In the public perception, modern Jews divide into two subethnic groups: Ashkenazi and Sephardi, or European and Middle Eastern Jews. However, this is an oversimplification that does not do justice to the diversity and complex history of Jewish identities, which are often multilayered. Strictly speaking, Sephardi Jews trace their ancestral lines or cultural heritage to the medieval Iberian Peninsula, present-day Spain and Portugal. That said, according to some scholars, Sephardi Judaism did not even exist before the general expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492 and is the result of their subsequent migrations within the Mediterranean and transatlantic worlds.
We will start with an introduction into the history of Spanish Jews prior to 1492, asking to what extent memories of pre-expulsion Iberia are at the heart of Sephardi identity. We will then follow the migratory path of Sephardi exiles to North Africa, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, the Netherlands, and the Americas. The questions we will explore include: in what sense did Sephardim form a transnational community? How did they transmit and transform aspects of Spanish culture in form of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) language and literature? How did they become intermediaries between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire? What was their role in Europe's transatlantic expansion and the slave trade? How did Ottoman and North African Jews respond to European cultural trends in the nineteenth century and create their own forms of modernity? How did the Holocaust impact Sephardi Jews?
Course Attributes: EN H; AS HUM; AS LCD; FA HUM; AR HUM