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We're all Marranes!

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On the occasion of the release of his latest book (1), Edwy Plenel denounced: " One accepts the other on condition that he is no longer himself". Our era is living through an astonishing paradox: it wants to erase the distinctive signs of peoples by subjecting them to the constraints of a global techno-market civilization, and at the same time multiply the number of "new" signs. reconnaissance boxes to the myriad cultures that shaped the face of pre-modern humanity. In this spirit, European culture, perhaps more than any other, wishes to reconcile its hegemonic matrix, heir to Christianity and the Enlightenment, with the distinctive and fragmented imaginary of the minorities that have long been rooted in its lands, or more recently emerged from decolonisation.

In their essay published in 2010Paule Pérez and Claude Corman open up to radically new insights, developing in the continuation of the drama of Marranism, their concept of marranité.     

Formerly the clandestine and crippled lining of Sephardic Judaism, Marranism (2) seemed to us to shed light in a completely original and creative way on this thorny confrontation that most often turns into discord. By not seeking any easy way of resolution or overcoming, but by settling at the very heart of the annoyanceThe Marran counter-culture can undoubtedly renew and extend the principle of secularism that governs the modern European project.

The European Christian civilization which dominated the world through trade, industry and religion has engendered and shaped a cultural and European identity.

Joseph Roth, an Austrian Jewish journalist and writer of the inter-war period, did not fail to remind Nazi writers who were quick to seek in Germanic myths and Nordic sagas a romantic or populist counterpoint to this identity, his confidence in it.

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For the generation of Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Cohen or Sigmund Freud, there was little doubt that European Christian culture, in spite of its old theoretical anti-Judaism, would have paved the way for the rational and educational humanism of the Enlightenment. Imbued with the historical paradigm of European teleology and putting all their faith in the education of peoples through knowledge and Reason, these men were convinced that the European genius, so fruitful, could garrote the evil and obscurantism exalted by the dogmas and mythologies of blood and soil (...)

But history took a different, devastating course which, despite the defeat of the Nazis, was going to break one after the other the certainties of the European civilizing model. Another epoch emerged, giving way to the identity and cultural claims of peoples hitherto considered as minor or secondary in the advance of human knowledge and techno-economic progress. (…) On the other hand, the intense process of decolonization in Africa and the East following the Second World War stimulated the rebirth of cultures independent of the Western democratic and technical model that North America, after inheriting it, now claimed to embody for better or for worse. (…)

Since then, we have been living in a configuration radically opposed to the one described by Joseph Roth in his 1933 article "National Short Waves": it is indeed local cultures, popular cultures, linked to a corner of the earth that has shaped people and landscapes together, that prevail with real authenticity and natural legitimacy, whereas the only universal and visible form of global humanity, economic globalization, appears forced and artificial. So when economic liberalism, which is uncomplicated and even monomaniacal, eager to free itself from all the statist obstacles and the rigidity of borders, accelerated the movement of formerly colonized populations towards the metropolises of the West, it did more than simply encourage the importation of cheap labour. It also encouraged, in equal parts at first, a sympathetic blending of tastes, musical sounds, languages, "world culture", and a community anchoring around beliefs, rites and symbols.

The European landscape has become more cosmopolitan, in a more visible and demographic sense, and probably also more religious. Contemporary emigration is now associated with the growth of "visible minorities". (…)

The prospect of an eccentric configuration of solidarity singularities defeats the Western paradigm of a great missionary and hegemonic culture.

The language of the media has spoken of a clash of cultures, like a sports meeting or a clash of enemy armies, without really weighing up the unprecedented confrontation that was emerging between fragile singularities seeking their autonomy and a humanity-world whose driving principles have lost their assurance and clarity. (…)

Now, many historical, political, spiritual, ethical, cultural and identity-related phenomena are intermingled and interpenetrated in such a way that a deliberately stupid and inaccurate question such as that of national identity has made a comeback on the European political scene.

We live in funny times

But what concerns us is not only the clumsy and sometimes vile use of the Nation by unworthy heirs of the Republic... (3), What concerns us first of all is the univocal vision of otherness, strangeness, exteriority. For this otherness, which is suffered and necessarily worrying, inherent to the destiny and complexion of every foreigner, of every migrant, how can we avoid confining it, closing it off to supposedly benevolent and easily allied communities, how can we leave it open and creative, when outside, economic, energy, religious and military competition between nations is raging and largely alienates the freedom of judgement of diasporas?

