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Leite, Naomi (2007) 'Materializing Absence: Tourists, Surrogates, and the Making of Jewish Portugal.' In: Robinson, Mike, (ed.), Things That Move: The Material World of Tourism and Travel. Leeds: Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, Leeds Metropolitan University.

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Tourism unfolds in and through encounters with the material world. But what is the role of the material when the tourist attraction is an absence? How does one tour a world that no longer physically exists? I explore this question in relation to Portugal, a country with a burgeoning Jewish heritage tourism market but little material evidence of past Jewish settlement. The historical narrative that draws thousands of tourists each year highlights the country’s once-thriving medieval Jewish population, wiped out by mass forced conversions and three centuries of the Catholic Inquisition (1536-1821). The medieval community’s synagogues, cemeteries, and ritual objects were also destroyed, leaving few easily identifiable “Jewish” remains for tourists to visit today. And yet package tours of “Jewish Portugal” abound. This chapter examines the practices through which tourists and tourism providers imaginatively engage the physical world of the present as a means to experience an invisible past, collaboratively creating their destination in the moment of the tourist encounter. Of particular interest are the ways in which buildings, neighborhoods, and museum objects stand in as "surrogates" for the medieval material heritage that was lost. The Museu Luso-Hebraico, until recently Portugal’s sole Jewish museum, provides a key example. Housed in the country’s only remaining pre-Inquisition synagogue, its ad hoc collection is made up largely of everyday Jewish items from around the world, sent by tourists who were moved by the lack of Portuguese objects to represent the long-absent medieval Jews.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISBN: 9780955501760
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2016 18:15

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