Miriam Bodian: The 'Sephardim': An Imagined Diaspora?
Sunday, October 7, 2018 - 3:00pm
There is a widespread belief that from the medieval period onward, the great majority of Jews belonged to one of two ethnic sub-groups - the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim - that developed in parallel fashion and are thus somehow comparable. But the structures of these two diasporas are profoundly different. While it is possible to describe an "Ashkenazi culture" (at least up to the nineteenth century) with continuities of language, style, geography, ancestry, and religious environment, the profound disjunctions of Sephardi history make any such description impossible. How, then, has "Sephardi" identity survived? What meanings has it assumed? Miriam Bodian is Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has written extensively on the judeo-conversos and Portuguese Jews, including two books, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam and Dying in the Law of Moses: Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in Iberian Lands. She is currently writing a book on the eventful life and innovative thinking of the Portuguese Jew Isaac de Castro Tartas, based on his lengthy Inquisition trial. Co-sponsors: Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Duke Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University, the Jewish History Department at UNC-Wilmington, and the Jewish Studies Program at Wake Forest University