Events 2019-2020


Fall 2019


All events of 2019-2020 are co-sponsored by the European Institute, Columbia University

September 26, Thursday, 6:00pm, Hamilton Hall 501

Maria Green Mercado (Rutgers University)


Respondent: Seth Kimmel (Columbia, LAIC)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia, Italian)

The apocalyptic texts, known as jofores, circulated among Moriscos, Muslims who were forcibly converted to Catholicism in the early sixteenth century. They were attributed to Islamic and Christian sources, and they predicted the loss of Muslim Iberia to Christians, the forced conversion of Muslims, and their persecution by the Inquisition. These texts also presented a future in which Muslims would once again have political control over the Iberian Peninsula. As such, Morisco apocalyptic texts have been previously analyzed within an Iberian framework as reflections of the immediate concerns of Moriscos. In this paper I will argue that the jofores of the Moriscos are best understood within the broader context of the early modern Mediterranean. I will do this by analyzing the presence of Italy in the Morisco apocalyptic imaginary through an analysis of these jofores, as well as Inquisition records against Moriscos where they express their ideas about the End Times. There is no doubt that Italy featured prominently in Christian and Islamic early modern apocalyptic texts in the Mediterranean, not in small measure due to the Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry for the control of the Mediterranean. This paper will analyze the presence of Italy in Morisco jofores to argue that this presence sheds light on Morisco self-conceptions of their role in the political life of the Mediterranean. Through the production and deployment of prophecies Moriscos placed themselves at the center of the Ottoman-Habsburg struggle for the control of Italy and the Mediterranean, which they viewed as the cosmic struggle of the End Times.  

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (LAIC, Columbia)


October 24, Thursday, 6:00pm, Hamilton Hall 501

Emily Wilbourne (The Graduate Center, CUNY)


Respondent: Respondent: Özden Mercan (Italian Academy, Columbia University)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia, Italian)

It has become a truism of music history that early modern Europeans had no interest in replicating, imitating, or invoking the sounds of non-European music. In 2013 Owen Wright, for example, discussing early modern turqueries, emphasized that, “however realistic the costumes may have been, there is nothing authentically Turkish in the music.” Many other scholars make a similar point. In this paper I argue otherwise, by tracing musical performances by enslaved labourers at the Medici court. I argue not only that the sounds of foreign musics were known and recognized by educated Italian audiences, but that  the prevalence of musical performance among the work of enslaved court entertainers served to justify certain types of enslavement and to objectify certain registers of musical sound.


November 21, Thursday, 6:00pm, Casa Hispánica

Claire Gilbert (Saint Louis University)


Respondent: Ardeta Gjikola (The Society of Fellows, Columbia University)

Moderators: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia Italian) and Seth Kimmel (Columbia, LAIC)

This paper studies how scholars and politicians of the Ilustración relied on medieval precedents in Spanish Arabism for philological and political projects. Those precedents were related to the politics of belonging and exclusion which shaped early modern Spanish society. Their memory and use into the eighteenth century affected the new attitudes of Spanish foreign policy with Arabic speakers across the Mediterranean. Departing from the example of the Hieronymite friar, Escorial Arabic professor, and administrator in Spanish Tangier, Patricio de la Torre (1760–1814), I explore policies of memory and adaptation of the linguistic technologies and ideologies of the late “Reconquista” in Spain’s colonial agenda in Morocco, particularly through Torres’s adaptation of the works of Pedro de Alcalá (1505-1506). Indeed, the drive to “reduce” the common language of the ally or enemy was just as vital in the 1790s for Spanish ministers looking to Morocco as those in the 1490s looking to Granada. In each of these contexts, and throughout the period between, translators and philologists provided the linguistic knowledge with which to rule across boundaries and conduct international relations.

This event is co-sponsored by the department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (LAIC, Columbia)



Spring 2020



February 20, Thursday,  6:00pm, 501 Hamilton.

Andrea Celli (University of Connecticut)

Dante's Graffiti in Palermo. The Divine Comedy in a Prison of the Inquisition

The talk centers on two striking images of the ‘hellmouth,’ drawn on the walls of the seventeenth-century prison of the Spanish Inquisition in Palermo. By considering contextual references to the Divine Comedy disseminated in graffiti on the same walls, the talk explores a phenomenon of reception and appropriation of the Comedyin the early-modern Mediterranean. It connects the drawings to Medieval and Baroque plays, to West-Mediterranean iconography, and to early-modern book trade. It also calls into question sociological and cultural notions that literary studies often employ. The Dantesque afterworld represented on the walls of the prison in Palermo reflects intricate interactions between high culture and illiterates, between different religious contexts, and institutional levels. Rigid demarcations of eras – the Middle Ages versus the modernity – also seem to fade.

Respondent: Diane Bodart (Columbia, Art History)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia, Italian)


March, 26, Thursday, 6:00pm, Hamilton Hall 501

Shirin Ramzanali Fazel (Writer) and Simone Brioni (Stony Brook University)


Through its dialogic form, this paper presents key issues in Shirin Ramzanali Fazel’s career as representative of her cohort of Somali-Italian authors’ struggles to be heard and read, including the processes of translation and self-translation in Lontano da Mogadiscio and Nuvole sull’Equatore, the challenges surrounding publication both at home and abroad, and the conflict created by her works’ assertion of an alternative view of history that disrupts settled Italian cultural memory.

Respondent: Graziella Parati (Dartmouth College)

Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia, Italian)



April 9, Thursday, 6:00pm, Hamilton Hall 501
Nicola di Cosmo (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
In the late thirteen and fourteenth centuries Venice, as one of the leading maritime and commercial powers in Europe, established commercial bases in territories that had come under Mongol rule.  From Russia to Persia and China Venetian merchants, envoys, and political representatives entertained relations with the Mongol rulers, opening up trade routes and exploiting commercial opportunities, but above all entering a cultural and political space to which they had to adjust, in the process creating new forms of communication, trade, and diplomacy.  Why did the Venetians go deep into Asia and what did they accomplish? How did the Mongols react to the European presence in their empire? And finally, what was the position of these colonies in the general  landscape of late Medieval Europe and its global connections?  While the historical literature is vast, some of the larger questions remain elusive, especially because relatively little attention has been paid to the position and actions of the Mongols. This talk seeks to highlight and explain some of the critical nodes across the temporal arc of the presence of Venetians in the Mongol, empire.
Respondent: TBA
Moderator: Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia Italian)