Rancor: Sephardi Jews, Spanish Citizenship, and the Politics of Sentiment

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Abstract

In 2015, Spain approved a law that offered citizenship to the descendants of Sephardi Jews expelled in 1492. Drawing on archival, ethnographic, and historical sources, I show that this law belongs to a political genealogy of philosephardism in which the return of Sephardi Jews has been imagined as a way to usher in a deferred Spanish modernity. Borrowing from anthropological theories of racial fusion, philosephardic thinkers at the turn of the twentieth century saw Sephardi Jews as inheritors of a racial mixture that made them living repositories of an earlier moment of national greatness. The senator Ángel Pulido, trained as an anthropologist, channeled these intellectual currents into an international campaign advocating the repatriation of Sephardi Jews. Linking this racial logic to an affective one, Pulido asserted that Sephardi Jews did not harbor rancor for the Expulsion, but instead felt love and nostalgia toward Spain, and could thus be trusted as loyal subjects who would help resurrect its empire. Today, affective criteria continue to be enmeshed in debates about who qualifies for inclusion and are inextricable from the histories of racial thought that made earlier exclusions possible. Like its precursors, the 2015 Sephardic citizenship law rhetorically fashioned Sephardi Jews as fundamentally Spanish, not only making claims about Sephardi Jews, but also making claims on them. Reckoning with how rancor and other sentiments have helped buttress such claims exposes the recalcitrant hold that philosephardic thought has on Spain's present, even those progressive political projects that promise to return what has been lost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-751
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Volume63
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • affect
  • citizenship
  • empire
  • race
  • rancor
  • ressentiment
  • return
  • sentiment
  • Sephardi Jews
  • Spain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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