Year in Review 2014-2015

In its five-year run, the Mediterranean Studies interdisciplinary MRPI has fostered collaboration among faculty and graduate students from across the UC system, with quarterly workshops and conferences rotating amongsix of the UC campuses (UC Santa Cruz,UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UCSan Diego) and collaborating institutions (University of Colorado-Boulder, Loyola Marymount University, and San Francisco State University. The departments and disciplines represented includedHistory, Art History, Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, Classics, English, French, Spanish & Portuguese, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, Sociology, and Anthropology. In addition, co-directors Kinoshita (PI) and Catlos (co-PI) convened Mediterranean panels at major professional meetings, organized conferences and workshops, co-directed four NEH Summer Institutes, and developedcollaborations with institutional partners in North America, Europe, and the Middle East (see below).

Intellectual Rationale

Mediterranean Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary field, part of the trend towards Oceanic Studies (Horden and Purcell 2006), intended in part as a response and corrective to what are now recognized as distorting tendencies rooted in the disciplinary categories that have dominated historical discourses regarding the development of Europe, Africa and the Near East. As a region whose history of connectivity can be documented over at least two and a half millennia, the Mediterranean has since early antiquity shaped a history of civilizational contact in the form of expansion, trade, conquest, migration, and assimilation, and of particular significance as the place of origin and development of the three Abrahamic religions. Much of what is most important and distinctive about the Mediterranean region, however, remains invisible as long as the study of history is organized around land-based territories (“Europe,” “North Africa,” “the Middle East”) on the one hand, or discrete nation-states (“Italy,” “Turkey,” “Egypt”) on the other.

Since Braudel (1972 [1949]), scholars have attempted to theorize the character of this region whose de factounity is amply attested in the historical record. If the modern nation-state is construed as the territorial expression of apeople unified by history, ethnicity, language, and/or religion, the unity of the Mediterranean, Horden and Purcell have argued, consists, paradoxically, in its high degree of geographical fragmentation (2000): sharply delineated landscapes of land and sea, mountains and valleys produced complex local ecosystems whose component parts shifted frequently over time as the result of environmental as well as political, technological, economic, or cultural change. Connectivity is key; well into early modernity, people and places are linked through networks (Coulon and Valérian) of transportation, communication, and trade that can remain remarkably resilient through apparent world-historical shifts like the rise and fall of empires or the emergence and spread of new religions. One cultural corollary of this geographical fragmentation is the multiplication of communities—ethnic, linguistic, religious, economic—coexisting side by side, sometimes in conflict but just as frequently establishing a modus vivendithat provides alternatives to the dominant modelof the modern nation-state.

Mediterranean Studies thus shifts attention from the study of discrete entities (nations, religions, linguistic cultures) to the study of interconnectedness and the dynamics of interaction (trade, diplomacy, translation, shared cultural forms, and mutually intelligible practices).

Institutional Background

The Mediterranean Studies MRPI hadits origins in programs that PI Kinoshita and co-PI Catlos hadbeen organizing over the previousdecade. Recognizing at the outset that Mediterranean Studies is a necessarily interdisciplinary and collaborative project, Kinoshita and Catlos convened, first, a modestly-funded Research Cluster at UC Santa Cruz under the auspices of the Center for Cultural Studies and the Institute for Humanities Research; then, a 14-week Residential Research Group at the UC Humanities Research Institute in Irvine (Fall 2007). In 2009, they became the founding directors of the UCSC Center for Mediterranean Studies and in 2010, co-directors (initially with Catlos as PI) of a five-year UC MRPI. At the same time, they began developing projects outside the UC system. In 2008, they co-directed a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute in Medieval Mediterranean Studies, held in Barcelona, Spain—the first of four (also in 2010, 2012, and 2015), with each award totalling approximately $200,000.

To coordinate these projects, Catlos and Kinoshita co-founded the Mediterranean Seminar (, which, with over 800 associated scholars worldwide, has become the leading initiative in Mediterranean Studies, securing the reputation of the UC system as a leader in this now booming, cutting-edge interdisciplinary field. Since 2011, the Mediterranean Seminar has co-sponsored the annual International Mediterranean Worlds Conference (Salerno 2011; Istanbul 2012; Bern 2013; Calabria 2014; Toulon 2015)

Mediterranean Seminar/UCMRP Associates

UC Faculty UC Grad Students Former UC US Scholars Non-US Total Members 
179 56 30 604 206 810


Our core research activity,thequarterly Workshops, rotatedamong the participating UC campuses (and alternating between Northern and Southern California) to facilitate the widest possible participation. Each workshop, organized around a broad topic related to Mediterranean Studies, comprisedintense discussion (“workshopping”) of three pre-circulated works-in-progress of approximately 35 manuscript pages, plus a featured lecture by a prominent scholar in the field; among the three papers, we aimed for a distribution of one UC graduate student, one UC faculty member, and one external scholar (representing, where possible, multiple periods and/or disciplines). Each one-day Workshop was typically accompanied by an event on a closely-related topic organized and funded by the host campus co-PI; these varied in format from a half-day panel or roundtable to a one-or two-day conference. Accompanying events included meetings of the West Coast Ottomanists Workshop (Spring 2011, Winter 2015) and the Spain-North Africa Project (Spring 2014); collaborating institutions have included the UC Berkeley Townsend Center, the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the UCLA Center for 17th-and 18th-Century Studies, and the UCSB Medieval Studies Program.

