Fear leads to violence – what can we learn from the 17th century?

Dr. Igor Perez Tostado © privat Dr. Igor Perez Tostado © privat
Dr. Igor Perez Tostado

© privat

Dr. Igor Pérez Tostado was as DRESDEN FELLOW from April to August 2017 at the Institute of History. He works as a lecturer in Modern History at the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville (Spain) and he is a noted expert on religiously inspired unrest in the early modern period. Since 2013, he has been Deputy Head of the Master’s Program "History of Europe, the Mediterranean World and its Atlantic Diffusion". In 2004, he earned his doctorate degree in History and Civilization at the European University Institute in Florence. He spent a research stay at University College Dublin in 2012, and at New York University in 2014. We spoke with him about his studies, his research and his experience at our university.

Welcome to Dresden. Is it your first time in Germany and in Dresden?

No, it is not my first time in Germany or Dresden. I already visited Dresden with my partner when she worked at TU Dresden as a Humboldt scholar. That’s the way I got to know Dresden. And I had been in Germany sometime before because I collaborate with the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz and other colleagues in Germany.

Do you like Dresden?

Oh yes, I really enjoy it. I really like Dresden. I live in Sevilla in the south of Spain. And in some ways Dresden reminds me of Sevilla: The people there are very proud of the town, the architecture is very impressive and everything seems to have a certain character. Some neighbourhoods I could compare to Sevilla. For example we also have a quarter like the Neustadt in Dresden.

For me it was a very interesting time. I’m very glad to got to experience the German academic and research system. I have many German colleagues, but I had not been part of their system before. I really like the seminar that I gave and the way everybody works here. It’s a little bit different but I see many positive things.

What is your connection to TU Dresden?

I had been working with Dr. Matthias Bähr before this fellowship. We are both working on “17th century in Ireland” - Not many people work on this topic in Germany. He is a very good researcher. The things he is doing are very interesting and so we got in touch informally. He visited Sevilla for a conference last year. Before that we had the idea to apply for the Dresden Fellowship Programme. So it was a pleasure for me to have this formal arrangement but we already had an informal exchange. I think that his perspective offers something new to Irish history research. And the good thing is that Irish historians are very open to foreign perspectives or to what foreign scholars have to say. That doesn’t mean that they agree with them, but they are willing to listen and they want to engage with you. And in that sense our careers are very parallel.
I started my research on Ireland in the 17th century and this is our contact point. I still touch upon Ireland in my recent research but now I’m more interested in the general understanding of violence in the 17th century. These two sites of my research are merging in Dresden. So it was a pleasure to work with the colleagues of the Institute of History at TU Dresden.

You are a lecturer in modern history and an expert on religiously inspired unrest. Why did you choose this research topic? What is so fascinating?

You are a lecturer in modern history and an expert on religiously inspired unrest. Why did you choose this research topic? What is so fascinating?You are a lecturer in modern history and an expert on religiously inspired unrest. Why did you choose this research topic? What is so fascinating?

Well, during my undergraduate studies I spend one year in Ireland at University College Dublin. And there I got interested in the topic. And through my PhD in Italy at the European University Institute I got more and more involved with Irish history in the 17th century. Now I’m working on collective violence. We historians work in archives and we often find things we did not expect. During my research on Ireland in the 17th century I found some sources that were intriguing and my curiosity led me to this research. I was not really looking for this topic and I know it is very creepy to talk about massacres. I’m not interested in violence itself. I want to understand the social mechanism behind it: Why do people in this period kill their neighbours? In the first half of the 17th century there were a lot of massacres. We knew that it was very localized but we do not really understand why people acted in that way. The cases I am most interested in are massacres that take place neither in a time of war nor as a result of a foreign invasion.
When people began to kill their neighbours they made references to what is going on simultaneously in other places. They were discussing the different cases because there were people who moved from one place to another. They reported on the massacres. I want to understand what the connection is. What does it mean when people kill each other? I think it really has to do with fear. The massacres must be a kind of overreaction and it must have to do with political issues because there were no military threats. My idea is to understand the crises in the 17th century as a connected system, not as individual cases. My hypothesis is: People react to their own fear and that leads to violence. But it is difficult to analyse it and there is a lot of work to be done. So we will see. It is a long way to go. I don’t have an answer yet.

Do you plan a research project with TU Dresden?

I hope. We already established an Erasmus Agreement for students and teachers. I hope that we will keep this going. And we are planning a conference at TU Dresden to bring researchers from all over Europe together. Its focus will be on how people in religiously polarized early-modern societies – such as in Ireland, Hungary, Ukraine, Haiti and Jamaica – dealt, in practice, with religiously charged expectations of their behaviour. So I hope I can come back to Dresden next year.

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Letzte Änderung: 23.08.2017