Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

La preocupació

Mallorcan Antisemitism as Negative Integration - Ethnogenetic Functionalization and Cultural Negotiation of a Stigmatized Third Figure

Prof. Dr. Pere Joan i Tous


In virtually exemplary fashion, Mallorcan antixuetisme, as perhaps the most authetic form of European antisemitism, forms a hermeneutical field in which a sustained and multilevel process of social and symbolic exclusion can be understood. This project thus substantiates its implied linkage with the overall focus of the Excellence Cluster, especially in the areas of  “narrative theory as cultural theory“ and the “cultural dynamics of religion.”

The history of Mallorcan antisemitism in the wake of the self-dissolution of the Aljama by a collective conversion of its members (in 1435) has been well documented. But it has only been worked through in an extremely selective manner.  The effects of the Inquisition on Mallorca have primarily been examined from an authentically historiographical and institutional perspective. The highly complex endogamic strategies which insured the continuity of a crypto-Jewish collective until the end of the 17th century have also been analyzed compellingly in their social-anthropological dimensions. At the same time, what is lacking at present is a comprehensive study with a cultural-scientific orientation on the multifaceted narrative construction of the xueta as an unfamiliar component of Mallorcan society, as an alienated third figure, the presence of which unsettles the narcisstically inclined duality of the “ancient Christian” Mallorcan and his ideal self.  This self is thus magnified as immaculately “pure” because it is not “contaminated” with Jewish elements, thus rendering the xueta as radically other for all eternity, in opposition as well to the logic of baptism upheld for centuries and officially by the church. This will thus be the first study that deals intensively with La fe triunfante, while depicting this Baroque text dramatizing the autos de fe of 1691 as a type of intellectual festival, as the originary narrative of antixuetisme in a more specific sense.

In particular, the staging moment of narration will be emphasized as such, since it demonstrates in a virtually paradigmatic fashion the sequential ordering of a social drama from crypto-Judaism’s religious rupturing of norms to the crisis emerging from the attempt at flight (and its control by means of an Inquisitorial legal process) all the way to the ultimate separation enacted in the auto-da-fé as the alientation of the xueta collective. Yet the performative dimension of auto-da-fé, narrated in its full detail—and not least in terms of its highly suspenseful semantics of space—is supposed to produce both meaning and evidence. In the process, the auto-da-fé is itself staged as a boundary narrative. In the forefront of this, numerous processions having a labyrinthian aspect in their overall structure take place in the core area of the town center, while the concluding “cremadissa” itself takes place outside the town walls.

A further critical portion of my project is the virtually drastic reduction of family names thought to be “Jewish” in the course of the 18th century. The reduction of patronymics is without a doubt a singular moment in the history of Mallorcan antisemitism, and at the same time something exceptional in cultural anthropology. This screening of names is all the more significant inasmuch as it signals the transformation from a modern anti-Judaism to a modern antixuetisme. A goal of this part of the project is to provide an explanation for this transformation, although preliminary work reveals that this reduction resembles a type of narrative empty space that is used strategically in narratives to produce “evidence.”

This will be primarily examined using the numerous positions taken up by the various—temporal and church-based – institutions of the island as the Mallorcan xuetas dispatched a delegation to Madrid in 1772-1773 in order to demand their equality from King Carlos III.  Precisely these texts, for the most part classifiable (in the sense of René Girard) as persecutional texts (but which also result in the submission by the xuetas themselves of cahiers de doléances which are then responded to by the authorities) make it possible to obtain information about the social-reification processes of the xueta collective in the decades directly preceding. Against this background, then, the longue durée will be outlined as it extends into the late phase of the Franco regime, legitimated as it was by “National Catholicism.” What should also be examined is the psycho-social and ethnogenetic dimension of such an “antisemitism without Jews” and the multiple levels on which it became discourse. In this context, however, the focus should particularly be placed on that “preocupació“ (Catalan for “concern”) which was held since the end of the 18th century in order to semanticize the inscribing of the alienation of the xueta collective into cultural memory (to put it euphemistically). The text corpus in question is highly multilayered in genre terms, but it is to a great extent recoverable due to its insular framework. This Spanish-Catalan-French corpus includes folksongs as well as dramas, liturgical texts as well as political essays, historical novels as well as memoirs of “reconverted“ xuetes who now live in Israel, historiographical essays as well as cultural journalism on genetic research. The working hypothesis stems from an assumption developed in preliminary research that the xuetes represented an imaginary field of projection, a Protean configuration of a third figure, the ethnogenetic and system-stabilizing function of which can be presupposed.  Implicit here is the assumption that the “preocupació“ of the Mallorcans with ethnoracial gesturing, i.e., their collective concern with the purity of trusted associations and family ties, can be understood not only in the traditional functional-historical sense of a rationalizing of (power-political or economic) caste and class differences which are wholly different, but also as the essential cultural basis for negative integration, the foundational moment of which was the symbolic boundary-drawing between “contiminated and non-contaminated blood” as sealed in the auto-da-fé of 1691.