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Title: No Culture, No Rights
Subtitle: The Strategies of 'Deculturation' in the Spanish Conquest of America
Author(s): KRUPECKA, Iwona
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 24    Issue: 1   Date: 2017   
Pages: 59-77
DOI: 10.2143/EP.24.1.3200594

Abstract :
In this article I argue that in the Spanish conquest of America one of the main just war criteria – legitimate authority – was reinterpreted in terms of the cultural inferiority or cultural nakedness of the Indians. The legitimacy of local authority was then closely related to the recognition of its participation in the cultural order, identified with the order of reason and the natural order. First, I present the problem of legitimate authority in terms of infidelity and God’s dominion over the whole world, as it was used by medieval scholars Sepúlveda and Palacios Rubios. I then present the work of Francisco de Vitoria as crucial in the process of changing perspective from medieval to modern since he used the Thomistic categories of natural law, natural reason, and natural rights in the discourse on just war against Indians and by doing so proved the indigenous authorities to be legitimate. But the internal inconsistency of Vitoria’s discourse, his hypothetical consent to Spanish dominion over Indians grounded in their likewise hypothetical cultural inferiority, initiated a new line of argumentation: the cultural. This can be summarised as follows: if indigenous cultures are different from European culture, and if European culture with its normative rules is derived from natural law, then indigenous cultures are inferior or are not in fact cultures at all. In the third part of the article I present the main strategies of the ‘deculturation’ of the Indians and its consequences for the recognition of legitimacy of indigenous authorities and their right to defend themselves against Spanish military aggression.

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