Activities Calendar



Principal Investigator

Mercedes García-Arenal has a PhD in Arabic and Islam from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid (1976). She was a post-doctoral fellow in the London School of Oriental and African Studies (1976-1978) on a British Council Scholarship. In 1981, she received tenure as a Junior Researcher at the Consejo Superior de Investiagaciones Científicas, where she has been a Research Professor since 1990. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1988-89), and Directeur d’ Etudes de l’ EHESS (Paris) in the Spring term of 1992.

She has been actively involved in service to her institution, mainly as Member of the Steering Committee, Junta de Gobierno, CSIC (2003-2008) and Member of the Comisión de Área de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, CSIC (2005-2008). She has also invested a lot of time and energy in being Directing Editor of the journal Al-Qantara. Revista de Estudios Árabes, from 1999 till 2013. She is also on the editorial board of several scholarly journals: The Maghreb Review (1999-present), Hésperis-Tamuda (2008-present) Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies (2010-present), Mediterranean Historical Review (2009-present), and Journal of Early Modern History (2012-present). She is part of the board of the Bill series MEMI.

Among the numerous invitations she has received to present her work worldwide, she has held the Stewart Professorship in the Humanities at Princeton University (April 2013) given the Cochrane Lecture, Department of History, University of Chicago (2010) and the Hamilton Gibb Lectures, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University (2008).

She has been PI of several research grants funded by the Spanish nacional government and has participated in international projects such as “Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World”, funded as an à la carte project by the European Science Foundation and directed by Robert Ilbert (1991-1995) In this project she was team leader of Hub 6, “Religious activity and experience”. She was also PI of the Research Program “East in West: Challenging Borders,” CCHS-CSIC (2009-2013).

Her research focuses on the religious history of Iberia and the Muslim West, mainly on religious minorities: conversion, polemics, messianism, religious dissidence, and dissimulation. She has focused on the impulses of assimilation and rejection by mainstream societies of religious minorities such as Muslims and converted Muslims in Iberia and Jews in North Africa. Much of her research is based on Inquisition documentation.

Among her main publications are:

  • Inquisición y moriscos: Los procesos del Tribunal de Cuenca (Madrid: Siglo XXI, 1978. 2nd ed. 1982, 3rd ed. 1988). A study of converted Muslims and their practice of Islam through Inquisition trials.
  • Messianism and Puritanical Reform: Mahdis of the Muslim West (Leiden: Brill, 2006). In this book I analysed the connection between Sufi legitimation, sacred descent and expectations of the coming of a Mahdi, that is a second Muhammad. I also looked at how prophetic descent (sharifism) functioned as symbolic capital in Iberia and the Maghreb.
  • With G. Wiegers, Un hombre en tres mundos (Madrid: Siglo XXI, 2002) translated into English as A Man of Three Worlds: Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew between Catholic and Protestant Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Arabic (Cairo: Ministry of Culture, 2006); and Italian (Rome: Casa Editrice Viella, 2013). This book reconstructs the story of a Jewish Moroccan family between Catholic Spain and the Protestant Low Countries.
  • With Fernando Rodríguez Mediano, Un Oriente español: Los moriscos y el Sacromonte en tiempos de Contrarreforma (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2010). The Orient in Spain: Converted Muslims, the Forged Lead Books of Granada and the Beginnings of Orientalism (Leiden, Brill, 2013) Taking as its main subject some notorious forgeries by Muslim converts in sixteenth-century Granada (including an apocryphal gospel in Arabic) this book studies the emotional, cultural and religious world-view of the Morisco minority and the complexity of its identity, caught between the wish to respect Arabic cultural traditions, and the pressures of evangelization and efforts at integration into “Old Christian” society. The book also addresses questions of Orientalist scholarship in Early Modern Spain, in which an interest in Oriental languages, mainly Arabic, was linked to important historiographical questions, such as the uses and value of Arabic sources, and the problem of the integration of al-Andalus within a providentialist history of Spain. The authors have considered these issues not only from a local point of view, but from a wider perspective, in an attempt to understand how these matters related to more general European intellectual and religious developments.

Recent articles (selection):

  • “A Catholic Muslim Prophet: Agustín de Ribera, the Boy ‘Who Saw Angels’.” Common Knowledge 18, 2 (2012): 267-291.
  • “The Religious Identity of the Arabic Language and the Affair of the Lead Books of Granada.” Arabica 56 (2009), 495-528.
  • “Religious Dissent and Minorities: The Morisco Age.” Journal of Modern History 81 (2009), 888-920.
  • "'Un reconfort pour ceux qui sont dans l'attente'. Prophétie et millénarisme dans la péninsule Ibérique et au Maghreb (XVI-XVII siècles)", Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, 220-4  (2003), 445- 486.

(See here the full CV)