CFP: The Limits of Identity: Trade and Community Membership in the Mediterranean
Renaissance Society of America
March 22-24, 2012: Washington, D.C.
Some recent historiography has posited a premodern Mediterranean of fluid identities and porous communities. The middle sea was indeed a region where different religious, linguistic, ethnic, and political communities interacted. But while individuals had some latitude in how they presented themselves, their claims to attention, protection, and support were ultimately arbitrated by others.
Trade offers an ideal site for exploring how communities regulated access to economic opportunities. Commercial networks provided security, channeled information flows, and coordinated collective action. These goods were not freely available to all. Membership in a community depended on displaying network-specific markers, whether civic, religious, or social. Participation in Jewish diasporic networks hinged upon religious and family ties, for instance, while inclusion in the Venetian or Genoese trading empires was also linked to citizenship. Greeks could trade either as Ottoman subjects or as Venetian subjects, although at times they had to defend their status as good Christians before legal tribunals.
This panel will examine the connections between membership (a status that entails access to economic, social, legal or other resources), identity (as a form of self-presentation), and commercial networks. We want to move beyond identity-based interpretations of behavior by analyzing how communities regulated individuals' claims to affiliation. Although we are especially interested in networks converging on the Italian peninsula, paper proposals dealing with anywhere in Braudel's world of "extravagant cosmopolitan ports" are welcome.
Jeff Miner (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Corey Tazzara (email@example.com)
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