Silverblatt’s takes Hannah Arendt’s work on the fusion of modern racism and bureaucracy at the foundation of Nazi Germany as the point of departure for her exploration of ‘race thinking’ in colonial Peru. Arendt, as is typical of most discussions of colonialism and imperialism, cites the nineteenth-century French and British examples as the peculiarly modern inspirations for twentieth century. Silverblatt, however, presents the Inquisition as an inherently modern institution, both in the complexity of its bureaucratic logistics and in its racialized logics, that predates these examples by several centuries. At first glance, this stance might be understood as one more refutation of the Black Legend; however, revisionist responses to that old trope are most frequently concerned with refurbishing the Spanish image. The conseequences of Silverblatt’s argument go deeper. The sophistication of the Inquisition’s bureaucratic apparatus was an impressive accomplishment not often associated with standard histories of the Spanish empire, sure, and Anglophone North Americans should have a more thorough awareness of the Hispanic legacies of their continent. Beyond that, though, the racial dynamics that organized the Inquisition in Peru demonstrates how thoroughly race thinking and white supremacy have ordered American societies from the very beginning of the modern state.
I haven’t read any of Horowitz’s other work, but I’ll definitely now at least read his other Holmes novel if not more. I was hesitant, but I think he’s actually captured the voice of the original very well, and the few contemporary updates—a lamentation from Watson that Mrs. Hudson gets such short shrift in his early work, for example—are both happily lighthanded and show an affection and understanding for the originals.