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Oren Okhovat

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This dissertation examines the seventeenth-century network constructed by the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam to connect their various Dutch Atlantic settlements. Using the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao as a focal point, Okhovat inquires into the extent to which Portuguese Jews living in the Dutch world maintained continuous links to the Iberian world through colonial economic, social, and cultural interchanges. As the capital of the seventeenth-century Dutch Caribbean, Curaçao’s entanglement with Spanish America through Portuguese Jewish trans-Atlantic activities challenges the classic compartmentalization of the early modern world into neat religious and political borders. It also challenges the popular notion of an early modern Spanish and Portuguese empire devoid of Jews by speaking directly to the revisionist approach of Atlantic history, which urges scholars to consider an interconnected Atlantic world. The goal of the project is to determine whether Iberian imperial culture impacted diasporic Portuguese Jewish elites and how they inversely adapted their Judaism to modernizing European identities. By measuring the prevalence of Iberian culture on the Dutch Caribbean and the mutual impact that the Dutch colonial enterprise had on both Spanish and Portuguese America, Okhovat further aims to include the Dutch colonial world within the framework of Latin American history.