Marranos were Spanish or Portuguese Jews who converted to Christianity at the time of the Spanish Inquisition to avoid being massacred or forced to flee but who continued to practise Judaism in secret. They were persecuted by the first racist blood laws but the water of forced baptism was not enough to make them assimilate.
Donatella Di Cesare sees the marranos as the quintessential figures of the modern condition: the marranos were not just those whom modernity cast out as the ‘other’, but were those ‘others’ who were forced to disavow their beliefs and conceal themselves. They became ‘the other of the other’, doubly excluded, condemned to a life of existential duplicity with no way out, spurned by both Catholics and Jews and unable to belong fully to either community. But this double life of the marranos turned out to be a secret source of strength. Doubly estranged, with no possibility of redemption, the marranos became modernity’s first true radicals. Dissidents out of necessity, they inaugurated modernity with their ambivalence and their split self. And their story is not over.
By treating the history of the marranos as a prism through which to grasp the defining features of modernity, this highly original book will be of interest to a wide readership.