Modes of Political Dissent in the Western Mediterranean, Thirteenth to Fifteenth Centuries
Medieval Academy of America 1
Although the papers will focus on the Western Mediterranean, this session is more generally an exploration of how individuals and groups expressed dissent and overcame control. Although medieval regimes used a variety of strategies aimed at excluding or marginalizing opposition, dissenting groups still found ways to maintain and often expand their political roles. Policies intended to impose behavioural models, often declared as being for the “common good” (bonum commune) yet excluded many, sometimes had the unexpected effect of accelerating the political maturation of some of the excluded groups or individuals. Their response was not necessarily one of protest. Instead, often those targeted by the regime’s policies gradually appropriated the political language, strategies and values of these same social control policies. Such a “conservative” strategy thus made it possible for them to obtain or maintain political status, even as they were under attack. Fabrizio Titone will show that the political arena in Sicily expanded to include participation by the very targets of political marginalization. Alma Poloni will address a similar fate for the società di popolo in some communes of northern and central Italy. Barbara Rosenwein will show how the troubadours at the court of the counts of Toulouse protested against their patrons even as they flattered them and appropriated their language. In all of these cases, there was a sort of negotiation: the marginalized adopted the rulers’ strategies and values, but they also modified them to suit their own needs and expectations. Through different perspectives and contexts, the session will highlight similarities in realities too often considered distinct. The main goals of the session are to highlight 1) the circular flow of information and the processes of emulation occurring among different political groups and interests; 2) the extensive political participation of groups too often seen as marginalized.