After years of neglect, the topic of Jewish capital is experiencing a revival. This essay builds on the resultant literature, which examines how the networks Jews maintained and the skills they honed helped them corner various regional, national, and global niche markets. Yet it also departs from previous studies in a few crucial respects. First, and most concretely, it points to the substantial but still invisible story of Jews ’ role in the modern oriental-goods trade. Exploring the life of an individual Ottoman Jewish tour guide, dragoman, and merchant, as well as the firm that grew up around him, the article follows a cast of characters who today remain largely forgotten but were influential tastemakers and global suppliers of Eastern wares in their day. Second, it argues that their success hinged not merely on the alliances they forged or the expertise they accrued—important as these were—but also on their ability to sell both themselves and their products as “authentically” Jewish, oriental, and Ottoman in turn. Finally, it also raises a theoretical question. In contrast to the extensive literature that details the transformative effect of consumption on the consumer, this essay instead asks how the experience and demands of the marketplace can transform the seller.


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pp. 35-77
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