Devi MaysMay 26, 2021
Forging Ties, Forging Passports
Migration and the Modern Sephardi Diaspora
Stanford University Press 2020
Forging Ties, Forging Passports: Migration and the Modern Sephardi Diaspora (Stanford University Press, 2020) is a history of migration and nation-building from the vantage point of those who lived between states. Author Devi Mays traces the histories of Ottoman Sephardi Jews who emigrated to the Americas—and especially to Mexico—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the complex relationships they maintained to legal documentation as they migrated and settled into new homes. Mays considers the shifting notions of belonging, nationality, and citizenship through the stories of individual women, men, and families who navigated these transitions in their everyday lives, as well as through the paperwork they carried. These Ottoman Sephardi migrants resisted unequivocal classification as either Ottoman expatriates or Mexicans through their links to the Sephardi diaspora in formerly Ottoman lands, France, Cuba, and the United States. By making use of commercial and familial networks, Sephardi migrants maintained a geographic and social mobility that challenged the physical borders of the state and the conceptual boundaries of the nation.
Devi Mays is Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Her first book, Forging Ties, Forging Passports, won a 2020 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Sephardic Culture.
Makena Mezistrano is the Assistant Director of the Sephardic Studies Program in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington. She holds an MA in Biblical and Talmudic studies from Yeshiva University.