Introduction: Locating the Mediterranean through Connections and Separations
(University of Helsinki)
Joseph Viscomi (Birkbeck, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
This panel introduction has two aims. First, it reviews anthropological and historical literatures about the 'location' of the Mediterranean, stressing their attention to connections and separations. Second, it outlines a framework for empirical research based on overlapping 'locating regimes'.
Paper long abstract:
In this panel introduction, our aim is twofold. First, we provide a critical assessment of the ways in which the Mediterranean region has been studied and conceptualised over the past century. Examining writings by historians (Braudel 1949; Purcell and Horden 2000; Ben-Yehoyada 2017) and anthropologists (Pitt-Rivers 1954; Davis 1973; Herzfeld 1984; Albera 2006), we illustrate how the 'location' of the Mediterranean(s) has taken radically different shapes through dialogue between scholarly traditions. We also suggest that these iterative relocations in the literature can be read as a process of overlapping connections and separations across space and time. Such an approach seems particularly apposite in the face of centrifugal and centripetal current events: popular uprisings, economic crises, migration flows, and the rise of isolationist right-wing political movements. Taking off from this historiographical oeuvre, the second part poses questions of theoretical framing and methodology. How could the large-scale historical, legal, political and social threads that come together in the region be approached through ethnography or historical research attending to minute details? How could we explore vernacular understandings of the Mediterranean as stable within an analytical framework which maintains that locations are fluctuating and ever-changing? One possibility, we suggest, is to attend meticulously to the particular epistemologies, logics, materials, infrastructures, and discursive systems that calibrate value, meaning and a sense of locatedness across this maritime space-time. The experiences of 'being somewhere in particular' that such 'locating regimes' facilitate are shown to simultaneously comprise and dissolve the Mediterranean as a regional unit (Green 2015).
Locating the Mediterranean: connections and separations across space and time