Networks and Knowledge:
Synthesis and Innovation in the Muslim-Christian-Jewish Medieval Mediterranean
NEH Summer Institute for College and University Professors
July 2–July 27, 2012 • Barcelona (Spain)
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Our Institute set out to provoke a rethinking of the history of the Middle Ages, c. 1000–1500, through the optic of the medieval Mediterranean, emphasizing questions of religious and ethnic pluralisms, cultural contact, hybridity, transculturation, and the negotiation of identities. As a region whose history of connectivity can be documented over at least two and a half millennia, the Mediterranean has recently become the object of innovative scholarship in various disciplines. Rather than focusing on the internal structure and development of discrete entities (political states, ethnic or religious groups, cultural traditions), these approaches tend to shift their attention to a study of interconnectedness and dynamics of interaction. In contrast to traditional accounts that cast the Middle Ages as the lull between the loss of the culture of classical antiquity and its "rebirth" in Renaissance and that define Modernity as the product of a northern European Enlightenment, our approach reveals that many "modern" ideas, institutions, and technologies in fact first crystallized in the medieval Mediterranean. A short list of examples might include: municipal republics, double-entry accounting, neo-Aristotelian logic, vernacular literature, paper, rice cultivation, universities, and codified public law (on the Roman model).
This program brought together 24 professors from American universities and colleges for an intensive four-week Institute hosted at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella (Old City), where Spain's national research council has a branch, the Institució Milą i Fontanals. CSIC is home to an important Department of Medieval Studies, of Musicology, and History of Science. Its library was available for our use and had an excellent and up-to-date collection of material in Castilian, Catalan, English and other European languages.
Six distinguished faculty members from a range of disciplines presented lectures and led seminars. Over the month of July, participants had the opportunity to collaborate, to pursue the individual projects which they had proposed to undertake, to reconsider their own work in light of the Mediterranean, and to debate and discuss the nature of Mediterranean history.
It was a program which was made possible by the direct support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by the generous support of over a dozen corporate, governmental, cultural and educational institutions, in the US and Spain.
“This experience will have an impact on all aspects of my teaching and scholarship.”
“Stimulating, high-level meeting of scholars and experts in a culturally-saturated environment.”
“I feel ready to develop an undergraduate course with a specific Mediterranean focus after participating in this seminar, and now have a theoretical and practical framework for at least three future publications.”
“The collegiality of our group was excellent - living together, working on our own projects, discussing and listening to others in seminars was great.”
“I am inspired by this experience, and other similar experiences in the past, to organize my own NEH seminar at some point. This institute and its directors provide an outstanding model.”
“The Summer Institute experience was fabulous and transformative.”
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