Events 2016-2017

* All events of 2016-2017 are co-sponsored by the European Institute, the History Department, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and the Program in Hellenic Studies.


  • Monday, November 21, 6.30 pm, 411 Fayerweather, Columbia University

 Francesca Trivellato  (Frederick W. Hilles Prof of History, Yale University)

Renaissance Florence and the Origins of Capitalism: New Answers to an Old Question

Respondent: Giovanni Ceccarelli (Università di Parma-Princeton University) 

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


Was Renaissance Florence the cradle of Western capitalism and individualism? This talk revisits this old question in historiographical perspective and suggests new ways of bringing legal, economic, and cultural history to bear on one another. To do so, it discusses the preliminary results of an ongoing analysis of nearly 5,000 business contracts registered in Florence between 1445 and 1808. It also situates this project in relation to various Digital Humanities initiatives concerning Renaissance Florence.


  • Monday, February 13, 5:30 pm, The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan

EAST OF VENICE: La Serenissima as Seen from its Eastern Frontiers

Konstantina Zanou, Moderator


Larry Wolff | Molly Greene | Patricia Fortini Brown | Daphne Lappa

Viewing the history of the Venetian Republic through the lens of its neighbors in the Balkans and its Mediterranean frontiers, this international panel of specialists examines the various exchanges—cultural, linguistic, religious, among others—between the Ottoman and the Venetian worlds, East and West. 

* Co-presented by Carnegie Hall and The Italian Academy within the framework of the festival La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic

More info: East of Venice


  • Wednesday, February 22, 6.30 pm, Hamilton 501, Columbia University

Maurizio Isabella (Associate Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London)

A Southern Revolutionary Script? Army and Revolution in the Mediterranean in the age of liberalism

Respondent: Mark Mazower (Columbia University)

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


Was there anything peculiar about the age of revolutions in the Mediterranean?  The talk addresses this question by looking at revolutions as scripts, that is as a set of practices, narratives and principles that justify them in relationship to other (earlier or contemporary) revolutionary events.  A striking feature of revolutionary attempts in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece in the 19th century was their military origin. Admittedly revolutions were the products of military uprisings in other parts of the world in the period, from the Ottoman to the Spanish, Portuguese Empires, including the Asian dependencies.  However the talk argues that in the 1820s, when rebellions simultaneously broke out across the Mediterranean, a specific shared script emerged to define these events as the peaceful and moderate regeneration of the South, led by army officers acting in the name of the nation, against an oppressive North. This script contributed to the re-writing of the geography of the region in relationship to Europe.


  • Monday, March 20, 6.30 pm, Hamilton 501, Columbia University

Daniel Hershenzon (Assistant Professor of History, University of Connecticut)

Captivated by the Mediterranean: Early Modern Spain and the Political Economy of Ransom

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


This presentation analyzes the political economy of ransom—understood as the interaction between political regulation, market exchange, social obligation, and religious mechanisms—in the Mediterranean between 1575 and 1650. On the basis of the reconstruction of the entangled histories of Christian and Muslim captives, I argue that Spanish, Algerian, and Moroccan actors—captives, merchants, friars, and rulers—transformed the political economy of ransom by collaborating and competing with one another over ransom procedures, the construction of captives’ value and the regulation of human traffic across the sea. 


  •  Monday, March 27, 6.30 pm, Hamilton 501, Columbia University

Gilles Bertrand (Professor of Early Modern History, Université de Grenoble Alpes, France). 

Traveling in the Mediterranean in the Early modern period: the Grand Tour and beyond

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


Travels in the Mediterranean in the early modern period were not really or not only the Grand Tour. We will try to articulate the practice of travels in the Mediterranean area and the experience of the European Grand Tour which developed between the middle of the 16th and the end of the 18th century, when European elites visited France, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands and England with educational and pastime purposes. By considering travelers from West or Central Europe towards the Levant, Egypt, Greece and North African coasts from the end of Middle Ages to the Romantic period, we can better understand the complexity of the successive phases of European travel from pilgrimage to the peregrinatio academica, and from scientific missions to the quest of exoticism.


  • Monday, April 3, 6.30 pm, Hamilton 501, Columbia University


Andrew Arsan (University Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Cambridge)

Intervention: an Eastern Mediterranean genealogy 

Respondent: Aaron Jakes (New School)

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


The times in which we live are rife with interventions - humanitarian, financial, and political - into the inner affairs of sovereign states. Deep incisions into the body politic, they injure even as they seek to heal, upturning conventional understandings of the state as an autonomous entity by inserting foreign elements beneath its skin. This paper sketches out a genealogy for these practices, tracing them back to the nineteenth-century Mediterranean and the particular sovereign arrangements born of the Ottoman empire’s unhappy encounter with Britain and France. From the 1830s onwards, it argues, these two states devised novel ways of organising population, territory, and debt and new understandings of sovereignty. And in doing so, they made of intervention a principle of international life. 


  • Monday, April 17, 6.30 pm, 754 Schermerhorn, Columbia University

Yannis Hamilakis (Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Modern Greek Studies, Brown University)

A sensorial archaeology of undocumented migration in the Mediterranean

Respondent: Naor Ben-Yehoyada (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University)

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


How can we record, explore, and understand the materiality of the experience of forced and undocumented migration today? How can we communicate such work to scholars and to various publics? What kind of theoretical and methodological stances can we deploy, avoiding the instrumentalisation of the phenomenon for purely academic purposes, and the aestheticisation of an often painful and tragic experience? I will explore these questions taking the Mediterranean, and especially its eastern shores as my main focus. I will propose a politically engaged scholarly practice which can combine solidarity and activist actions (including clandestine/“guerrilla” tactics) with academic research. I will claim that the purpose of such archaeology is primarily to focus sensorial and affective attention on the violence of forced migration, as well as on the active agency of the migrants themselves and of the things, places, landscapes and atmospheric features that compose the sensorial assemblage of migration. Furthermore, the engagement with the condensed, transient, and fluid materiality of migration does not relate simply to the archaeology of the contemporary. It also poses a huge challenge for archaeology in general, its entanglement with the colonial and national apparatus, and its epistemic and ethical/political assumptions.


Yannis Hamilakis is Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Modern Greek Studies at Brown University. He works on the archaeology of the senses, on the politics of the past, on archaeological ethnography, on colonial and national archaeology, and on the links between the photographic and the archaeological. He also co-directs the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography Project in Greece

Lecture co-sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities


  • Monday, April 24, 6.30 pm, Hamilton 501, Columbia University

Naor Ben-Yehoyada (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University)

The Mediterranean Incarnate: Region Formation between Tunisia and Sicily since WWII

Moderator: Konstantina Zanou (Columbia University)


Embarking on a five-week voyage aboard the Naumachos, a Sicilian motorized fishing trawler, in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia, the talk intertwines the view from the deck with a historical exploration of the recent turbulent history of the Naumachos’s homeport. Mazara del Vallo is located on the southwestern tip of Sicily some ninety nautical miles northeast of the African shore. Since WWII, the town has seen conflicts over Sicilian poaching in North African territory, the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, and how the Mediterranean should figure in Italian politics at large. The Mediterranean Incarnate examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations, to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a transnational regional constellation in modern times. 


Naor Ben-Yehoyada is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University and Associated Researcher at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche–Iamc, Sicily. He received his PhD in social anthropology from Harvard University in 2011.