Anthro-History Workshop presents "Paper, Ink, Vodun, and the Inquisition: Tracing Power in the Early Modern Portuguese Atlantic"
In 1730, the Inquisition of Lisbon arrested and detained José Francisco, an enslaved man born in West Africa, who had learned in Brazil the art and craft of making charms. The key evidence in his trial was a set of his amulets that the bureaucratic machine duly recorded, tagged, and filed. The ink and paper charms combined esoteric signs and written formulas drawn from a range of European, African, Christian, and non-Christian visual, religious, and linguistic sources. These graphic renditions, ably mixed together, influenced the invisible forces at work in the visible world, a potency the Inquisition recognized and attempted to control with the shackles of its own ink and paper power machinery of filing and archiving. This paper analyses José’s amulets as cross-cultural palimpsests whose creation and afterlife reveal the many conversions that framed the lived experience of an African man caught in the crosscurrents of the Portuguese-speaking Atlantic world.