Cover image for Sacred Habitat: Nature and Catholicism in the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic By Ran Segev

Sacred Habitat

Nature and Catholicism in the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic

Ran Segev

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$129.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09533-2

Available as an e-book

230 pages
6" × 9"
18 b&w illustrations
2023

Iberian Encounter and Exchange, 475–1755

Sacred Habitat

Nature and Catholicism in the Early Modern Spanish Atlantic

Ran Segev

“This work is an important intervention into scholarship concerning early modern science and into Spanish imperial culture and religion. It resituates Iberian authors as significant contributors to the early modern ‘New Science’ through appraisal of how new approaches to geography, cosmography, and zoology were incorporated into or affected by the Tridentine Catholic renewal. Ultimately, this argument undermines the long-standing assumption that science and religion diverged in the early modern period.”

 

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Known as a time of revolutions in science, the early modern era in Europe was characterized by the emergence of new disciplines and ways of thinking. Taking this conceit a step further, Sacred Habitat shows how Spanish friars and missionaries used new scholarly approaches, methods, and empirical data from their studies of ecology to promote Catholic goals and incorporate American nature into centuries-old church traditions.

Ran Segev examines the interrelated connections between Catholicism and geography, cosmography, and natural history—fields of study that gained particular prominence during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—and shows how these new bodies of knowledge provided innovative ways of conceptualizing and transmitting religious ideologies in the post-Reformation era. Weaving together historical narratives on Spain and its colonies with scholarship on the Catholic Reformation, Atlantic science, and environmental history, Segev contends that knowledge about American nature allowed pious Catholics to reconnect with their religious traditions and enabled them to apply their beliefs to a foreign land.

Sacred Habitat presents a fresh perspective on Catholic renewal. Scholars of religion and historians of Spain, colonial Latin America, and early modern science will welcome this provocative intervention in the history of empire, science, knowledge, and early modern Catholicism.

“This work is an important intervention into scholarship concerning early modern science and into Spanish imperial culture and religion. It resituates Iberian authors as significant contributors to the early modern ‘New Science’ through appraisal of how new approaches to geography, cosmography, and zoology were incorporated into or affected by the Tridentine Catholic renewal. Ultimately, this argument undermines the long-standing assumption that science and religion diverged in the early modern period.”
Sacred Habitat is a novel and much-needed perspective on an important corpus of early modern Spanish works dealing with the Americas that often seems perplexing to the modern reader, especially when understood solely as ‘scientific’ works. Ran Segev lucidly explains that science and religion of the era were mutually constitutive and fully integrated into knowledge-making approaches.”
“This concise, elegantly argued study constitutes a veritable watershed in our understanding of the relationship between science and religion. Segev’s compelling narrative and well-chosen case studies lay the foundations for a non-Eurocentric and truly global alternative to the tired story of the ‘scientific revolution.’ This book is therefore to be warmly welcomed. It is a considerable achievement and deserves the widest possible readership.”

Ran Segev is Minerva Stiftung Postdoctoral Fellow at the Akademie der Weltreligionen, Universität Hamburg.