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Title: The Sound of Blasphemy in Early Twentieth-Century Spain: Vulgarity, Violence and the Crowd
Author(s): Kerry, Matthew
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Editor(s): Bouwers, Eveline G
Nash, David S
Citation: Kerry M (2022) The Sound of Blasphemy in Early Twentieth-Century Spain: Vulgarity, Violence and the Crowd. In: Bouwers EG & Nash DS (eds.) Demystifying the Sacred: Blasphemy and Violence from the French Revolution to Today. New Perspectives on the History of Liberalism and Freethought, 2. Oldenbourg: De Gruyter.
Issue Date: 19-Sep-2022
Date Deposited: 7-Jun-2022
Series/Report no.: New Perspectives on the History of Liberalism and Freethought, 2
Abstract: In May 1909, Madrid’s Chief of Police launched an anti-blasphemy campaign in Spain’s capital. Two months later, Barcelona was rocked by the “Tragic Week” when a strike against the mobilisation of reservists led to several days of rioting, barricades and anticlerical and iconoclastic violence. This chapter uses these two moments to examine attitudes towards blasphemy in early twentieth-century Spain, drawing on Catholic publications, the printed press and testimonies from the Tragic Week. It approaches blasphemy as a speech act that formed part of the sonic environment of the streets of Madrid and Barcelona in 1909. For Catholic commentators, blasphemy was a sin, a vice and a symptom of growing Spanish apostasy, but blaspheming was not solely a religious matter. Intellectuals agreed with Catholics that blaspheming was a vulgar act that required cleansing from Spanish society and criticised blasphemy as a symptom of Spain’s underdevelopment. Their attacks on blasphemy betrayed fears about an emerging mass urban society for they associated it with the urban environment, the working class, and mass entertainment. During the Tragic Week, blasphemy functioned as a disinhibiting cry that facilitated violence, as an assertion of anti-religious identity, and as a form of sonic violence. The deafening din of the anticlerical mob – a menacing, enveloping soundscape that included blasphemous yelling and sacrilegious bell-ringing – assaulted the ears and provided acoustic confirmation of a world turned upside down.
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