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A History of Persecution: Five Centuries of Religious & Racial Prejudice Psychology Program Spring 2025 Semester - Barcelona

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A History of Persecution: Five Centuries of Religious & Racial Prejudice

A History of Persecution: Five Centuries of Religious & Racial Prejudice Course Overview


CEA CAPA Partner Institution: CEA CAPA Barcelona Center
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Primary Subject Area: History
Instruction in: English
Course Code: HIS361
Transcript Source: University of New Haven
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: Introductory courses in world history and political science


The country of Spain today is a pluralistic society, which, though suffering from bouts of xenophobia, is commonly regarded as being welcoming to foreigners. This has not always been the case. Until quite recently, Spain was better known as the birthplace of modern religious, ethnic, and racial intolerance. The expulsion of the Jews and the Muslims and the coming of the Inquisition served to create the first country in Europe dedicated to ridding itself of religious pluralism. While racial laws (limpieza de sangre) were initially promulgated to "protect" Christians against the mixing of Jewish or Islamic blood in Iberia, these laws were later exported to Spanish America where they formed the juridical rationale for an explicitly racial hierarchy that discriminated against those deemed to be of inferior race. Spain, alas, was not alone in its persecutions. Other countries soon instituted tribunals that persecuted witches, heretics, nonbelievers, homosexuals, and others targeted as scapegoats. Such intolerance reached its apex with the Holocaust of the 20th Century, resulting in the nearly unexplainable mass murder of some six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, handicapped, dissidents, and others classified as physically and mentally degenerate. Today, Islamophobia and ethnic discrimination against immigrants continue to plague Europe.

Organized into four sections, this course engages you in a historical exploration of human intolerance, institutionalized persecution, and contemporary cruelty. Section I examines the birth of modern religious and racial categories of discrimination in Inquisitorial Spain and Spanish America. Section II analyzes the coming and spread of witch-trials, which usually targeted elderly women, sexually 'promiscuous' women, and homosexuals (marked as male witches) in Europe and America. Section III analyzes the Holocaust and the advent of institutionalized persecution and genocide. Section IV looks at discrimination and persecution in contemporary Europe by examining the rise of Islamophobia and the administrations of detention centers used to restrain and deport the desperate, clandestine, and unwanted. Guest speakers from the Jewish and Islamic communities in Spain today help you understand the history and context of discrimination, persecution and intolerance. By exploring this history, you will reflect critically on the origins and meaning of ethnic and religious tension in today's world. This course helps you reflect upon the meaning of cultural difference, develop intercultural competence and cultivate your sense of global citizenship.

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