Key to the MRPI’s success was the ongoing nature of the interchanges and collaborations initiated at the quarterly Workshops and Conferences. We achieved thisby providing travel stipends not just to presenters but to registered participants (attendance capped at 35). This format encouragedrepeat attendance at the Workshops, which in turn promotedthe kind of extended discussions crucial to the development of Mediterranean Studies as an emerging interdisciplinary field. This funding structure also workedsynergistically with the allied event organized by the campus co-PI: because Roundtable or Conference speakers who attendedthe Workshop wereeligible for travel stipends, this effectively constituted MRPI support (officially recognized as “co-sponsorship”) of the locally-organized event.

An important component of the MRPI wasthe mentoring of graduate students and younger faculty within the UC system. This took several forms. Workshop presenters received feedback on their papers before submitting a final version for circulation to attendees; this included guidance on contextualizing their projects for a broad interdisciplinary audience. At the meeting itself, Kinoshita and Catlos oftenofferedcomments in private (after the main Workshop discussion) and were also attentive to introducing younger scholars to senior experts in their respective fields.

The core activity of the quarterly Workshops was integrated with ancillary programming that included panels at meetings of scholarly societies like the American Historical Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Mediterranean Studies Association, the Middle East Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, the Medieval Academy, the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean, and the Medieval Association of the Pacific; our NEH Summer Institutes for University and College Professors; and conferences organized with partner institutions and organizations in Barcelona, Calabria, Sorrento, Paris, Strasbourg, Zurich, Istanbul, Messina, Florence, and Exeter.

The MRPI further encouragedindividual UC faculty and graduate student projects by providing travel funds to conduct research or to present conference papers on Mediterranean-related topics.

Scholarly Contributions and UC Competitiveness

In its five years, the Mediterranean Studies MRPI has enhanced the academic environment of UC by creating a unique systemwide community of faculty and graduate students whose activities both enrich individual research projects and provide a unique forum for collaboration.

The impact of the MRPI and Mediterranean Seminar in shaping the emerging interdisciplinary field of Mediterranean Studies is reflected in a series of recent and forthcoming publications by co-Directors Kinoshita and Catlos, developed in part through MRPI activities and sure to magnify their influence on the field in the near future. Kinoshita’s Companion to Mediterranean Studies, co-edited with Peregrine Horden (2014), is “the first authoritative overview of this diverse and vibrant field of historical research;” it includes contributions by UC faculty Catlos, Kea, and Ruiz; MRPI participants Abulafia, Astren, Greene, Herzfeld, Hilsdale, Mallette, Pollard, and Valérian; and Mediterranean Seminar Associates Epstein, Purcell, and Ramseyer. Kinoshita has also published many essays theorizing and modeling the relevance of Mediterranean Studies to the field of Literature. Catlos’s numerous publications have been instrumental in disseminating the “California approach” to Mediterranean Studies developed over the course of the MRPI. His book-in-progress, Paradoxes of Plurality: Ethno-Religious Diversity in the Medieval Mediterranean and Beyond, provides a blueprint for thinking through one of the Mediterranean’s most salient features—its centuries’-long accommodation, both within and across societies, of peoples of different religions, ethnicities, languages, andcultures. Meanwhile, his crossover book, Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Power, Faith and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad (2014), introduced his approach to Mediterranean societiesto a popular audience. In the pedagogical realm, he is currently collaborating with Thomas Burman (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and Mark Meyerson (University of Toronto) on a major undergraduate textbook with the working title The Sea in the Middle(under contract with Bedford St. Martin’s) that will present a Mediterranean-centered narrative with the aim of reshaping the teaching field of Medieval History. We also contributed to K-12 education through participation in the California History-Social Science Project (Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World) and reached diverse constituencies of the California publicthrough presentations to groups such as UCSC Lifelong Learners, UCSC Affiliates, and the Silicon Valley-based Sarum Seminar.

