Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MedRoute (On the route of multiculturalism(s). Marking and hybridizing identities in the late 17th and early 18th centuries Mediterranean port cities)
Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2020-08-31
on a maritime trading route cutting the Mediterranean from east to west, shared a highly developed cultural, ethnical, and religious pluralism. The comparative analysis adopted sheds light on the concept of pluralism in the premodern Mediterranean space, explaining how members of the same group handled coexistence following different strategies. In the project, identity is primarily intended as ‘a way of being and doing’, a way of making things in everyday life involving material practices. The concreteness of this aspect of identity leads to an act of self-positioning with respect to other individuals who are recognised as similar or different according to the way in which they do things. While inquiring into the way foreigners used material practices for channeling and expressing their cultural belonging, MedRoute highlights the role played by the political authority in determining the balance of acculturation. In fact, the adapting strategies of foreigners were deeply conditioned by the state’s attitude towards otherness. In the field of Mediterranean studies, the crucial role played by the political factor appears to have been neglected so far in favor of a greater emphasis on economic dynamics. From this perspective, MedRoute enters into the historiographical debate on the conceptual unity of the Mediterranean and proposes an interpretative model that can be fruitfully applied to the study of cultural pluralism in other border spaces. This project is deeply meaningful for nowadays society, since it addresses the problem of cultural coexistence and the role of political authority in enhancing welfare though the exploitation of the potential expressed by cultural diversity. In focusing on how political authority determined historical forms of pluralism, it reveals the ethical role of politics in assuming tolerance as a tool for fostering a more vibrant and resourceful society. In stressing the leading role played by the state and on how this is reflected by the attitude of foreigner dwellers living away from their homeland, MedRoute wishes to demonstrate the functionality of multicultural policies in enhancing civil welfare, also by the conscious use of ad-hoc policies that, ultimately, portrait pluralism as a resource for the society and not as a danger for the receiving country's perceived identity.
I think that in spite of the difficulties of the present situation, MedRoute really reached a quite significant audience during this last year and I am confident on its capacity to stimulate an even vaster interest when the actions for its implementation will be accomplished, through the collective volume, the online course, the school project and a short documentary that will be released in the spring 2021. My presence at the ISEM and my contribution to the research discussion at the Institute has been finally consolidated by my integration in an informal research group that will guarantee continuity of my presence at the ISEM could be an opportunity to contribute to the Italian academic debate beyond the term of my fellowship. Finally, the research I have conducted in these last three years thanks to my MSCA project have made me to conceive a vaster project that I wish to submit for an ERC Consolidator research grant for the year 2021.
Popularizing MedRoute in schools, through an online course and a documentary will provide a real access of non-specialized audience and it will tell a different story on the significance of our actions in daily life as a way to express who we are. I believe that it could also offer a different perspective on what we do in the respect of who we are especially in this critical moment in which we are not entirely able to do what we would like to do in order to protect our health. I am confident to be able to present these results in the continuous report I will submit in the near future. Finally, the expansion of MedRoute in an ERC proposal will provide a new focus on the dialectic between “vision” and “visibility”, and between “institution” and “strangers”. I believe the interplay between the vision of the state about its cultural composition and the values of the newcomers it is mainly played through representation and that often could be more related to form than to its content. With this I mean that multiculturalism is much more linked to our formal sensibility than to our substantial perception of radical differences in issues that are at the core of the civil life.