• Sean Roberts. Printing a Mediterranean World: Florence, Constantinople, and the Renaissance of Geography I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 293 pp.

    Sean Roberts. Printing a Mediterranean World: Florence,  Constantinople, and the Renaissance of Geography  I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 293 pp.

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  • What about Levantinization?

    This essay was written originally in English but it is only now that it is published in its original form. Kahanoff, born in Egypt to parents from Tunisia and Iraq, was a Western-educated polyglot who saw herself as a child of the Levant. Her article reflects the inherent ambivalence of the Armenians, Copts, Jews, Greeks, and Italians who in the pre-nationalist era regarded, as she did, the entire region as their home. Kahanoff asks why Levantinism threatens Israeli society and Sabra culture, which claims to be authentically indigenous, but in truth was created by relatively recent immigrants from Europe. She exposes the inherent hypocrisy of “authentic” Israeli culture and the Sabra’s fear of “a cultural mutation.”

    The Levantines relinquished cultural authenticity because it did not serve them well and adopted modern Western characteristics and values. The price of this survival strategy was a loss of authenticity and of relations with the surrounding hegemonic society. The Sabra’s contempt for the newly arrived Levantines did not prevent them from absorbing the newcomers, which seemed preferable to isolating themselves within the small Jewish community in Israel. The question of cultural mutation as opposed to indigenous authenticity is presented in the essay in a broad historical context, both spatial (the vernacularization of Latin) and temporal (the host of empires that conquered the region and left their mark on its various peoples).

  • Renegades as Crossover Figures: Forgers of the Early Modern Mediterranean

    The early modern Mediterranean world would be incomprehensible without taking into account the key roles of the so-called renegades—converts to Islam—who were far more numerous than converts to Christianity. Since renegades rarely wrote or spoke about themselves except under inquisitorial interrogation, and since most texts of the period portrayed them with hostility, the widest range of sources and discursive genres (including literary) in many languages needs to be examined in order to get some sense of who they were. As frontier protagonists, renegades articulated the cultural and religious divide within the Mediterranean. Models proposing split personalities, antagonistic civilizations, or religious discord have done little to resolve the enigma posed by the renegades in all their heterogeneity. This article questions the emphasis on belief and “sincerity” that has always dominated the discussion of renegades, stressing instead their pragmatism, strategic orientation, and acquired capabilities.

  • “The Mediterranean Option”: On the Politics of Regional Affiliation in Current Israeli Cultural Imagination

    The growing appeal of Mediterraneanism or “the Mediterranean option” (ha-opt’sia ha-yam tikhonit) as it is often referred to in Israel, can be at least partially understood in relation to the Oslo peace negotiations and their  promise of replacing Israel’s isolated position in the region with a model of economic, political, and cultural integration. Perhaps it was the apparent difficulties involved in reaching a peace agreement, rather than the promise of peace itself, that drove many Israelis, including key public figures and intellectuals, to embrace the “Mediterranean option.”

    This paper closely examines the ideological stakes involved in the intellectual and cultural endeavors of making Israel “Mediterranean.” What, I ask, is the appeal of Mediterraneanism for Israelis at this particular time and juncture? How is it that an ethno-national culture, which for the most part has until recently rejected or ignored the Mediterranean (as both “sea” and “region”) as a site of cultural identification, negating it in favor of ethno-national territorial centrality, has suddenly so embraced the sea and its regional promise? And more precisely, what does this promise entail? How does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict prefigure within it? Finally, and most central to my investigation, is the relationship between yam tikhoniyut as a geo-cultural regional affiliation, and mizrachiyut as an ethnic Israeli-Jewish classification. How are we to understand these different articulations of Israeli/Jewish locality and collective identity, and how are we to further understand their distinct rendition of politics vis-à-vis the Zionist national project?

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  • Rediscovering the Mediterranean: Political Critique and Mediterraneanism in Mohammed Arkoun’s Thought

    The article explores the works and the thought of Muhammed Arkoun, one of the most prominent Muslim intellectuals in the West, and a representative of liberal Islam. Since the 1970s, Arkoun’s major intellectual critique was directed at “Islamic reason.” He endeavored to deconstruct the “regimes of truth” of Islamic medievalist dogmas, which still function as orthodoxies among contemporary Muslims (Sunni, Shiʿi and Khariji). According to his analysis, this medievalist perception of Islam fulfills a function in the modern era of political ideology. His works not only deconstruct and reassess Islamic traditional epistemology but also posit a counterpoint to the common perception of Islam among both Muslim believers and western scholars.

    The article contextualizes Arkoun’s works in the intellectual and political history of the Arab-Muslim countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean. The first section presents a general overview of Arkoun’s oeuvre since the 1960s, with special emphasis on the foundation of his political critique. The second section sheds light on the role of the Mediterranean as a concept of mental and geo-cultural space in Arkoun’s thought.