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Body, Bathsand Cloth:Muslim and Christian perceptions inMedievalPortugal MARIA FILOMENA LOPES DE BARROS The coexistence ofthreereligions inmedieval Portugal entaileddifferent cosmologicalperspectives which determinedthe culturalboundaries dividingthe different ethnic-religious groups.These boundarieswere, however, neitherfirmnor unchanging.The communities and their individual members, as actorsin a widersocialinteraction, participated in a permanentculturaldialogue and constantly redefinedtheirown identity boundaries.The acculturation of minority groups,or rather thedifferent stagesofacculturation, involved different typesofforced, freely-chosen and unconsciousacceptance of mainstream values and standards. Moreover, in theend, theseincorporate and demarcatethe ethnocentrism ofthegroupitself, as evolvedfromitsoriginalform.In thissense,the identity and social psychology of Muslimgroupsin the medievalIberianKingdoms was certainly distinct fromthatof Muslims living underMuslimruleorevenfrom theMouriscos ofthesixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Religiousascription can onlybe understoodin particular historical and sociologicalcontexts and doesn'tautomatically implyinsurmountable culturaldifferences or an antagonismsubspecie aeternam. (1). Perceptions of the bodyis one issue thatdifferentiated Christian and Islamiccosmological systems from theoutset. In Islam,pure/impure categories strictly established bythefiqh(Islamic jurisprudence)created an ethicalvisionof the body.AlthoughIslam excludesthe conceptof originalsin,it is inscribedbya conceptionof purity which,constantly threatened byphysiological functions, createsa permanent physiologicalbiologicaldialecticofimpurity and theneed toresumepurity. Biological realitiesthusgeneratestwocategoriesof impurity (hadat): the major impurity (ganãba) (resulting, forexample,from secretion ofspermand from menstruation) towhichcorresponds a need forwholebodypurification (gusl),and thelesserimpurities, thatrequireonlypartialablutions (wudQ'). The ritual purification (tahãra),withitstechniques fortherestoration ofmetaphysical orderthrough theerasureofphysical, psychological or moralstains, makesitpossibleto sublimate thebodyand allowsman to resumedialoguewiththeHoly.But tahãraalso establishes a significant internalhierarchy. As a resultof which two typesof discrimination emerge:first, a biasagainst impureorvilecrafts (namely thosedirectly in 2 MARIA FILOMENA LOPES DE BARROS touchwithblood), and secondly a genderbias,becausewomen,due to their physiological attributes, aremorepronetostates ofimpurity.1 Thisstructuring conceptofmaterial contamination, ritualised namely through dietary restrictions, defines(atleasttheoretically) theboundary between Muslim and non-Muslim. In thissensetahãra isoften regarded as themainobstacle totheintegration ofMuslim orcryp to-Muslim minorities in Christian kingdoms. SincetheclassicworkofLucettaScarafiaon the renegades,2 thisconcepthasbeen usedtoexplaintheimpossibility ofthe assimilation oftheMariscos in Spanishsociety duringthesixteenth and seventeenth centuries.3 The emphasison the minority group,however, tendsto minimize therole ofmainstream society and does notaddress thequestionofwhether thosepractices represent a continuation ofpast practicesor whethertheyare, in fact,a reactionto the contemporary parameters ofsocialcontrol. Itissocialinteraction, inotherwords, rather thanthesocialactorsdeperse,thatisthemaindetermining factor in the delimitation oftheboundaries. In thissense, the border concerningmaterialcontaminationcan be discernedformedievalPortugalbut,curiously enough,onlyin the Christian context. Here,thehistorical and symbolic consequencesofthe 1496 decreeofexpulsion andtheway ithascometostructure ourcollective memory must beparticularly borninmind.Post-expulsion theMuslim and Jewish archives disappearedas their functionality ceased,and as a result it istheChristian perspective thatshapesourperception ofthepast. One oftheoldestreferences appearsin a clause oftheCostumesde Santarém(XIVthcentury) . In a case ofassaultinvolving a Muslimand a Christian, one shouldnotswearan oath overtheinjury, whereasthe disposition applying onlytoChristians stipulates on thecontrary thatthe aggressor must"poer a mãaonaferida" ('place hishandon thewound').4 The bipolarity ofthisclause is extendedin theCostumesde Beja (also XIVthcentury) whichforbids thiskindofphysical contactinall disputes involving Christians and membersofminority groups,i.e. Muslimsand Jews.5 The socially acceptablephysical boundariesbetweenthedominant groupandtheotherseemtoarisefrom a context inwhich thedelimitation ofthelicitandtheillicit comesdirectly from theantimony ofbetween the pureand theimpure, in so faras thissituation couldinvolve thespilling of blood. The compass of materialcontamination widensin popular 1Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, La sexualité en Islam,2nd edn. (Paris:Presses Universitaires de France, 1979),pp.59~74Lucettabcarama , Rinegatti. rer una stonadellidentita occidentale(Rome:Quadrante Laterza, 1993). 5 Cfonthis matter Mercedes Garcia Arenal, 'Moriscos - estado delacuestión', inAdelSidarus ed.,IslãoMinoritário naPenínsula Ibérica(Lisbon: Hugin, 2001),pp.47-66. 4 Portugaliae Monumento, Histórica. LegesetConsuetidinis, II, ed. byAlexandreHerculano andJ.S. Leal (Lisbon: Academia RealdasCiências, 1858)pp.20,29. J fortugatiae Monumento, Histórica, p. 04. BODY, BATH AND CLOTH 3 quotidianexperiences with respect tosociably admissible practices, butit isnotclearwhether this isowedtopressure from therepresentatives ofthe minority communities themselves orfrom thedominant urbanoligarchy. Lessambiguous arethedeterminations ofthePortuguese Churchthat emerged inthefifteenth century. In 1477 (11 December)theArchbishop ofBraga,LuísPires,decreedthatonlyChristian silversmiths couldweigh preciousobjectsfromchurchesand monasteries. In placeswherethere werenone,a Jewcould be admitted as longas he 'nontoque nem ponha a mãaona dicta prataporque hésancta'('does nottouchthesilver withhis hands,because itis Holy'), in whichcases theclergyman shouldplace the objectson the scales and also removethem. He also decreed an interdiction uponJewsand Muslimsrepairing or restoring anyclothes orobjectspertaining totheChurch, suchas crossesorsacredvases,'polio odio e avorrecimento que teemaa nossa sanctafé catholica'('on account of their hatredandabomination oftheholycatholic faith')and,whenthose objectsreachtheirpossession, they submit themtoall kindsof 'çugidades e torpezas'!1 Theimpurity ofthe'infidels' ishereassociated with 'filth anddepravity', in theargument thatmeretouchwoulddeconsecrated theholyobjects. A conceptof materialcontamination...