Mahmure Idil Ozkan
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNorthwestern U.
Grant numberGr. 10140
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleOzkan, Mahmure Idil (Northwestern U.) "Tracing Spanish Roots, Curating Ancestry: Language Ideologies, Materiality, and National Belonging Among Turkish Jews"
In 2015, the Spanish government enacted a law offering Spanish citizenship to Jews worldwide as atonement for the horrors of the Inquisition. This offer was contingent, however, on applicants proving their Sephardic lineage, as well as passing a language and a civics exam. My project ethnographically and historically investigates how Turkish Jews trace their medieval Iberian roots via language, collective memory, and documents of religious life events. I investigate the semiotic pathways through which linguistic and material artefacts (signs) shift indexical values (significations), to become evidence for authentic belonging. I analyze the meaning of “Sephardic” as a lived reality in contemporary Turkey, an ethnoreligious minority at the turn of the 20th century Ottoman Empire, and an imagined community that is “inherently Spanish” as framed in the Spanish law. I examine how Sephardic identity and ancestry have been created in law, bureaucracy, and everyday life. Through ethnographic and archival research, my project will explore 1) ideologies about language and citizenship, 2) material claims of ethnoreligious ancestry, and 3) diverse understandings and valuations of citizenship. Amid ongoing debates on the elasticity of Europe’s cultural fabric and the challenges to (Muslim) integration, this project explores the ambivalences of liberal multiculturalism in contemporary Europe.