A Transnational History of the Mediterranean and Its European Connections, 18th-21st Centuries

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Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
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Mediterranean is today at the core of world scrutiny, because of its geopolitical instability, its migration dramas, the outburst of inter-confessional and religious violence. The understanding of these issues requires to analyze them in long-term and trans-cultural perspectives. As such issues cross the political old and present borders, they require also a transnational approach. After the hegemonic attempts to dominate the Mediterranean (Mare Nostrum in the Ancient World, 16th-century struggle between the Ottoman Empire and Spain), the Mediterranean was in the 18th century an area of intensive exchanges and circulations of people, goods, and ideas, well-connected to the Atlantic world and Asia. Competition over lucrative markets led to an increasing competition among European powers, and to growing territorial ambitions over Northern Africa first, and the Ottoman Empire thereafter. This process resulted in colonization and reinforced European self-persuasion of its cultural superiority (race, culture, civilization). The two World Wars represented a turning point, as the old colonial powers were severely challenged in their positions and required a strong support of colonial troops. After both war, colonial societies were increasingly reluctant to revert to the previous colonial domination and opened an era of decolonization. In the post-colonial period, the fact that the confrontation of the super-powers deeply affected the Mediterranean (especially in the Middle East) had severe consequences up to the present (Syria, Libya, etc.). All authoritarian States around the Mediterranean basin collapsed (such as Greece or Spain in the 1970s, or North African States in the 2010s), opening crucial issues for today’s societies: refugees’ migrations, terrorism, religious radicalization, rise of xenophobic and populist movements destabilizing the process of European construction.

This course offers a transnational history of the Mediterranean from the Early Modern times to the beginnings of the 21st century and takes into account cultural, demographic, social, economic and religious issues. Students will be introduced to case studies in every unit. The Mediterranean has been the object of intensive literary, artistic and cinematographic production. Each class will propose to the students a discovery of these productions and their many-faced issues (which are not solely esthetic ones).