Special Issue "The Marrano Phenomenon. Jewish ‘Hidden Tradition’ and Modernity"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Agata Bielik-Robson

Department of Theology and Religious Studies, the University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Modern Jewish Thought; Philosophical Theology; Modern Religious Heterodoxy; Marrano Tradition

Special Issue Information

What we call here the ‘Marrano phenomenon’ is still a relatively unexplored fact of modern Western culture: the presence of the borderline Jewish identity which avoids clear-cut cultural and religious attribution but nevertheless exerts significant influence on modern humanities. Our aim, however, is not a historical study of the Marranos (or conversos), i.e. mostly Spanish and Portguese Jews of the 15th and 16th century, who were forced to convert to Christianity, but were suspected of retaining their Judaism ‘undercover’: such approach already exists and develops within the field of historical research. We rather want to apply the ‘Marrano metaphor’ to explore the fruitful area of mixture and cross-over which allowed modern thinkers, writers and artists of the Jewish origin to enter the realm of universal communication – without, at the same time, making them relinquish their Jewishness which they subsequently developed as a ‘hidden tradition.’ What is of special interest to us is the modern development of the non-normative forms of religious thinking located on the borderline between Christianity and Judaism, from Spinoza to Derrida.

The project explores the dimensions of Jewish ‘hidden tradition’ in main thinkers of modernity in the systematic manner which has never been assumed before: starting from Jacques Derrida, who openly claimed to be a ‘Marrano of French Catholic culture’ (Derrida 1993, 170) and then projecting the analogous claim on those who fit Arendt’s description of ‘concealed Jewishness’ (Arendt 2007, 275). So far, there exists just few works dealing with the Marrano phenomenon as the important intellectual ferment of early modernity – most of all, Gershom Scholem’s essays on Marrano theology in The Messianic Idea in Judaism, as well as Yirmiyahu Yovel’s The Other Within – but the goal of the project is to expand these analyses on the whole modern period: from the 15th century up to nowadays. We believe that the ‘Marrano’ methodology will be able to shed a new light on the interpretation of the modern heterodox strains of Judeo-Christian religiosity: from Spinoza (perhaps, wrongly assumed to be the first modern atheist), through the Jewish variant of German Idealism (Salomon Maimon, Nathan Krochmal, Moses Hess, Theodor Adorno, Emil Fackenheim), up to the 20th century renaissance of messianism combining Jewish and Christian motives (Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben).

Arendt, Hannah (2007), “The Jew as Pariah: A Hidden Tradition,” in Jewish Writings, eds. Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman, New York: Schocken Books.; Bialik, Haim Nachman (1992), Revealment and Concealment. Five Essays, Jerusalem: Ibis Editions.; Bielik-Robson, Agata  (2014), Jewish Cryptotheologies of Late Modernity. Philosophical Marranos, London & New York: Routledge.; Circumfession, in Jacques Derrida and Jeffrey Bennington, Jacques Derrida, Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Scholem, Gershom (1995), The Messianic Idea in Judaism. And Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality, New York: Schocken Books.; Scholem, Gershom (1995), “Der Nihilismus als religiöses Phänomen,” in Judaica, Vol. 4, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag; Yovel, Yirmiyahu (2009), The Other Within. The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to invite you to participate in the special issue of the journal Religions: “The Marrano Phenomenon. Jewish ‘Hidden Tradition’ and Modernity.”

What we call here the ‘Marrano phenomenon’ is still a relatively unexplored fact of modern Western culture: the presence of the borderline Jewish identity which avoids clear-cut cultural and religious attribution but nevertheless exerts significant influence on modern humanities. Our aim, however, is not a historical study of the Marranos (or conversos), i.e. mostly Spanish and Portguese Jews of the 15th and 16th century, who were forced to convert to Christianity, but were suspected of retaining their Judaism ‘undercover’: such approach already exists and develops within the field of historical research. We rather want to apply the ‘Marrano metaphor’ to explore the fruitful area of mixture and cross-over which allowed modern thinkers, writers and artists of the Jewish origin to enter the realm of universal communication – without, at the same time, making them relinquish their Jewishness which they subsequently developed as a ‘hidden tradition.’ What is of special interest to us is the modern development of the non-normative forms of religious thinking located on the borderline between Christianity and Judaism, from Spinoza to Derrida.

