Netherlandish cities were places of connectivity, and yet these cosmopolitan capitals also celebrated their fortified enclosures, established foreign-merchant enclaves, and imprisoned suspect strangers. While scholarship in the wake of mobility studies and entangled histories has significantly complicated our understanding of the global flow of people, goods, and ideas, it has often overlooked the social and spatial barriers that constrained movement within early modern cities. For even though cities functioned as networks, they also instituted division, separation, and exclusion.
Focusing on Northern Europe, this session explores the spatial and representational means by which certain persons and groups were separated from the urban life around them, either voluntarily or involuntarily. We ask how the city constructed zones or sites of separation, and how the immobility of some interacted with the mobility of others. Such spaces may have been constructed by and for an individual, by civic authorities, or by groups formed with the intent of exclusivity. The confinement may be a form of punishment, as in the prisoner, heretic, or exile, a means of quarantine, as in the leper or plague victim, a welcome and self-imposed withdrawal, as in the individual in a “closet” or study, or an ethical detachment, as in religious retreat behind walls or within cloisters. In some cases, urban configurations hid the excluded and isolated; in others, their presence was known and even advertised. We welcome papers that consider these issues from a comparative perspective, examining significant connections between Netherlandish cities and other metropolises.
What architecture, rituals, and representations kept the excluded bodies present and acknowledged in the urban psyche? How does the exclusion of some mark civic identity for others? How did the interior and exterior architecture of particular buildings signal belonging and enforce social separation? What forms of material culture accompanied the separated individual and were those objects part of what marked the person as apart from normative civic culture? How were seclusion and sequestration valued? What historical philosophies informed early modern conceptualizations of exclusion, isolation, and confinement, and what contemporary theories provide frameworks for understanding these processes and experiences?
This session is sponsored by Historians of Netherlandish Art.