Culture & History Digital Journal, Vol 5, No 2 (2016)

The Temporal Politics of Spiritual Conquest: History, Geography and Franciscan Orientalism in the Conquista Espiritual do Oriente of Friar Paulo da Trindade


https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2016.014

Zoltán Biedermann
Senior Lecturer, Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. University College London, United Kingdom

Abstract


This article queries the relationship between imperial expansion, geographical knowledge and epistemic spatiality in Portuguese Asia. It proposes to disentangle these aspects by exploring the Conquista Espiritual do Oriente of Friar Paulo da Trindade, a Lusophone, Asian-born Franciscan writing in Goa in the 1630s. Trindade’s chronicle provides disturbing insights into the difficult relationship between imperial expansion and the spatial organization of knowledge. Information about Asia and its peoples appears systematically detached from the spatial frameworks created by other authors and thrown into a panorama deeply reliant on spirituality and sacred history. Trindade’s work suggests that there were strong political reasons for the Order of Saint Francis to embrace such a narrative. Whilst generalizations remain to be avoided, the shadow cast by the Jesuits over the Franciscan enterprise in the East played a key role in the adoption by the Seraphic order of a discursive strategy where time trumped space.

Keywords


Portuguese Empire; Asia; writing culture; knowledge; space; cartography; social history of science

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