Sephardics Readings List: An Intersection between latinx/hispanic/jewish studies

a. Western intellectual and cultural history since 1600. This examination includes basic
issues in the philosophy of religion, theory and method in the study of religion, and
contemporary critical theory. The purpose of the exam is to situate the field of Religion and Culture in its historical and intellectual context.

This list is designed to include canonical works in the broader field of Religious Studies as it relates to my topic such as Machiavelli’s The Prince, Cervante’s Don Quixote, Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise; and also to include non-canonical primary sources wich are nevertheless important to the development of the ‘West,’ works like the diary of Ursula de Jesus and the proto-novel Lazarillo de Tormes as well as the broader picaresque literary genre that so subtly influenced posthegemonic rebellion of an internal (–marrano–) kind. The representatives of the canon as well as those chosen to represent a noncanonical kind of canon are designed both to challenge the supremacy of canon as a concept and to point to the role of Spanish imperial culture as being an important, if not fundamental, element in even conceiving a phrase such as ‘Wesern intellectual and cultural history since 1600″. Spanish history, particularly as it pertains to the whirlwinds of posthegemonic stirs, desires, and manifestations along the margins of the Empire, involves an incredible transformation on the world stage. I will follow Professor DeGuzman’s observations and posit that the West as such positions itself historically as being other than Spanish, that modernity is other than Spanish, that freedom (as in the case of the ‘Free Cities’ that developed in the early modern period, such as Sale, or even Amsterdam or London, ports that were in the new zones of global trade outside of Spanish Imperial hegemony) was increasingly defined in reaction/accommodation to the professed Spanish imperial ideal. Professor Cassen’s Italian Spy is indicative of yet another possible ‘posthegemonic’ reaction to the Imperial claim on religious conformity–as are characters like Samuel Palache, Abraham Miguel Cardozo, Baruch Spinoza, and many others.  I plan to have an eye on these macro historico-cultural turns that were taking place in different places within the matrix of the Spanish/Portuguese Imperial zone but also on marranism’s (destabilizing, reinvigorating) force and influence on what we now call ‘Western’ thought.

b. Area of specialization. This examination focuses on major scholarly literature specific to the student’s specific field of study.

This list is focused on the historiography of the converso/new christian/marrano narrative, with a nod at the different streams of understanding the converso phenomenon both within and without the Iberian peninsula. This is an exploration of the development of a new Sephardic community that would come to understand itself in many different ways in different locations, but, and particularly in seventeenth-century Amsterdam and throughout the Atlantic zones, began to articulate a sense of nationhood that included fellow kinsmen then living or having lived in Spanish lands (‘the lands of idolatry’) as Catholics, even for generations. This trajectory will follow the work of Bodian, Yovel, Perez, Netanyahu, Nirenberg, Jonathan Israel, and many others.

c. Cultural theory. This examination focuses on methodological and theoretical issues in an area of cultural theory relevant to the student’s scholarly work, such as literary theory, cultural studies, ethnographic theory, postcolonial studies, or gender theory.

This list is designed as a ‘Jewish Studies’ list, but with an emphasis on the history of the ‘heretical.’ I follow Gershom Sholem and more recent scholars like David Halperin and Benjamin Lazier and try to show that heresy is an integral–if not fundamental–to the movement of (Jewish) history.  I also highlight different ways that the Inquisition was instrumental in creating precisely what it feared most. We can see this in Wachtel’s recent Marrano Labyrinths in which he details conversations had between Inquisitorial prisoners (who were recorded by fellow inmate spies) where we witness a ‘return’ to Judaism as a result of a life lived at the at times ruthless mercy of Inquisitorial bureaucracy. At the same time, following scholars like Rawlings or Kamen, the Spanish Inquisition was a modernizing institution and became a model for non-Spanish elites to not only reject the “inquisition” at a rhetorical level (as an illiberal and primitive institution to be abhorred) but also adopt its innovations and efficiencies, its claim on biopolitics, the right to a trial, access to international databases, adherences to procedure, global institutional cooperation, and, to remain topical, an early apparatus of the modern deep state.

d. Dissertation examination. This exam covers historical and critical literature specific to the student’s area of dissertation research.

This list is a focus on the cultural and political phenomena of ‘Philosephardism’ which I explore as part of a Spanish postcolonial nostalgia that became marginally widespread after the territorial losses of 1898 that marked the end of Spanish colonialism in the ‘New World.’ At the same time, philosephardism was concurrent with growing nationalisms that took on many forms, among them a kind of re-colonialism that would invert certain traditional (crusader) norms by claiming loyal ‘Moors’ and Spanish Jews and enlisting them in a new project of ‘hispanidad’ that supposedly could usher in a new and better era. Broader European notions of progress inflected these ideas and they played out in Spanish (re)colonial thinking in various and particular ways. This included King Alfonso XIII’s love affair with chemical weapons which he used unabashedly in the Rift Wars, setting the stage for the first mass aerial bombardments of civilian populations in Europe during the colonial-reconquest of peninsular Spain from the supposed dangers of Communism during the Spanish Civil War. The proto-fascist Spanish right revitalized and reinvigorated the narrative of 1492, reconquest, los reyes catolicos, etc; but interestingly the ideology differed both with more traditional conservatism and its counterparts of in the modern right in northern Europe. ‘Southern’ proto-fascism made room for thinking about an orientalism that allowed for Jews to re-enter the bodypolitic of Spanish nationhood on the one hand, while on the other both rejecting and internalizing the ‘Moor’ as the noble, potentially civilized, but still tainted savage other. Sebastian Balfour’s Deadly Embrace is crucial for talking about these so-called African wars, while Isabel Rohr’s Philosephardism and the Spanish Right, and Stanley Pain’s several biographies and histories of Franco and the run-up to the Spanish Civil War are necessary historiographies as well. The writings, works, thoughts and lives of individuals central to disseminating philosephardism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are necessary, people like Angel Pulido and Ernesto Gimenez; and then represented should be examples of philosephardism in the contemporary literary world–like Munoz’ Sefarad or Eran Torbiner’s recent documentary Madrid before Hanifa; as well a brief rumination on Spain’s current philospehardic law to extend citizenship to exiles of 1492.

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