The Power of the Dispersed: Early Modern Global Travelers beyond Integration

Cornel Zwierlein's picture
Call for Papers
July 31, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies, East Asian History / Studies, European History / Studies, Spanish and Portuguese History / Studies, World History / Studies

Early Modern Individual migrants and travelers often did not form part of classic ´diaspora´ situations or communities: they frequently never really settled, instead wandering, perhaps remaining abroad for some time in one place, then traveling further to another: not ´blown by the wind´, but by changing and complex conditions that often turn out to make them unwelcome anywhere, once the person has been disrooted for one or another reasons. Merchants, for instance, had serious reasons to be somehow ´disrooted´ as well as heterodox migrants. The dispersed develop strategies of survival, even accumulating forms of symbolic and real capital by traveling, by keeping their distance to old and new temporary ´homes´, and by manipulating, shaping, using information and foreign representations of their former country and situation.

            What kind of ´power(s)´ and agency did people who were dispersed because they had been forced to leave gain, perhaps counterintuitively, through the connections they maintained with their former home, and through those they established abroad? How could distance, dis- and relocation be transformed into a new symbolic or real capital of survival, as well as of growth on different levels? The fact of being out-of-reach, or being in touch with others abroad who are of importance and who can protect or appear threatening to those who are expelling the subjects, can be transformed into forms of influence – not only symbolically but of real capital –, which can effect decision-making and can prove constraining both in the old home and in the new contexts. Physical distance and information gaps between the former and novel contexts can be used. The expelled might even appear to grow in importance, despite the fact that perhaps his or her real situation remained miserable: disproportionality of seeming and being, of perception and realities can be consciously or unconsciously used and  manipulated. One’s own ignorance and that of the other can be transformed into a tool. ´Power´ is therefore not understood in the usual sense, in association with state, government, military, and access to tools of enforcement and a monopoly of violence, but in the very basic and residual form of having influence on decisions, enforcing reactions, of shaping the pictures, representations, information status and realities in a situation of distance: a form of agency - but with still a certain power to manipulate, to influence decision-making processes even from far away.

            A core focus will be on case studies on Early Modern relationships between Western Europe, the Mediterranean, Eastern Christianity and the Ottoman world, but contributions covering other world regions in the early modern colonial and global settings of entanglements and dispersion through trade, religion, scholarship, science and politics are highly welcome.

These issues will be the object of a

            Conference at the German Orient Institute in Istanbul, July 10-11, 2020

funded mainly by the DFG project ´Close Distance´ (GZ Zw 164-7/1), in cooperation with OII and AvH-Yale-network. Contributions to panels at a second conference at Yale in 2020, which will be part of the A.v.Humboldt-Yale-travel-grant-network (, are conceived to form a counterpart to this Istanbul conference (note: this call is only concerning the Istanbul part!). Both events, consisting of pre-circulated papers, will result in a volume to be published with Brill (Intersections, contracted).

Proposals for a contribution on case studies in all fields touched upon here in Early Modern History for the Istanbul conference and the volume can be submitted until July 31, 2019 to Cornel Zwierlein

            (title, short abstract ca. 300 words, short CV; send to: or

Organization: Cornel Zwierlein, Heisenberg-Stipendiat at the University of Bamberg, Early Modern History

Conference jointly convened with Richard Wittmann as the cooperation partner at the Orient-Institute Istanbul.

Cooperation with the Anneliese-Maier-Award-winner Alan Mikhail (Yale University)

Contact Info: 
Prof. (w1-2017)/PDoz. Dr. Cornel Zwierlein
German Research Foundation, Heisenberg-Stipendiat, Early Modern History
at the Universität Bamberg
Fischstraße 5/7
D-96045 Bamberg
Associate at the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt
University of Erfurt, Steinplatz 1
German Cooperation partner, AvHumboldt Foundation, AvHumboldt/Yale network