Spanish Inquisitors, Etiquette Culture, and the Brain in the 17th Century

Suggestions to Granada inquisitors and royal judges locked in a 1678 dispute over public courtesies included a series of ambivalent movements to break the impasse. Whether we think of half-bows, moving only one knee if greeted while praying, and even appearing to get up from chair without actually doing so, these subtle gestures were typical of a mannered habitus informing ceremonial etiquette. Considering Spanish inquisitors during the seventeenth century, this article employs an interdisciplinary analysis of the intersection between brain, body, and culture in the formation of such a gestural habitus. After all, seeing and doing precise etiquette gestures brought neurophysiological process, such as visual perception, motor control and social cognition, into interaction with broader expectations and institutional cultures. Ultimately, even in the midst of changing gestural codes and social epistemologies, the inquisitorial performance of etiquette was built on the daily iteration of neurophysiological processes embedded in tribunal life itself.

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