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Objects, Spaces and Material Culture. Gender and Politics in Early Modern European Republics (Venice, Genova, XV-XVIII centuries)

Project description

Exploring women’s influence in European republics

In a world where gender balance in decision-making is still a distant goal, the persistent imbalance of gender representation in decision-making roles echoes an unresolved historical issue. The legacy of excluding women from direct power continues to cast its shadow, often overlooked and underexplored. Backed by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the OSpaMa project aims to challenge this narrative. The project employs innovative methodologies ranging from sensory analysis to material culture exploration to examine the hidden stories of influential women in Venetian and Genoese republics. Looking at written narratives alongside iconographic sources, OSpaMa aims to reshape perceptions, tracing the intricate threads of women's agency and contributions within the complex tapestry of republic politics.


To this day, and even in Europe, gender balance in decision-making remains a goal to be achieved. This condition has historical roots, and the power of informal leadership still remains to be investigated further.
The predominantly male European republics of the modern age were careful to mark gender boundaries, excluding women from the direct exercising of power. In republican contexts, unlike queens, princesses, and duchesses, the consorts of the men in power did not have the privilege of providing the heir to the throne, so traditional historiography has generally considered their role to be very marginal, if not entirely irrelevant. The aim of the project is to challenge this established idea, using new sources and an innovative interdisciplinary methodological approach. Considering, from a comparative perspective, two Italian republics that maintained their independence until the end of the 18th century (Venice, Genoa), the investigation will examine the prominence of the Doges' wives and female relatives, the creation and use of gendered spaces, the purchase and placement of furnishings in public and private apartments, and the display strategies pursued. Particular attention will be given to clothing, jewellery and objects in contact with the body. Alongside written sources, iconographic sources and objects preserved in museums will be analysed, taking into account the sensory dimension and the three-dimensionality of things. The aim is to go beyond the limits of written sources and traditional historiography, focusing on material culture, in order to re-evaluate the identity and role of women in republican political contexts, to define their sphere of influence and agency, to grasp their attempts to negotiate power and their strategies to promote private and public interests, and to bring to light their contribution to the - still open - path towards gender equality.


Net EU contribution
€ 288 859,20
37129 Verona

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Nord-Est Veneto Verona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Partners (2)