The Visibility of Strangers. Diasporas, Urban Spaces, and Material Pluralism in the Mediterranean Space

Tagliaferri Filomena's picture
April 29, 2020 to April 30, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Urban History / Studies

The role of the city in privileging the coexistence of more than one cultural group has been always supported by the simple, factual observation that


of all types of settlement, it is the town or the city where one is most likely to encounter a stranger or foreigner […] often originated from afar and […] distinguished by language, physical appearance, dress, beliefs or practices, characteristics covered by the slippery modern terms ‘ethnicity’ of ‘cultural identity’ (Keene 2016: 1).


With this final workshop that will be held in Rome on the 29th and 30th of April, 2020, the Marie Curie MedRoute project - Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 747030 - MedRoute ( - is willing to create a space of discussion on the main themes that are its core. MedRoute is a voyage through the history of urban pluralism, developed along a Mediterranean maritime route cutting the Mare Nostrum from east to west. Sailing across the sea, the project inquires the phenomenon of cultural pluralism in early modern Mediterranean port cities. Through the employment of three identity markers (foodways, clothing, and language), MedRoute aims to chart how differences in the political and physical environments affected the balance of acculturation in port-cities. The project is developed by Filomena Viviana Tagliaferri in association with the Istituto di Storia dell'Europa Mediterranea - Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (ISEM-CNR), Cagliari, and the Department of History - University of Maryland, College Park.


The workshop is intended to gather scholars at different career stages and with diverse methodological and theoretical approaches, working on foreigner groups mobility, urban pluralism and identities’ expression. Here identity is going to be intended as ‘a way of being and doing’ (Jansen 2001: 208), that is, a way of making things in everyday life involving material practices. The materiality of identity should not be seen as a ‘folklorisation’ of historical knowledge but, from Daniel Roche’s perspective, as an attention to “re-materialising the principles of our knowledge and so achieving a better grasp of our relation to things, our mediation with objects and the world around us’ (Roche 2000: 1-2). The use of material practices as identity detectors lends shape to the possible ways in which identity has been channelled in the visible forms of daily life. This kind of materiality as concrete identity not only allows for the study of what a specific cultural group saw as meaningful, but also highlights how historical negotiations of identity were subject to material constraints, being highly dependent on the availability of certain products in the place of arrival.


We are especially eager to receive proposals focusing on 17th-19th theme of foreigners’ behavioural patterns in its relation to urban spaces, the role of the political factor in determining the type of cultural pluralism developed and, finally, the role played by internal members of the communities on the basis of social class, education and gender for determining the balance of acculturation.


We would welcome papers on a range of topics - from social analysis of diasporas to the anthropological approach to foodways; from the economic inquire of foreigner lifestyle to the artistic patronage of foreigner urban guilds - framed in the geographical and conceptual Mediterranean as border-space in which identities are continually re-negotiated. Papers should range from the 17th to 19th century. We would also encourage papers exploring the effects of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire on urban pluralism, as we are considering to include a last panel on the subject.


We are particularly interested in papers focusing on


- multilingualism;

- foodways and smoking habits;

- way of dressing;

- nightlife and leisure;

- artistic patronage;

- travel literature’s look on urban pluralism;

- effects of state policies in regulating foreigners’ visibility in the urban space in limiting expressions of cultural belonging.


Keynote speakers of the workshop will be Professor Bernard Heyberger and Professor Antony Molho. The proceedings are intended to be published either in as edited volume or as an ISEM-CNR publication. The Marie Curie grant will cover accommodation expenses (two nights) and food expenses (for two days).


Proposals should be submitted by September 30, 2019 by email to Filomena Viviana Tagliaferri ( and with full name, current affiliation and email address; a paper title (15-word maximum), an abstract (150-word maximum), keywords, PhD completion date (past or expected), and a brief CV (150 words maximum).