Practices and Representations of Material Exchanges across the Mediterranean: Conflict and Loyalty, Cooperation and Communication

AHA Session 131
Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Crystal Room (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Francesca Trivellato, Institute for Advanced Study
Francesca Trivellato, Institute for Advanced Study

Session Abstract

In recent years, historians, anthropologists, and social scientists have increasingly turned their attention to the “Mediterranean,” and in particular to the issue of exchange and the problems of conflict, loyalty, and cooperation that it suggests. They have shifted the Braudelian paradigm of unity, according to which the inhabitants of the sea shared a destiny, in favor of one that stresses difference and diversity (Horden and Purcell) and added ‘connectivity’ to ‘exchange’ as the definitive traits of the sea. This Mediterranean renaissance has resulted in an array of studies focusing on how piracy, captivity, commerce, conversion, and linguistic intermediation as well as other forms of boundary crossing shaped the sea connecting south and north, east and west. This panel will build on this literature by exploring ways in which circulation of objects – religious and artistic images, gifts, food, manuscripts, art works and artists and more – articulated Mediterranean boundaries as they crisscrossed it and were transformed by the very same crossings. From three different contexts and perspectives, the papers interrogate how the non-commercial circulation and transformation of objects across religious or political boundaries enhanced or limited connectivity between societies. As we examine how objects mediated social relations, including through the exchange of experts and expertise, we also seek to understand how these objects, information, and individuals were transformed through their crossings: how they lost or regained their aura or agency, how they came to be carriers of new memories leaving behind their old ones, how they sparked debates about history and authenticity, how they forged personal or political reciprocity, or how the forged parallel networks of exchange.
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