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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Yulia Egorova

Egorova, Y. & Perwez, S. (2012). Old memories, new histories: (re)discovering the past of Jewish Dalits. History and Anthropology 23(1): 1-15.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper explores processes of self-identification and constructions of historical memory among the Bene Ephraim of Andhra Pradesh, a community of former Madiga untouchables who came to practising Judaism in the late 1980s. Our discussion is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2009–2010, in-depth interviews, and an analysis of written sources on the history of the Bene Ephraim produced by community leaders. We consider the case study of the Bene Ephraim in the context of broader academic discussions about the universalist and particularist dimensions of the Jewish tradition and suggest that this movement illuminates both the exclusive/genealogical and the inclusive aspects of Judaism. We argue that though the perceived “ethnocentricity” of Judaism may have been the basic logic for the emergence of the Bene Ephraim movement, it nevertheless resulted in the development of groups demonstrating syncretic practices and diverse modes of engagement with the Jewish tradition.