Winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Awards, Sephardic Culture category, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.
Forging Ties, Forging Passports is a history of migration and nation-building from the vantage point of those who lived between states. Devi Mays traces the histories of Ottoman Sephardi Jews who emigrated to the Americas—and especially to Mexico—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the complex relationships they maintained to legal documentation as they migrated and settled into new homes. Mays considers the shifting notions of belonging, nationality, and citizenship through the stories of individual women, men, and families who navigated these transitions in their everyday lives, as well as through the paperwork they carried.
In the aftermath of World War I and the Mexican Revolution, migrants traversed new layers of bureaucracy and authority amid shifting political regimes as they crossed and were crossed by borders. Ottoman Sephardi migrants in Mexico resisted unequivocal classification as either Ottoman expatriates or Mexicans through their links to the Sephardi diaspora in formerly Ottoman lands, France, Cuba, and the United States. By making use of commercial and familial networks, these Sephardi migrants maintained a geographic and social mobility that challenged the physical borders of the state and the conceptual boundaries of the nation.
About the author
Devi Mays is Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.
"Forging Ties, Forging Passports powerfully demonstrates that in eras of migration restriction, mobility becomes a radical act. Examining how Ottoman Jews in Mexico grappled with their home empire's collapse, Devi Mays reclaims these migrants from the state's cartographic tyrannies and captures the wholeness of their experience. A sparkling work of social history that prompts larger questions over citizenship and its meanings."
—Stacy D. Fahrenthold, University of California, Davis
"Devi Mays has written a rich account of Sephardi migrants' lives as they moved across states, adapting to and subverting the restrictions that sought to limit their mobility. Forging Ties, Forging Passports forces us to rethink the validity of categories like 'Sephardi,' 'Jewish,' and 'Mexican,' and deepens our understanding of the complex transnational ties that shaped the lives of Jews who came to Latin America."
—Adriana Brodsky, St. Mary's College of Maryland