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New Crossroads in Iberian and Jewish Studies I: Re-encounters, Returns, and Recoveries in the Iberian Peninsula and the Atlantic World

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This first panel on “New Crossroads in Iberian and Jewish Studies” focuses on re-encounters, returns, and recoveries of Judaism and the Sephardi past in the Iberian Peninsula and the Atlantic World in the contemporary era. These papers address the conflicting relationship of Spain and Portugal with the Iberian Jewish diaspora and the legacy of Sepharad, by closely examining the ways individuals and the state navigated the intersections of politics, religion, gender, nationality and languages. The papers will attempt to answer questions that include: When and how does Jewishness figure in specific national and nationalist narratives in Spain? When is it absent? When do these narratives break down? What is the role of particular political ideologies and their contradictions in shaping these narratives? Moreover, the Atlantic reach of the Iberian Jewish diaspora in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries compels us to re-think the Jewish Atlantic as a primarily early modern phenomenon. Thus, in what ways do the Sephardi/Iberian diasporas return Atlantic perspectives into Iberian and Jewish Studies?  

The stories that these papers tell begin with Tabea Linhard’s paper in early twentieth-century Madrid and an analysis of the work of Margarita Nelken, her relationship with her Jewishness, and the ways in which this relationship changes over time and space, as Nelken was forced into an exile that she shared with World War II refugees in Mexico. Her displacement across the Atlantic therefore led to a re-encounter or symbolic return that shaped her later work. Dalia Kandiyoti’s paper, also centering on the Atlantic world, further studies the concept of a symbolic and also a literal return, as this contribution examines the contemporary relationship between citizenship and Sephardi identities. Michal Friedman’s paper takes us back to Spain and to the Francoist years, specifically, the 1940s and 1950s, as her work centers on the re- incorporation of Sepharad into the ideology and project of National Catholicism at the Benito Arias Montano Institute of Hebraic Studies in Madrid. The last paper in this panel also serves as a bridge between the first and the second panel on “New Crossroads in Iberian and Jewish Studies.”

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