Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Tudor Parfitt

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ana Maria Bidegain

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Abe Lavender

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Date of Defense



During June of 2015, an anthropological and sociological study was conducted in the Dominican city of Bani. On the surface, the banilejo people appear to be devout Catholics. However, having had access to their personal lives, it was evident that their peculiar family traditions and folklore hinted at their liminal identities. This study involved interviewing 23 female subjects with questions found in the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitorial manuals. In addition, their mitochondrial DNA sequences were analyzed and demonstrated a high percentage of consanguinity and inbreeding within Bani's population. The genetic analysis of their mitochondrial DNA yielded genetic links with Jewish women from worldwide Jewish communities. Victor Turner's communitas theory and Geertz's thick description were used as the methodology. Ultimately, the sociological and anthropological analysis of their way of life evidenced how their ancestors preserved Jewish identity covertly throughout the inquisition time period (1481-1834) and how they continue to perpetuate it in contemporary times through consanguinity, and the power of superstition and taboo.





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