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Unorthodox Kin

Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging

Naomi Leite (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 344 pages
ISBN: 9780520285057
March 2017
$29.95, £24.95
Other Formats Available:
Unorthodox Kin is a groundbreaking exploration of identity, relatedness, and belonging in a global era. Naomi Leite paints an intimate portrait of Portugal’s urban Marranos, who trace their ancestry to fifteenth-century Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism, as they seek to rejoin the Jewish people. Focusing on mutual imaginings and direct encounters between Marranos, Portuguese Jews, and foreign Jewish tourists and outreach workers, Leite tracks how visions of self and kin evolve over time and across social spaces, ending in a surprising path to belonging. A poignant evocation of how ideas of ancestry shape the present, how feelings of kinship arise among far-flung strangers, and how some find mystical connection in a world said to be disenchanted, this is a model study for anthropology today.
Naomi Leite is Lecturer in Social Anthropology and Director of Studies in Anthropology of Travel and Tourism at SOAS, University of London. 
"At a time of resurgent anti-Semitism in much of Europe, the passionate self-ascription and swelling numbers of Portuguese Jews both call for explanation. Naomi Leite’s compelling analysis explores their conviction that, far from being new converts, they are recovering a mysterious past shared in varying degrees with the majority of Portuguese today, a past that until recently was tangible only through the most oblique traces. This book is a richly persuasive and precisely observed exploration of how collective belonging is excavated, realized, negotiated, and contested in life and thought."—Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University

"This engaging and lucid account of Portugal’s crypto-Jews a century after their uncovering brings together anthropological perspectives on class identity in Portugal, heritage tourism, and Jewish religious practice. By focusing on histories of becoming, the author presents a truly innovative analysis not only of Judaism in Portugal but, more broadly, of how global communication and local history interact creatively in our contemporary world."—João de Pina-Cabral, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Kent

"An imaginative, engaging and absorbing account of Jewish kinship in the modern world; this will be a wonderful book for teaching as well as for reading."—Fenella Cannell, Associate Professor of Social Anthropology, London School of Economics

"This book is a gem. Just as Malinowski produced ethnography of a single group that nevertheless spoke to universal problems of human existence, so too Leite’s book speaks to profound contemporary problems of group identity, of how peoples with different interests conceive of others and themselves, and how they interact. Unorthodox Kin is written for scholars, but so beautifully and clearly that it will be accessible to a wide and divergent audience."—Edward Bruner, University of Illinois

"Unorthodox Kin is the best ethnography I have read about how an identity category is lived subjectively while also circulating as a charged figure of judgment and desire in the eyes of other people. A beautifully written book, full of empathy and humor."— Rupert Stasch, Cambridge University

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