Discourses of Incorruptibility: Of Blood, Smell and Skin in Portuguese India

Ler História. 2010;58:81-97 DOI 10.4000/lerhistoria.1171


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Ler História

ISSN: 0870-6182 (Online)

Publisher: Associação de Actividades Científicas

Society/Institution: Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE)

LCC Subject Category: History (General) and history of Europe: History (General)

Country of publisher: Portugal

Language of fulltext: Spanish, English, Portuguese, French

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Pamila Gupta


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In 1553, the corpse of Jesuit missionary Francisco Xavier was declared miraculously preserved and shipped to Goa. How did the idea of his material incorruptness (through signifiers of blood, smell, and skin) get sustained over the long durée of the Estado da Índia? This paper examines a series of medical examinations (1554, 1614, 1782, 1859, 1952) that were issued to sanction this saint’s public displays or Exposições as colonial officials eventually called them. That these autopsy reports discursively lie between Catholic hagiography and Western medicine makes them compelling for understanding the changing anatomy of church and state relations in Portuguese India.