Mediterranean Studies Research Collaborative
For the past four years the Mediterranean Studies Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota has animated interdisciplinary investigation into the Mediterranean world past and present with the specific themes of identity and exchange. Identity is a much-contested analytic category. Despite the imprecision and ambiguity inherent in the construct, it allows for examination of hybridities and cultural translations that enrich our understanding of interactions and exchanges among peoples of the Mediterranean. As a group we have wide-ranging interdisciplinary and broad chronological interests in this world and have had considerable success with lectures series and conferences/workshops to date.
We held a major international conference on “Mediterranean Identities” in 2011 and have two volumes of conference papers forthcoming on the medieval/early modern with Ashgate, co-edited by John Watkins and Kathryn Reyerson and on the modern Mediterranean with Nebraska, co- edited by Patricia Lorcin and Todd Shepard. In March 2012 our workshop on “Mediterranean Exchanges” brought Minnesota Mediterraneanists together with local University scholars. We feel strongly that we should involve scholars outside the University of Minnesota community whose expertise complements our own in this enterprise. Our fall 2012 schedule was enriched by a lecture series on Venice, with talks on gender, family, and artistic spoils repurposed for Venetian mythmaking,co-organized with the James Ford Bell Library. This spring we plan a workshop on “The Mediterranean South,” not usually a subject of scholarly inquiry. We will move beyond a Eurocentric focus to make connections with Mediterranean North Africa and beyond, with a focus on the Timbuktu manuscripts of Mali and on Ethiopian manuscripts. In the latter case we will reach out to local immigrant communities from Somalia and Ethiopia. This workshop redirects our attention to points south—not just those directly situated on Africa’s Mediterranean coast (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt), but also the lands of the African interior, linked by texts, trade, and turmoil to Mediterranean neighbors near (in Africa) and far (in Europe). First, we contest the notion of the Mediterranean as a self-contained, enclosed space. Reconnecting coasts to interiors, we examine the impact of knowledge production, commerce, and politics in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., present-day Mali and Ethiopia) on North Africa and southern Europe. Second, we ask why the peoples of the southern shores of the Mediterranean—who tended to regard the sea as a shape-shifting zone of military, economic, political, and cultural encounter—came to adopt, in the nineteenth century, the essentially European view of that sea as a “unified space.” We study West-East networks of texts, people (merchants, slaves, intellectuals, artists, religious leaders, revolutionaries), commodities, and politics for hints that support—or controvert—this transformed seaview. In a third, related gesture, we reconsider the modern Mediterranean south—too often read as the object of French, Spanish, or Italian colonialisms— as a region whose cultures of music, literature, film, sport, and religiopolitical activism continue to transform the public spheres of France, Spain, and Italy. From the dawn of global modernities to the present, this event shows, Mediterranean souths have made their mark on points north.
The primary contact for this group is Kathryn Reyerson (Department of History). Patricia Lorcin (Department of History) and John Watkins (Department of English) are also members of the leadership team.