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Research seminar with Professor Julia Phillips Cohen (Vanderbilt), ‘Remembering Sepharad: History, Memory, Politics’

Professor Cohen will discuss her current research on the cultural legacy of Sepharad after the expulsions and forced conversions of the 1490s in Spain and Portugal. Her paper will be circulated in advance for discussion by those who register for the event.


In June 2015, the Spanish government approved legislation granting citizenship to the descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. This political development, described by Spain’s Justice Minister as a “historic reparation of … the greatest mistake in Spanish history,” has sparked a flurry of interest from Jews of Iberian origin across the globe—from Latin America and the U.S. to Israel and Turkey. Based on the assumption of Sephardic Jews’ continued cultural identification with their one-time homeland, the law promises to reward their “fidelity and special ties to Spain.” Yet, the precise nature of this historic relationship, explains historian Julia Phillips Cohen, is more complex than such characterizations suggest. Using the present debates as a point of departure, her talk probes the evolution of Sephardic Jews’ ties to Spain in the centuries following their expulsion.

Julia Phillips Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Program in Jewish Studies and the Department of History at Vanderbilt University. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) and co-editor with Sarah Abrevaya Stein of Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014).

Read the blog on this event here: Sefarad: Travelling between Disciplines.