Tudor Parfitt

Tudor Parfitt

Distinguished University Professor and President Yitzhak Navon Professor of Sephardic-Mizrahi Studies

Religious Studies

Office: DM369B

Phone: 305-348-7963

Email: tparfitt@fiu.edu

Director: Global Jewish Studies Program


Dr. Tudor Parfitt in 1963 spent a year with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Jerusalem where he worked with handicapped people, some of whom had survived the Nazi concentration camps. Upon his return he studied Hebrew and Arabic at the University of Oxford. In 1968 he was awarded the Goodenday Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He completed a D.Phil at Oxford with David Patterson and Albert Hourani on the history of the Jews in Palestine and their relations with their Muslim neighbours, which was subsequently expanded and published by the Royal Historical Society. In 1972 he was appointed lecturer in Hebrew language, literature and history at the University of Toronto. In 1974 he was appointed Parkes Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non Jewish Relations in the University of Southampton and shortly afterwards took up the lectureship in Modern Hebrew at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. In 1976 he was appointed associate member of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and in 1992 became a senior associate member. He was successively lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor (Professor of Modern Jewish Studies) at SOAS. He founded the Centre of Jewish Studies at SOAS and was its director from 1993 to 2006 and from 2010-11. He was also Chair of the Middle East Centre at SOAS for 4 years and Chair of the SOAS Senior Common Room for 15 years. In 2012 he was Distinguished Visiting Scholar, (Global Engagement Program) at the University of Pennsylvania, Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow (Spring Term) at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Harvard University (where he gave the Huggins Lectures in 2011) and Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, Cape Town, South Africa. In 2012 he was appointed President Navon Professor of Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies and SIPA Research Professor at FIU. Over his career his chief academic interests have included the Sephardi/Mizrahi communities of the Muslim world, Jewish-Muslim relations, Hebrew and Hebrew Literature, Judaising Movements, Jewish genetic identity and the discourses surrounding it, attitudes towards Jews and Zionism in South Asia and Jews in Asia and Africa. His interest in 'exotic' and marginal Jewish groups throughout the world led him in the 1990s to take an interest in the Judaizing Lemba tribe of southern Africa. In recognition of this work he was made corresponding fellow of the Academie Royale des Sciences d'Outre-Mer. His book about the Lemba Journey to the Vanished City was awarded the Wingate Prize. He has collaborated extensively since 1996 with geneticists in the production of genetics papers and is a member of a Harvard think tank on genetics and history. He was the vice president of SOSTEJE (The Society for the Study of Ethiopian Jewry) from 1997-2005 and in 2010 was appointed honorary president of ISSAJ (the International Society for the Study of African Jewry). He has authored or edited 26 books and presented 7 documentaries for the BBC, PBS, Channel Four and the History Channel. His latest book is Black Jews in Africa and the Americas (Harvard University Press, January 2013).


1975-6 The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

1969-72 Oxford University: Doctoral thesis: A Study of the Old Yishuv (Jewish community) in Palestine 1800-82) supervised by David Patterson and Albert Hourani.

1969-1972 Hayter Scholarship

1968-9 Hebrew University Jerusalem Goodenday Fellowship

1966-7 Hebrew University Jerusalem

1964-8 Oxford University (Oriental Studies: Hebrew and Arabic)

1964-8 Major State Studentship

1967 Oxford Pusey Travelling Prize

1966 Leicestershire County Council Major Travelling Award

Selected Publications

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Hybrid Hate: Conflations of Antisemitism & Anti-Black Racism from the Renaissance to the Third Reich

Hybrid Hate is the first book to study the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Black racism. As objects of racism, Jews and Blacks have been linked together for centuries as people apart from the general run of humanity. In this book, Tudor Parfitt investigates the development of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, and race theory in the West from the Renaissance to the Second World War.

Parfitt explains how Jews were often perceived as Black in medieval Europe, and the conflation of Jews and Blacks continued throughout the period of the Enlightenment. With the discovery of a community of Black Jews in Loango in West Africa in 1777, and later of Black Jews in India, the Middle East, and other parts of Africa, the notion of multiracial Jews was born. Over the following centuries, the figure of the hybrid Black Jew was drawn into the maelstrom of evolving theories about race hierarchies and taxonomies. Parfitt analyses how Jews and Blacks were increasingly conflated in a racist discourse from the mid-nineteenth century to the period of the Third Reich, as the two fundamental prejudices of the West were combined. Hybrid Hate offers a new interpretation of the rise of antisemitism and anti-Black racism in Europe and casts light on contemporary racist discourses in the United States and Europe.

Black Jews in Africa and the Americas (The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures)

Black Jews in Africa and the Americas tell the fascinating story of how the Ashanti, Tutsi, Igbo, Zulu, Beta Israel, Maasai, and many other African peoples came to think of themselves as descendants of the ancient tribes of Israel. Pursuing medieval and modern European race narratives over a millennium in which not only were Jews cast as black but black Africans were cast as Jews, Tudor Parfitt reveals a complex history of the interaction between religious and racial labels and their political uses.

For centuries, colonialists, travelers, and missionaries, in an attempt to explain and understand the strange people they encountered on the colonial frontier, labeled an astonishing array of African tribes, languages, and cultures as Hebrew, Jewish, or Israelite. Africans themselves came to adopt these identities as their own, invoking their shared histories of oppression, imagined bloodlines, and common traditional practices as proof of a racial relationship to Jews.

Beginning in the post-slavery era, contacts between black Jews in America and their counterparts in Africa created powerful and ever-growing networks of black Jews who struggled against racism and colonialism. In a community whose claims are denied by many, black Jews have developed a strong sense of who they are as a unique people. In Parfitt’s telling, forces of prejudice and the desire for new racial, redemptive identities converge, illuminating Jewish and black history alike in novel and unexplored ways.