Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century

University of Chicago Press
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We tend to think of citizenship as something that is either offered or denied by a state. Modern history teaches otherwise. Reimagining citizenship as a legal spectrum along which individuals can travel, Extraterritorial Dreams explores the history of Ottoman Jews who sought, acquired, were denied or stripped of citizenship in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—as the Ottoman Empire retracted and new states were born—in order to ask larger questions about the nature of citizenship itself.

Sarah Abrevaya Stein traces the experiences of Mediterranean Jewish women, men, and families who lived through a tumultuous series of wars, border changes, genocides, and mass migrations, all in the shadow of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the ascendance of the modern passport regime. Moving across vast stretches of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas, she tells the intimate stories of people struggling to find a legal place in a world ever more divided by political boundaries and competing nationalist sentiments. From a poor youth who reached France as a stowaway only to be hunted by the Parisian police as a spy to a wealthy Baghdadi-born man in Shanghai who willed his fortune to his Eurasian Buddhist wife, Stein tells stories that illuminate the intertwined nature of minority histories and global politics through the turbulence of the modern era.
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About the author

Sarah Abrevaya Stein is professor of history and Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is the author of many books, including Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jun 10, 2016
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History / Europe / General
History / General
History / Jewish
History / Modern / 20th Century
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The author's childhood was spent in Fascist Italy of the 1920s and 1930s. Assimilated Jews, the family's relationship to their country was stronger than to their religion. Their subsequent fortunes and misfortunes were intricately tied to what would prove to be conflicting loyalties. Segre emerged as an adolescent, naive and unprepared for the realities that awaited him. The crash of 1929 and the introduction of Mussolini's anti-Jewish laws saw him on the boat to Mandatory Palestine, a rare immigrant with a first-class ticket, jacket, silk tie and detachable linen collar, thrust into the pioneering culture of Palestine in the 1930s. Segre's humour and irony explore the pathos and contradictions of such situations which have characterised his life. "A haunting tale, beautifully written and with a talent, reminiscent of Proust, to endow the past with a deep psychological meaning ... A stunning exercise in self-awareness." Amos Elon "A fascinating description of childhood in Fascist Italy, a moving account of adolescence in Mandatory Palestine, an extraordinary book, very sad and very funny at the same time." Walter Laqueur "A spellbinding biography of genuine literary value that reads like an adventure story. Those familiar with the bitter and depressing tone of the Jews' misfortunes in the maelstrom of wars and holocausts will derive a unique freshness from the irony, humour and sensuality of Dan Segre, who acknowledges that he is a fortunate Jew." A.B. Yehoshua "Luminous, almost light-hearted, autobiography about a family of Italian Jews under Mussolini." Frederic Raphael, Books of the Year, Sunday Times The tone of Segre's beautifully written autobiography, which reads like a Bildungsroman, is certainly ironic rather than tragic." Adrian Lyttelton, The New York Review of Books "Imagine an Italian Jew from a prominent but impoverished Piedmont family serving in the British Army alongside an Arab and under a Jewish Palestinian sergeant, and you have in a nutshell the cultural confusion Professor Segre so cannily explores in this labyrinthine, spell-binding autobiography, full of passionate tenderness." Encounter "This distinguished book has a structure as rigorously cut and shaped as any novel. Segre's good fortune, which many a novelist would envy, consists in the end in his power to mould his diverse experiences into a deeply satisfying symbol of modern life triumphing over the forces of adversity. Even where so many were hideously defeated, we may rejoice over one who survived and who has celebrated his luck in such captivating fashion." Patrick Parrinder, London Review of Books "A man of scrupulous integrity, great intelligence, wit and humility, Segre describes his childhood in Fascist Italy and youth in wartime Palestine in quite brilliantly captivating and moving prose." The Jewish Chronicle "Taut and illuminating ... memorable ... written with the humility of he who confesses himself and with the honesty of he who bore witness.' Primo Levi "The only thing most of us know clearly about Nazis is that they were the scum of the earth, but this pathetic, marginal, and in the end rejected Italian fascist does not fit into any Europe or any history that most of us know ... He must be a man of extraordinary moral courage and self-knowledge, since nowhere does he deal lightly with himself ... Maybe the final heroism was to write this book ... I think this book is unique and a sort of masterpiece." Peter Levi, The Independent "He is good at reconstructing events and even better at the more difficult art of recapturing moods and atmospheres ... an unusually attractive book - attractive in its irony, its energy and its moral insight. Mr Segre had some rich material to work with, and he has done it justice." John Gross, The New York Times
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