Textual crossroads and transregional encounters: Jewish networks in Kerala 900s-1600s

Gamliel, O. (2018) Textual crossroads and transregional encounters: Jewish networks in Kerala 900s-1600s. Social Orbit, 4(1), pp. 41-73.

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A Hebrew letter sent from Cochin to Alexandria in ca. 1520 sought legal advice on intracommunal conflicts between a minority group of impoverished but “pure” Jews, who “out of jealousy and hatred” outcaste the majority of Cochin Jews on grounds of non-Jewish slave origins. Similar allegations are recorded much later in 1687 by a Dutch Jewish trader, Mosseh Pereyra de Paiva in his "Notisias dos Judeos de Cochim". This time the allegations are embedded in a legend of a lost Jewish kingdom in Cranganore (Kodungallur). The lost kingdom is mentioned in several Hebrew texts composed in Europe since the 1500s, contrasting it with Calicut. Recorded exclusively by European Jews and missionaries, the legend emerges as a narrative countering Arab-Muslim dominance over the Indian Ocean trade networks and acting upon the realignment of Jewish networks with the growing influence of Christian Europe in maritime South Asia. Centuries-old business partnerships with Arab Muslims and local Māppiḷa merchants are gradually suppressed in Cochin, giving way to new alliances with European— Jewish and Christian—traders. These new alliances are not merely reflected in narrations of an imagined Jewish history in Malabar, they are also shaped by the same narrations. The legends of a glorious Jewish past and unfortunate destruction are woven into interreligious textual networks across regions. By contextualizing these Hebrew texts in maritime Malabar, the paper presents a historical analysis of intra- and intercommunal conflicts and exchanges at the maritime crossroads of early modern Cochin.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gamliel, Dr Ophira
Authors: Gamliel, O.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Journal Name:Social Orbit
Publisher:Farook College
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Farook College
First Published:First published in Social Orbit 4(1):41-73
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher
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