Alongside the effects of the discourse of recognition, which seeks to lead Western societies, mostly Christian, towards listening to and respecting foreign minorities, deprived of their ancient link to the land if not to the language, we propose with Marranity a polysemic and non-exclusive "model" ofopening otherness.
Having throughout an eventful history tried to escape the complacency and limitations of their own I am as much as to the persecution of these maniacs of identity clarified that were the Inquisitors, the marranes built together and often without knowing it, a indefinite spectrality, some kind of diaspora of diasporas.

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The diasporic phenomenon has become widespread: we no longer count the "national" minorities from the countries of the South and the East which today form diasporas in Europe, but also in all the rich countries where foreign labour is less well paid, less protected and often the victim of tragic failures in the hospitality of the market states.

We assume here that the Marrancy, although outside their historical genealogy (2)is far from indifferent to their feelings and their questions. And it is to these tossed, suspected, divided and intranquilent "foreigners" that this reflection of analogy to the Marran "counter-culture" is addressed. 

We are convinced that the explosion of the inquisitorial era, far beyond the Sephardic fraction, has not yet been fully appreciated. (4) of the Jewish people, the trauma it has caused, and its far-reaching consequences. And this is one of the challenges of our research: to identify and privilege the human dynamics that have been reflected upon and put to the test, in order to better understand those of our present time. For the similarities are astonishing...

The "Marrane track", to think about our time

The "marrane" fact was formed by four constituent elements: the double loss of religious identity, the experience of downgrading, the strategy of secrecy and the practice of unknowing and then of ignorance (5).(…)
It's a culture of resistance that the Marran case generated. In that sense, a counterculture. By virtue of its assimilation, its recovery and the quasi-forgetfulness that followed, it is also, it seems to us, to be considered as a phenomenon of culture.

Starting from a double failure, one that undermined their spiritual foundation, and the other that in their migrations invalidated their hope of citizenship, the Marranes created a spectrum of many different answers to the questions facing them in their difficult condition. Marranity has been in many ways the hallmark of what we today call "intercultural"; over the generations it has been a vector of subversion of unqualified adherence to any fixed posture, so much so that the Marranes were led in spite of themselves to a skill at dodging and blurring of identity. And it is this very multiplicity that seems to us to be the basis, although we hesitate to call it an "anthropological" model, of the idea of an "anthropological" model. modern-day marrancyas a founding and potentially fruitful motive.

Exploring "the trail of the marranes", looking for the traces they would have left behind, led us in particular to a reflection on preoccupying identities, capable of opening up to transversality, instead of closing in on "community assurances" - or on an illusory acceptance of integration.

The Marran escape, counterculture, culture of resistance and survival, has made it possible to create new objects of thought from the hidden, the "unrecognizable", the "unknowable", from what would be placed, so to speak, just next to the principle of identity: remembering the urgency to always question from within one's own sources, the opaque or repressed, even denied, part of one's predestination, one's genealogy. This, and this is the most important thing for us, has generated new "modes of being" that have proved to be subtly transmissible. This Marran culture seems to us all the more relevant to question since we live in fun times, i.e. troubled times, times of rupture, downgrading, exile, uprooting, confusion of languages, beliefs, sexes and genders; times which, because of their gaps, their shortcomings, bring out what they have of emancipatory, subversive, factors of hope.

Paule Pérez, Philosopher, Psychoanalyst, Essayist, Publisher
Claude Corman, Doctor Cardiologist, Essayist, Publisher

Excerpts from "Marrano counter-culture, its contributions to contemporary issues" - 2010 - Special issue of the journal Temps marranes
www.temps-marranes.info

(1) Book " For Muslims " - Ed La Découverte - Sept 2014
(2) "Marrano", swine, deceiver, traitor... this was the term used in the Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms in the fifteenth century to describe Jews forcibly converted to Christianity, who were suspected of leading a double spiritual life, that is to say, of practising the Catholic religion outside and secretly "judaizing" it at home, in the fanatical world of the Inquisition created by the Papacy in its plan to make Catholicism the only religion.
(3) ... from Renan
(4) The one from the Iberian Peninsula (in Hebrew, Sepharad means Spain)
(5) See the essay "Sur la piste des marranes", by Claude Corman - Ed. du Passant 2000 (N.D.A.)

 

 

 

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