A number of the papers workshopped in the MRPI have been published or are in press as articles or book chapters (Albu, Astren, Dursteler, Jaffe-Berg, Kallender, and Mathews). MRPI participants Oumelbanine Zhiri (co-PI and UCSD campus rep) and Daniel Hershenzon (Connecticut) are collaborating on a book about sixteenth-century Spanish-Moroccan diplomatic and maritime relations. We expect many more MRPI-related publicationsto be forthcoming, especially from several UC scholars poised to make important contributions to the development of Mediterranean Studies. In addition, Kinoshita and Catlos arefounding editors of a Mediterranean Studies series from Palgrave Macmillan press; several MRPI-related monographs and essay collections are anticipated.

UC as a leader in Mediterranean Studies

The MRPI has madeUCSC and the University of California system a national and international leader in Humanities-based Mediterranean Studies. The visibility of the MRPIand its activities is assured through dissemination to the over 800 Associates of the Mediterranean Seminar. First-hand knowledge of the high level of MRPI activities and UC-based research wasachievedthrough the participation (as attendees, presenters, and featured speakers) of external scholars at every level from graduate students to internationally-recognized experts. Featured speakers included David Abulafia, Michael Herzfeld, and Peregrine Horden—authors of field-defining, or field-challenging, works in Mediterranean Studies.

The prestige of the UC System is further enhanced by the many activities coordinated through the Mediterranean Seminar. First among these are the four iterations of the NEH Summer Institute in Medieval Mediterranean Studies (2008, 2010, 2012, and 2015). Awarded by the NEH to UCSC, the Institute, like the MRP Workshops, has builtsustained interaction and fosteredlonger-term collaborations among scholars in different academic disciplines, working across a range of periods, languages, and regions. The fourcohorts of 24to 25participants have included present or former UC scholars Nicole Archambeau [UCSB], Heather Badamo [UCSB], Heather Blurton [UCSB], Peter Cowe [UCLA], Edward English [UCSB], Barbara Fuchs [UCLA], Camilo Gómez-Rivas [UCSC], Michelle Hamilton [UCI], Dwight Reynolds [UCSB], and Oumelbanine Zhiri [UCSD], along with many scholars (especially those based in California) who have participated in one or more MRPI Workshop-Conferences. The Institute has been instrumental in shaping a cohort of younger scholars in this emerging field; past participants have secured tenure-track “Mediterranean” appointments at the U of New Mexico, Loyola Marymount, and UMass Boston (all in History), and at UCSC (Literature). Hosted by the Institució Milà i Fontanals (the Barcelona branch of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas [CSIC], Spain’s national research council), the NEH Institute has also generated recognition for UC in Spain and in Europe more generally.

Institutionally, the MRPI and the Mediterranean Seminar advancedUC’s leadership in the field through several kinds of collaboration. Three of our quarterly Workshops werehosted by partner institutions—two (San Francisco State University and Loyola Marymount University) in close geographical proximity to a UC campus, and one (University of Colorado-Boulder) with its own flourishing research group in Mediterranean Studies.

The international reputation of these UC-based Mediterranean projects is reflected in the mentions they have garnered: by Mariam Rosser-Owen, curator of Art of the Arab World at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, in her 2012 Journal of Art Historiography article, “Mediterraneanism: How to Incorporate Islamic Art into an Emerging Field,” and by Martin B. Shichtman et al. in their Editor’s Introduction to a 2013 special issue of the journal Postmedieval on “Medieval Mobilities.” In the aftermath of the MRPI, this reputation will be further enhanced by forthcoming publication of Workshop participants and by the achievements (in terms of job placement and advancement, publication record, and growing professional reputation) of UC-based and MRPI-trained scholars of the interdisciplinary Mediterranean.

Accomplishments and Benefits to UC Faculty and Graduate Students

In addition to highlighting UC’sposition as a leader in Mediterranean Studies, the MRPI has had a substantial impact in (1) reinvigorating & reorienting the research of establishedscholars working in traditional disciplines; (2)providing an intellectual/professional community for UCfaculty; (3) giving UC graduate students cutting-edge training and mentoring in an emerging field nowdesignated a primary or secondary area of specialization in an increasing number of job descriptions.

(1a) Professor EmilyAlbu (Classics, UCD): “The Workshop discussion [Spring 2011] helped me seewhat especially interested scholars of the Mediterranean—and so helped me better focus my arguments.” The resulting book,The Medieval Peutinger Map, was published byCambridge University Press in 2014.

(1b) Professor Peter Cowe (Armenian Studies, UCLA): “I’m very grateful for all the…points that werebrought up [Spring 2013]. They clarified to me what I was doing in writing, which was to exploit howMediterranean optics have workedfor me. Their comments brought me to see in a very practical way thatthere are many other Mediterraneans, and that as I work through the review process and decide how I andin what form I’m going to publish it, I need to keep in mind those other perspectives in order to maximizeits usefulness to those outside my narrow field.”

