Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jonathan Boyarin, The Unconverted Self

by J J Cohen

Speaking of Jews (as we do so often here at ITM) ... Jonathan Boyarin's long awaited book on how Europe's experience of Jewish otherness set the terms for its encounter with the indigenous peoples of the Americas will be out by year's end. I just blurbed it, and thought I'd share my advance praise here, since Boyarin's work brings many of the issues we've been discussing to another geography:
The Unconverted Self: Jews, Indians, and the Identity of Christian Europe

Meet the New World, same as the Old World. Jonathan Boyarin's The Unconverted Self persuasively undermines historical divisions of such endurance that they have come to seem truths of history. Through his focus on spatiality and temporality, through his mapping of the intricate hybridities that undrgird and ultimately betray seeming purities, through his close attention to textual and contextual detail, Boyarin has composed a book that will change the way we think about the supposedly demarcative power of 1492. The Unconverted Self is a powerful work that anyone interested in the medieval and early modern periods, Jewish and Christian history, the New World encounter, or postcolonial studies will want to read.


Jonathan Hsy said...

Sounds like a very interesting read! I suspect this is only tangentially related, but has anyone out there read David Abulafia's "The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus" (2008)? I find its trajectory quite compelling, e.g., it establishes Iberian/Italian contact with the people in Canary Islands ("uncontaminated Gentiles") as a framework for post-Columbian perceptions of indigenous Americans. I'm wondering how Boyarin's work would mesh with Abulafia's - anyway, I should add this to my reading list.

Karl Steel said...

I haven't read it, but that's much more your bailliwick than mine: sounds very interesting though. You may also be interested in Stuart B. Schwartz, All Can Be Saved
Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World,
recommended to me by one of my historian colleagues.

Jonathan Hsy said...

Thanks Karl, I'll add that one to my list as well!