Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Talk: "The Allure of the Foreign: Sephardic Migrant Networks between Mexico, France, and the Ottoman Empire, 1900." by Dr. Devi Mays, Jewish Theological Seminary

Thu, October 10, 2013 | PAR 201

3:30 PM

When the French Jewish philanthropic organization, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, established its network of 'modern' Jewish schools throughout the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s in an attempt to 'civilize' the Jews of the East, they accelerated a process of reorientation toward the West among Ottoman Sephardic Jews that marked France as the paragon of culture and civilization. As economic, social, and political turmoil increasing wracked the Ottoman Empire, a growing number of Ottoman Jews sought new shores, some in France, some in the United States, and some in Mexico. This talk examines the financial and familial networks between Ottoman and post-Ottoman Sephardic Jews in Mexico, France, and the United States, arguing that these networks, together with the prior Gallicization of Sephardic Jews, provided Sephardic migrants in Mexico the crucial tools to marking both themselves and their wares as desirable.

Devi Mays is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She received her Ph. D. in History from Indiana University in May 2013. Her dissertation, “Transplanting Cosmopolitans: The Migrations of Sephardic Jews to Mexico, 1900-1934,” argues that Sephardic Jewish migrants’ cultivation of transnational identities and networks enabled them both to negotiate transforming state migratory restrictions that excluded them and to transform geographical mobility into social and economic capital. Her publications include “Patriot Games: Ottoman Jews, Transnational Ties, and Divided Loyalties during the Balkan Wars and World War I,” which won the Midwest Jewish Studies Association’s award for best graduate student paper, and is accepted for publication in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies; numerous translations from Ladino, Spanish, and French for Sephardic Lives: A Documentary History of the Ottoman Judeo-Spanish World and its Diaspora, 1700-1950 (eds. Julia Phillips Cohen and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, forthcoming from Stanford University Press); and “Playing with Peculiarity: Sephardic Migrations and the Ambiguity of National Identity,” for the Association for Jewish Studies’ Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus website (September 2012). 

Click HERE to view the poster.

Sponsored by: Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, CREEES, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, Department of History

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