Being the Nação in the Eternal City: New Christian Lives in Sixteenth-Century Rome

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Baywolf Press / Éditions Baywolf, Dec 28, 2014 - History - 354 pages

James William Nelson Novoa's new book Being the Nação in the Eternal City explores, in a set of case studies focusing on seven carefully chosen figures, the presence of Portuguese individuals of Jewish origin in Rome after the initial creation of a tribunal of the Portuguese Inquisition in 1531. The book delves into the varied ways in which the protagonists, representing a cross-section of Portuguese society, went about grappling with the complexities of a New Christian identity, and tracks them through their interactions with Roman society and its institutions. Some chose to flaunt Jewish origins. They espoused a sense of being part of a distinctive group, the Portuguese New Christian nação, that set them apart from other Portuguese. Others chose to blend as much as possible into the broader Iberian world represented at Rome, and avoided calling attention to their family past. All, however, had in their own way to work out the multiple shades of what was involved in being a Portuguese with Jewish roots needing to navigate the social and cultural pathways through Rome, the urban center of the Catholic Church. The book draws on archival research conducted in the Vatican, elsewhere in Italy, in Spain, and in Portugal. It brings a variety of sources to bear on the complex phenomenon of emergent group identities. It also proposes a critical reflexion on diasporas, the formation of sub-national communities, and on the structuring of collective memory in Early Modern Europe. The work will be useful to scholars and general readers interested in the Portuguese New Christian diaspora, in sixteenth century Rome, and in the dynamics of community consciousness in Early Modern Europe.

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Le nouvel ouvrage de James William Nelson Novoa, Being the Nação in the Eternal City, se penche sur la présence des Portugais d’origine juive à Rome après l’installation d’un tribunal de l’Inquisition au Portugal en 1531. Le livre présente, dans un cadre analytique, sept vignettes de personnages historiques. Il documente en particulier les façons dont ces agents, qui représentaient une coupe de la société portugaise contemporaine, choisirent d'affronter les exigences de leur nouvelle identité chrétienne, tout en jouant des interactions avec la société romaine et ses institutions. Certains affichaient leur racines juives. Ils épousaient un sens d'appartenir à un groupe particulier, la nação des Chrétiens Nouveaux d'origine portugaise. D’autres choisirent de s’intégrer le plus étroitement possible au petit monde des expatriés ibériques de toutes sortes à Rome, évitant d'afficher le passé.Tous durent affronter les multiples incertitudes pénombreuses d'être Portugais d’origine juive navigant entre les écueils culturels et sociaux de Rome, le siège urbain de l’Église catholique. L’ouvrage est un fruit de recherches menées en Italie, au Vatican, en Espagne, et au Portugal. Il invoque des  sources diversifiées pour illuminer le phénomène complexe d'identités collectives émergentes. Il propose également des réflexions critiques au sujet de diasporas, de communautés sub-étatiques en créche, et de la mémoire collective au sein de l’Europe moderne naissante. Le livre s'adresse surtout à tous ceux, spécialistes ou non, qui s'intéressent à la diaspora des Nouveaux Chrétiens portugais, la ville de Rome au seizième siècle, et la dynamique formative communautaire au début de la période moderne. 


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About the author (2014)

James William Nelson Novoa is a historian whose research fields and expertise include the cultural legacy of Sephardic Jews, the Portuguese New Christian diaspora in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Iberian and Italian cultural relations in the Early Modern period, the circulation of exotica among Portuguese merchants, and the cultural milieu of Iberian communities in Early Modern Rome. He has published widely, with various articles and book chapters to his credit and has presented lectures and papers at different international venues.