Special Issue "The Marrano Phenomenon. Jewish ‘Hidden Tradition’ and Modernity"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 October 2018)
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 October 2018. Please, let us know if you are interested in contributing to the ‘Marrano’ special issue and if the deadline is acceptable to you.
This special issue of Religions has been supported by the NCN Opus 13 Grant: /The Marrano Phenomenon: The Jewish ‘Hidden Tradition’ and Modernity/, registered in the OSF system as 2017/25/B/HS2/02901.
Prof. Dr. Agata Bielik-Robson
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