Professor Mercedes García-Arenal
Professor Mercedes García-Arenal is a Research Professor at Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid and the world’s leading expert on Muslim minorities in Iberia. Her work focuses on the religious history of 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. She has cultivated long-term research interest in the study of religious minorities and religious conversion from a new methodological vantage point. She has thus been increasingly drawn to the small-scale, singular study of individual experiences that suggest a process of gradual disengagement, involving closely entwined yet competing notions of religion and group belonging, in cases that illustrate how formal institutions of power function while handling people’s affairs. Among the latter she has been especially interested in individuals who walk away from groups, and in looking at groups through the eyes of the disaffected and the uncommitted.