards Modes of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

29 Jun 2020

In her HLD lecture, Professor Ruth Fine explained that "memory has a place in forgiveness. For only if we remember, then we have the ability to learn, forgive, and rebuild common ground from our past."

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Towards modes of forgiveness and reconciliation: revisiting the Iberian Diasporas through literary texts‚Äč


Taking off from Michel de Certeau’s theoretical standpoint of the restorative function of remembering and reinterpreting the past, the following pages will address the conversion and diaspora's histories of the conversos and moriscos[1] as a way of reconsidering and reenacting in the present a dynamics of emotion and forgiveness. In other words, I ask to consider the possibility of a present-day working-through of the memory of a past trauma —in this case that of the forced conversions and exiles of the conversos and moriscos— through the reading of literary texts. In my view, this could constitute a path towards the realization of a shared emotion, leading to a feeling of reconciliation and forgiveness within the complexity of current Israeli/Arab or Jewish/Muslim tensions.

I ask to reconsider the notion of diaspora, not only as one of geographical displacement, but also as a religious and cultural “border-crossing” through conversion, taking place inside those diasporic groups in early modern Europe. Indeed, as persons who had been exposed, often in their childhood or through the remnants of memory, to both religions and cultures, the conversos and moriscos were border-crossers and go-betweens. My perspective tends to redefine the converso/morisco experience as a diasporic one, searching for a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon while attempting to project it onto contemporary contexts. I believe that the diasporic experiences of conversos, though differing from those of the moriscos with respect to historical circumstances, scope, and repercussions, presents a similar traumatic collective memory.

In this respect, I want to suggest that the analysis of the literary texts of that period —the corpus of the literature of the Iberian conversos— serves not only to enrich our understanding of their function as cultural border-crossers, mediators, and facilitators of cultural interchange, but also to identify voices of loss and melancholy that historical documentation cannot register. This can result in a recuperation and/or reconfiguration of emotion leading to forgiveness. This will be pursued through the reading of the Captive’s episode in Don Quixote. This episode enables us to revisit past experiences of conversion/diaspora in order to attempt to understand their potential impact on collective and individual memory and identity.

One of the central aims of the article will thus be to address the question of how the memory of the Iberian Diaspora experience can affect the contemporary processes of conflictive diasporization, as a therapeutic process of ‘self-discovery.’ This process is facilitated by an understanding of the Other in a manner that enacts the concepts of emotion, belonging and forgiveness. My claim is that this contemporary reading can allow the human groups in question to remember and reconsider the impact that it had for both their collective memories and present-day identities. Therefore, I ask to approach the converso and morisco experience in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Diaspora through a possible shared re-reading and present-day interpretation of literary works.

Download the paper in its entirety with complete citations here.


[1] I use the concepts of conversos and moriscos in a generic and inclusive way for Iberian Jews and Muslims and their descendants that were forced to convert to Christianity during the XIV-XVI centuries. Many of them left Spain in the successive expulsions and kept Catholicism as their religion while others reconverted to Judaism or Islam.