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Fighting with Words: Poetic Duelling and its Performance across the Mediterranean

Project description

Documenting poetic duelling in the Mediterranean

For centuries, local artists across the Mediterranean have entertained their communities by engaging in poetic duels organised at local festivals or special occasions. Their oral impromptu performances are often combined with shows and music. In some Mediterranean islands, this tradition is slowly dying out. The EU-funded DUEL project will support a comparative study of poetic duels in six Mediterranean Islands: Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, Majorca, Malta, and Sardinia. This interdisciplinary research will contribute to the presentation of the poetic, musical, ethnographic and other aspects of this tradition in the form of a book, a documentary film and a festival to preserve the spirit and beauty of local historical heritage.


DUEL is the first comparative study of poetic duelling across the Mediterranean. It focuses on six islands found in six Mediterranean European countries, moving from East to West: Cyprus, Crete (Greece), Malta, Sardinia (Italy), Corsica (France), and Majorca (Spain). At the heart of DUEL are two central questions: How are poetic duels performed, and what do they mean for both the producers (the performers) and the consumers (the audience) of this practice in the six chosen islands? Rather than looking at poetry or music in isolation, DUEL brings the poetic, musical, ethnographic, gender and performative aspects of this practice together in a ‘bottom-up’ study that puts the people involved in poetic duelling centre stage. Using an interdisciplinary approach and combining methods from ethnomusicology, life writing, visual anthropology, oral and cultural history, DUEL aims to bring performers from the six islands together on the page (in a book), on the screen (in an ethnographic documentary), and on the stage (in a festival). While the project is informed by theory, it is not side-tracked by it. The emphasis is on creating a vivid portrait of this performance practice (written, visual, and aural) that can have the greatest possible impact on academic and non-academic audiences alike. This is in line with the EU’s policy for making culture ‘accessible and inclusive’. There is a sense of urgency attached to this project, as it concerns a dying tradition practised among groups of performers across Europe who are also fast disappearing. In addition to interviewing performers through extended periods of fieldwork and recording poetic duelling performances in their particular social and cultural contexts, this project will also contribute to the understanding and preservation of European intangible heritage, against an increasing trend of homogenisation of both the production and the consumption of culture.

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Net EU contribution
€ 157 941,12
1678 Nicosia

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Κύπρος Κύπρος Κύπρος
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 157 941,12