In conversation with Flora Hastings
December 2, 2020
9.30am (PT), 12.30pm (ET), 5.30pm (GMT), 6.30pm (CET)
Co-sponsored by the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center
at the Graduate Center, CUNY
Five centuries after the forced conversion of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to Catholicism, stories of these conversos‘ descendants uncovering long-hidden Jewish roots have come to light and taken hold of the literary and popular imagination. This seemingly remote history has inspired a wave of contemporary writing involving hidden artifacts, familial whispers and secrets, and clandestine Jewish ritual practices pointing to a past that had been presumed dead and buried. The Converso’s Return explores the cultural politics and literary impact of this reawakened interest in converso and crypto-Jewish history, ancestry, and identity, and asks what this fascination with lost-and-found heritage can tell us about how we relate to and make use of the past.
Dalia Kandiyoti’s latest book offers nuanced interpretations of contemporary fictional and autobiographical texts about crypto-Jews in Cuba, Mexico, New Mexico, Spain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey. These works not only imagine what might be missing from the historical archive but also suggest an alternative historical consciousness that underscores uncommon convergences of and solidarities within Sephardi, Christian, Muslim, converso, and Sabbatean histories. Steeped in diaspora, Sephardi, transamerican, Iberian, and world literature studies, The Converso’s Return illuminates how the converso narrative can enrich our understanding of history, genealogy, and collective memory.
Dalia Kandiyoti is Associate Professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Kandiyoti researches and teaches comparative diaspora studies, American Studies, and world literature. Her research has focused on Latina/o/x literature, global Sephardi Studies, and comparative studies of migration in the Americas.
Flora Hastings is a PhD candidate in Social and Cultural Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, and a freelance journalist. Her research interests include Jewish-Muslim relations in contemporary Barcelona, progressive forms of Judaism and Islam, neo-liberalism, migration and contemporary European identity, diasporic identity, and modernisation processes. Flora is also a coordinator of the Jewish-Muslim Research Network.