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Portuguese New Christians in the Turkish “Carrefour” Between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean in the Sixteenth Century: Decentralization and Conversion

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AbstractThis article analyzes some cases of multiple conversion among Portuguese Jews in the Ottoman Empire. Paradoxically, it was the lack of homogeneity of the Ottoman Sephardic communities that explained the success of “three-faced” men, such as Duarte da Paz, Tomé Pegado da Paz, and Matias Bicudo. They were able to change dress, religion, and masters during their careers as informers because they remained inconspicuous within the Ottoman Empire due to their marginal social position; there were many possibilities for identity change without the general knowledge of the different religious groups. The inability of more visible personalities like D. Grácia Nasci, D. Joseph Nasci, and D. Salomon ibn Ya’ish to perform so easily this type of change had something to do with their “centrality”: they possessed strong social, economic, and cultural ties to Sephardic communities, and their close relationship with the Osmanli Sultans made such a metamorphosis virtually impossible.

Affiliations: 1: Centro de História, Departamento de Ciências Humanas, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical


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