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Jewish Studies and Black Studies in Dialogue Series: Creole Ambivalence—The Politics of Jewishness in Caribbean Suriname, 1890-1959

Tuesday, November 16
4 – 5:30 p.m.

Suriname, a small Caribbean country on the northeast coast of South America, is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere, having been established in the mid-1600s by settlers of Iberian Jewish origin and the scores of African people they enslaved. By the turn of the 20th century, the colony’s Jewish community had transformed in two fundamental ways: The Jews had long shifted their geographic center from a series of interior plantations to the coastal capital of Paramaribo, and native-born, Creole (Eurafrican) Jews of mixed Iberian, Ashkenazic, and African origin now dominated communal and synagogue life as free people of color.

This presentation, featuring Eli Rosenblatt, Northwestern University, in conversation with Belinda Edmondson, Rutgers University, will illuminate their lives by examining how the Surinamese-Jewish press interpreted and represented Jewish cultural autonomy in a climate of rising Christian, anti-colonial sentiment supported by the growth of the colonial mission. Beginning in 1890 with the advent of anti-Jewish violence in Paramaribo and concluding at the beginning stages of independence in the 1950s, this presentation will trace the politics of being Jewish in Paramaribo while giving special attention to how racial and religious antagonism came to bear on individuals forced by regimes of colonial and Christian power to distinguish between their Jewish and Creole selves.

About the Speakers
Rosenblatt received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and is currently affiliated with Northwestern University. His fellowship at Fordham is grounded in the Working Group on Jewish Studies and Black Studies in Dialogue. Rosenblatt is a scholar of Yiddish culture and Ashkenazic Jews, with a current interest in the communities of the Atlantic world in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Edmondson is a professor of English and African American and African studies at Rutgers University, Newark. She is an elected member of the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars and has been the recipient of several fellowships. Her most recent book, Creole Noise: Early Caribbean Dialect Literature and Performance, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

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