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New Crossroads in Iberian and Jewish Studies PANEL 2: Reinterpretations, Reincorporations, and Representations of Spain’s Jewish Past

Mon, December 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This second panel on “New Crossroads in Iberian and Jewish Studies” examines Spanish efforts to reinterpret and reincorporate its Jewish past into its national history and memory, from the emergence of scholarship and teaching in modern Jewish Studies in the late nineteenth century, to contemporary historical novels and town performances about medieval and early modern Iberian Jews and conversos. Critical consideration of these disciplinary developments, literary texts, and cultural practices through combined Iberian and Jewish Studies lenses significantly enriches our understanding of modern Sephardic history and culture in conjunction with Spain’s cultural identity. The three papers in this panel will provide a chronological, cultural production overview of various iterations of the reincorporation, reinterpretation, and representation of Spain’s Jewish past at particular historical moments from the late nineteenth century until today.

Pablo Bornstein examines the development of modern Jewish Studies in Spain as a scholarly discipline in the period 1875-1905. The Royal Academy of History, in particular, was a Spanish government institution that fostered a new, more inclusive understanding of Spanish history. Bornstein will discuss how Spanish and also Jewish members of the Academy began to signal recognition of indigenous Jewish heritage as part of Spain’s national DNA. Stacy Beckwith explores how popular historical novelists at the start and close of the 20th century achieved limited reinterpretation and reincorporation of 17th century Mallorcan Crypto-Jews, since Inquisition records provided much descriptive detail for re/animating such characters. Daniela Flesler analyses the popular festival “Los Conversos” [The Converts], celebrated yearly in the town of Hervás, in Extremadura, Spain since 1997 as part of current Spanish efforts to reconnect with and reinterpret the Jewish past. In a play performed by the town’s inhabitants, local “Jewish memory” appears entangled with the memory of the Spanish Civil War.

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