(2) Associate Professor Erith Jaffe-Berg (Theatre, UCR): “I can’t thank [Kinoshita and Catlos] enough forfacilitating …so many important connections and contacts through the MRP…My workshop paper[Winter 2013] is now a chapter for my book Mediterranean Cartographies in Commediadell’ Arte[published by Ashgate Press in 2015].Daniel Hershenzohn [Spanish, Connecticut] has been so helpful in pointing out cases relatedto the book…Meeting Megan Moore [French, Missouri] at the workshop was very productive, as I havecontributed an essay to her anthology on women in the early-modern period….My article “Performanceas Exchange: Taxation and Jewish Theatre in Early Modern Italy” benefited in the revision stage from theworkshop and [conference]…I recently presented along with Chris Chism [English, UCLA] at asymposium at UC Davis on Medieval Performance….Receiving comments and guidance from you both,as well as Molly Greene [History, Princeton] and Eric Dursteler [BYU], among others, was invaluable formy current manuscript…I think the UC MRP is so vital and I would like to support it as I can!”

(4a) Graduate Student Tatiana Sizonenko (Art History, UCSD): “[My paper Winter 2012] became onechapter of my dissertation, defended in June 2013; [Kinoshita’s] feedback, as well as conversations withClaire Farago [Art, Colorado] and comments during the discussion helped me to refine my argument…Inaddition, conversations with other seminar participants were informative for understanding Mediterraneanissues…I am writing a book proposal and hope to publish the material presented in the seminar as part ofthe book….I have established connections with other scholars via the seminar; one outcome, I was invitedby Karen Mathews [University ofMiami] to present a paper [at] the Fist Medieval Conference.

(4b) Graduate Student Jonathan Haddad (French, UCB): “Because this was a dissertation chapter (andthe first I have drafted),…the workshop exercise [Fall 2013] was most useful in getting feedback on mydissertation project as a whole. In this sense, it was very useful to have a Mediterranean, rather than anexclusively French lit, point of view. The discussion really helped reinforce my own interest inincorporating more Ottoman sources and was important in my decision to go to the Ottoman summerschool in Cunda [last]summer. The contacts I have made at both the workshop and the previous seminar Ihad attended at Santa Cruz [Spring 2013] have been invaluable.I really enjoyed meeting the scholarsfrom the Mediterranean Studies program at the University of Michigan who attended the conference inSanta Cruz. Eric Calderwood has offered to read drafts for my dissertation….I also met Paolo Giradelli from Bogazici, with whom I…will hopefully be able to meet in Istanbul this summer. From the UCSystem, Fariba Zarinebaf [History, UCR], who I had also met in Santa Cruz, has answered my questionsabout archival sources and Istanbul. Baki Tezcan [Religious Studies, UCD] has also answered someresearch questions and put me in touch with another Ottoman scholar. Nina Zhiri [Literature, UCSD] hasbeen very helpful in providing references that are directly relevant to my research.”

Ongoing projects

Now that we are recognized internationally as the leading initiative in the field of Mediterranean Studies we are in a position to develop larger-scale and more permanent collaborations with outside institutions. Going forward, the Mediterranean Seminar will continue to mount Workshops on an ad hoc basis,building on the success of the MRPI structure, but with funding provided by host institutions. Thus far we have firm commitments from Harvard University (Winter 2016) and CSU Fresno (Spring 2016). PI Kinoshita and co-PI/director Catlos are currently in discussions with the Hill Monastic Library (Minnesota), the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Oregon, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for further Workshops.

In addition, we look forward to continuing to develop our international collaborations with institutions such as the Université de Paris, the Center for Conversion at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi (Istanbul), the Collegium Mediterranistarum (the Mediterranean Academy of Japan), the Centro di Storia Amalfitana, and other institutions,in the context of our Mediterranean Consortium, which has at present 14 non-UC participating institutions. We will continue to collaborate with the Spain-North Africa Project (, an international scholarly association, now housed at UC Santa Cruz, that “spun off” from our MRPI activities and which counts UC scholars among its directors and members.

These foreign collaborations are linked to our strategies to secure long-term independent funding. We have begun discussions with the colleagues at the Université de Paris, the Université de Strasbourg, and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Barcelona to propose a major digital humanities project for funding from the European Union. The idea of this “exchanges” project, which aims to trace the diffusion of people, objects, cultural practices, is to incorporate images and texts in translation integrated into a GIS platform that will show origin, provenance and dissemination of commodities and culture in and around the Mediterranean in the period 1000–1500C.E. It builds on a project we explored as early as 2005, which advances in Humanities computing have now made feasible. This project would also find potential funding through UCHRI’s Digital Humanities initiative and the NEH. Other avenues for funding we will be exploring include foundational grants, from organizations such as the NEH (the Collaborative Grant program), the Templeton Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation