Zvi Ben-Dor

New York University, USA


Zvi Ben-Dor Benite’s research centers on the interaction between religions in world history and cultural exchanges across vast space and deep time. He is the author of The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China (Harvard, 2005); The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford, 2009); and co-editor of Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought: Writings on Identity, Culture, and Politics (Brandeis, 2013); and an edited volume on Sovereignty (forthcoming with Columbia University Press). He is currently working on a number of projects that he badly needs to finish. Ben-Dor Benite enjoys writing short fiction in Hebrew and satire about academic life.

「 Why did Matteo Ricci Lie about the Muslims of Canton and Why does it Matter? 」

This paper discusses an enigmatic passage Matteo Ricci wrote in 1584 about the Muslims of Canton. In the paper I explain the various broader contexts behind the passage—Ming maritime policies, history of Islam in Southern China, Portuguese activity in region and the arrival of the first Jesuits. I show that Ricci tells a nice fat lie about the Muslims of the city and discuss at length why he had to that. Following Carlo Ginzburg’s essay on a later Jesuit Charles Le Gobien, I discuss the broader circumstances of Portuguese arrival in the Indian Ocean from a fresh new angle: that of Jesuit lies.

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