A Passionate Pacification: Sacrifice and Suffering in the Jesuit Missions of Northwestern New Spain, 1594 - 1767
Bayne, Brandon Lynn
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CitationBayne, Brandon Lynn. 2012. A Passionate Pacification: Sacrifice and Suffering in the Jesuit Missions of Northwestern New Spain, 1594 - 1767. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Divinity School.
AbstractThis dissertation tracks Jesuit discourse about suffering in the missions of Northern New Spain from the arrival of the first missionaries in the 16th century until their expulsion in the 18th. The project asks why tales of persecution became so prevalent in these borderland contexts and describes how missionaries sanctified their own sacrifices as well as native suffering through martyrological idioms. It argues that in both corporeal and textual forms, missionaries put their passions to use in the pacification of the norther frontier of Mexico. It also correlates colonial martyrologies to longer traditions of redemptive death in the history of Christianity. The belief that sacrifice begets growth reaches back to the biblical writers and church fathers like Jerome and Tertullian. More recently, Talal Asad has argued that "dying to give live" lies at the foundation of western civilization and its capacity for war. The work charts a transitional moment in the longer geneology of matyrological discourse that extends early Christian tales of persecution to the modern logic of redemptive sacrifice. It argues that Christian martyrdom traditions helped early modern Jesuits rationalize their participation in the Spanish colonization of the Americas and explain rebellion, disease, and death as providential.
In addition to the deaths of specific missionaries at the hands of rebellious converts, it takes up the wider motif of martyrdom that permeated their entire evangelistic enterprise in New Spain. Through histories, annual letters, personal correspondance, and maps, it describes how metaphors of agricultural growth, economic exchange, cosmic war, exile, and "prolonged martyrdom" downplayed the material causes of violence and instead elevated convert and missionary suffering as ultimately redemptive. The disseratation shows how Jesuit martyr language had a symbiotic, though conflicted, relation to native religious practices, spurring native revolt, aggressive retribution, and spatial redistribution. In distinction from early Christians who cultivated martyrdom as rhetoric of victimization under imperial persecution, early modern missionaries used their own passion stoties to justify imperial expansion and the often difficult pacification of indigenous groups. When located in Christian history, the blood of Jesuit martyrs helped place native landscapes within an imagined Christendom in the minds of European audiences who encountered their tales of sacrifice through letters, histories, maps, paintings, and reliquaries. Whether positioning themselves vis-à-vis other religious orders, petitioning superiors, preparing campaigns to extirpate native "idolatries," or protecting converts from European and indigenous enemies, Jesuits believed that their greatest victories would be resurrected from stories of victimization.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367448