The ‘Marrano metaphor’ was for the first time used consciously by Hannah Arendt who, in her essay, “The Jew as Pariah: A Hidden Tradition,” compared the great European thinkers and writers of Jewish origin to the Marranos who were permitted to enter the realm of universality only on the condition of concealing their particular ‘bias.’ We, however, want to approach the ‘Marrano phenomenon’ in more affirmative manner. The main purpose of our ‘Marrano’ project is to offer a new view on modern religious culture, which can be accessed only via the Marrano perspective: a ‘Marrano modernity’ which transforms our approach to the problem of universal communication as well as the modern – secret, hidden, heterodox – life of religious traditions which survive in the process of secularization, although merely in the form of ‘traces.’ The ‘Marrano’ methodology will be particularly sensitive to the strategies of encryption and camouflage, involving a complex dialectic of, in Hayim Nachman Bialik’s formulation, ‘revealment and concealment’ due to which the ‘Marrano’ identity of the text is thus never a matter of constatation – it is always a matter of textual performance. The ‘Marrano’ methodology could thus be regarded as a part of the deconstructive hermeneutics which reveals the hidden contents in order to reconstruct the integral religious meaning of the work that does not belong to any fixed and established form of orthodoxy.

The project explores the dimensions of Jewish ‘hidden tradition’ in main thinkers of modernity in the systematic manner which has never been assumed before: starting from Jacques Derrida, who, in Circumfessions, openly claimed to be a ‘Marrano of French Catholic culture’ and then projecting the analogous claim on those who fit Arendt’s description of ‘concealed Jewishness.’ So far, there exists just few works dealing with the Marrano phenomenon as the important intellectual ferment of early modernity – most of all, Gershom Scholem’s essays on Marrano theology in The Messianic Idea in Judaism, as well as Yirmiyahu Yovel’s The Other Within – but the goal of the project is to expand these analyses on the whole modern period: from the 15th century up to nowadays. We believe that the ‘Marrano’ methodology will be able to shed a new light on the interpretation of the modern heterodox strains of Judeo-Christian religiosity: from Spinoza (perhaps, wrongly assumed to be the first modern atheist), through the Jewish variant of German Idealism (Salomon Maimon, Nathan Krochmal, Moses Hess, Theodor Adorno, Emil Fackenheim), up to the 20th century renaissance of messianism combining Jewish and Christian motives (Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben).

If you accept our invitation, the deadline for the submission will be the 30th of September 2018. Please, let us know if you are interested in contributing to the ‘Marrano’ special issue and if the deadline is acceptable to you,

Yours Sincerely,
Prof. Dr. Agata Bielik-Robson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Judeo-Christianity
  • Heterodoxy
  • Modernity
  • Philosophical Theology

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Invisible Concealment of the Invisible

The Crypto-Jew as the Theological Paradigm of Jewish Race

The motif of secret, crypto-Judaism has a history that reaches further back into the theological tradition. It no doubt structurally arises from or closely related to the epistemo-political challenges posed by the unworldliness and absolutely inner being of faith, which in the political or inter-subjective dimension immediately raises the question of evidence. The question of evidence, i.e. for the invisible faith, becomes acute in the case of conversion, where the basic premise is the initial absence of faith. Paradoxically, conversion is consequently the establishment of the convert’s fundamental faithlessness, of her originally non-Christian element, which the convert, in the very same act of conversion, claims no longer exists. It is easy to see the conceptual constellation that would present the convert as structural deception. At the Iberian threshold of modernity, in the face of mass Jewish conversion and assimilation, this paradox appeared in the image of the “new Christians”, the marranos, structurally suspected to be crypto-Jews, to the effect that the ultimate evidence of faith was a certificate of limpieza de sangre, “purity of blood”. This paper will follow the historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in tracing the conceptual link between the Inquisition’s notion of crypto-Jews and the racialized figure of the Jew in modern anti-Semitism.

Back to Top