From “Boundary” to “Beyond”: Indian Baghdadi Jewish Identity in Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames

Ashley Treesa Antony

Research Scholar, Department of English, Pondicherry University Pondicherry University. ORCID: 0000-0002-6605-5499. Email:

  Volume 1, Number 3, 2016 I Full Text PDF

Article DOI:  10.21659/bp.v1n3.s201


Settled mainly in Calcutta, the Baghdadi Jews of India are a small minority within the Indian Jewish community, with a history of over two centuries in the country. Having arrived in a colonial India, the Baghdadis were shrewd in strategically maintaining close community ties as well as keeping themselves away from colonization and colonized Indians. Unlike the two other diasporic Jewish communities in India, the Cochinis and the Bene Israelis, the Baghdadis arrived with a prejudice against India and considered it sacrilegious to mix with the indigenous culture. But their cultural identity underwent a transition from a rigid homogenized one to a multicultural one simultaneously with India’s journey towards independence. The present paper traces and interprets this transition using Homi Bhabha’s concepts of the “boundary” and the “beyond” by analyzing the personal narrative, “Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope” of Jael Silliman, a Baghdadi Jew of Calcutta.

Keywords: Jews of India, diaspora, minority studies

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