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Research of the Mediterranean Platform

For a long time, the Mediterranean has been described with magic formulas. Due to actual crises and conflicts we think that a new narrative is required. The Mediterranean Platform Konstanz brings together historical and literary approaches in order to understand cultural heritage and historical perspectives of the region and to sharpen our view for future options. In this sense, our research puts the plurality of Mediterranean spatial configurations in the spotlight.

First, in a genealogical perspective, we try to reconstruct marginalised (Arabic, insular, meridional and Ottoman) representations of the region. Second, on the basis of new present-related topics we investigate cross epochs in which way natural, cultivated and imagined spaces as well as their relations to the past and future influenced each other. Third, comparative and entangled historical perspectives point out clearly how the Mediterranean interacted with other world regions and that it can certainly be compared to them.




Research Project Prof. Dr. Daniel G. Koenig
al-Gharb. TerminologicalEnquiries into the Emergence of a Culturalist Conception of the West in the Arabic-Islamic Sphere (16th-19th cent.)
The project is partly funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation (

A concept of “the West” is widely diffused in Europe and North America and manifests itself in various publications, many of which tend to draw boundaries to other cultural spheres, the Islamic sphere in particular, e.g. with reference to “Western values”, “Western conceptions of democracy”, etc. Simultaneously, a concept of “the West” is also cherished from an external perspective, not least in Occidentalist discourses maintained by radical Islamic groups among others.

The project aims at systematically engaging with images of the West produced in the Arabic-Islamic sphere. The point is not only to highlight their diversity and thus to nuance public and academic debates on the topic, but to enquire into the origins of culturalist perceptions of the West. Research tends to look for these origins in the late 19th century, when Islamic(ate) societies were confronted with the colonial projects of European powers and thus forced to engage with the characteristics of the societies represented by these powers. Although there are some indications that a concept of “Western culture” already circulated earlier, no study has systematically analysed so far, when and why this new form of conceptualizing European and North American societies replaced earlier alternatives.

Against this backdrop, the project investigates, when, why and via which channels a conception of the West became part of discourses in Islamic(ate) societies. A terminological analysis, specifically of Arabic texts produced between the 16th and the 20th century, examines, in which contexts the Arabic terms “al-ġarb” (“the West”), “al-ġarbiyyūn” (“Occidentals”) and “ġarbī” (“Western”) appear as cultural collective terms, thus complementing or even replacing older conceptions of Europe (e.g. “Land of the Franks” – “bilād al-Ifranǧ”) and America (e.g. “Western India” – “al-Hind al-ġarbī”). The search for a kind of terminological “turning point” is linked to the question, in which milieus and for which purpose these cultural collective terms are used. Of interest is also how such terms relate to alternative, e.g. national, categorizations in terms of quantity and quality, and if their appearance rather results from concrete experiences with Western societies or from the translation and reception of European writings and inherent concepts of culture, processes that can be traced both in the Maghreb and the Mashreq of the 19th century.

The “contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous”

Second book project: Dr. Fernando Esposito

The “contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous”. The discourse of non-contemporaneity and chronopolitics during industrial modernity, 1860-1960.

During industrial modernity the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous was a decisive concept of temporal order. It is the object of inquiry of this transnational study. The topos of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous served Western societies to locate themselves and foreign societies in History and it helped them conceive of dynamic change as progress. Even though it was not until Pinder (1926) and Bloch (1935) that the topos was precisely phrased, the concept itself was founded on the scientific discourse of non-contemporaneity that was forming in ethnology and anthropology around the 1860s. The peoples that were scattered around the world, their social, economic, political and religious institutions were temporalized and ranked in an evolutionary model of cultural stages. Henceforth they were seen as either progressive and civilized or as backward, barbarian or primitive. This discourse of non-contemporaneity and the resulting temporal taxonomy were the basis for a chronopolitical praxis that was typical of industrial modernity: By civilizing, developing and modernizing, Western societies tried to abolish non-contemporaneity and to produce progress.

The semantic changes that the concept of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous underwent stand at the centre of my attention. Yet the project also asks how this knowledge of the non-contemporaneous was implemented. To clarify the semantic change I analyse two paradigmatic formations of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous that ethnology/anthropology brought forth: a classical one that was established in the last third of the nineteenth century, and an alternative formation that crystallized in the 1950s. Moreover, the project scrutinizes an exemplary implementation of the classical formation of the concept, i.e. the development of the Italian south that was promoted by the Italian state during the fin de siècle. By taking a closer look at the UNESCO’s fight against racism the study also illustrates the breach that opened up after the Second World War between the theorists of non-contemporaneity and the chronopolitcal practitioners. While the modernization of the global south that the practitioners were executing was based on the classical formation of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous, the anthropologists at the UNESCO started challenging the underlying notions of progress. They replaced diachronic dissonance by a synchronic plurality of sociocultural times and brought forth a new formation of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous, whose structures the study illustrates. 

The project aims at making a fundamental contribution to the history of time during industrial modernity. Furthermore, the added value of the project lies in the attempt to establish the chronopolitical perspective in historiography and to contribute to a systematization of pluritemporality.

Global Fascist Networks

research project of  Prof. Dr. Sven Reichardt

This project takes the three empires of the Axis – Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and the German Third Reich – in order to examine their interconnections from a global perspective, both from centre to centre and through their imperial peripheries. By focussing on networks of what we call ‘fascist brokers’, we explore the specificity – and originality – of the multipolar connectivity between the centres and peripheries of these imperial structures as they came to challenge a global order dominated by the western imperial powers.

This relational perspective towards fascism will lead to a new conceptual framework, decentring the core countries of fascism and the concepts of ‘Europeanness’ that dominate conventional comparative approaches. The global networks associated with the imperial expansion of fascism include the institutions and micro powers involved in circulation, condensation and implementation that constitute the asymmetrical power relations among the actors. Rather than assuming that the borderland exchanges in the Near and Middle East, eastern Europe or Asian and Pacific regions were imposed from the fascist centres, GloFaNet will focus on borderlands as laboratories for indigenous innovations, creative adaptations and multidirectional flows between periphery and centre. We will analyse the imperial interconnectivity, the fluidity of the processes by which fascist imperial regimes connected with one another and engaged their regional peripheries from the end of World War I to 1945.

For the first time, we are taking the borderlands as meaningful units for geopolitical connectivity with the fascist core empires. This innovative project is dedicated to studying the heretofore scarcely researched patterns of influence and resistence, pressures, challenges and rivalries, competition, selective borrowings, misreadings and wishful thinking in a multipolar web of interactions and socio-political brokerage between fascist centres and peripheries.

Intercultural Processes of Interaction and their Participants in the Western Mediterranean: Norman Sicily (1061–1194) and the Kingdom of València (1238–1276) in Comparison

Intercultural Processes of Interaction and their Participants in the Western Mediterranean: Norman Sicily (1061–1194) and the Kingdom of València (1238–1276) in Comparison

Second book project  Dr. Eric Böhme

Both Southern Italy and the Iberian Peninsula can be considered two particularly interesting zones of contact in the Western Mediterranean where, in the course of many centuries, Muslims, Jews, and Christians frequently engaged in processes of interaction which could be characterised by peaceful and pragmatic relations as well as by violence. In order to initiate and conduct interaction and communication between different cultures and religions effectively, all participants made use of mediators capable of acting as agents between the sides. Through combining and applying different verbal and cultural competences, these ‘border crossers’ were able to assume a variety of roles in these processes of communication, interaction and negotiation.

My second book seeks to analyse this phenomenon in two case studies to be ultimately compared to each other: Sicily and the Iberian Levante. In both areas of investigation, the centre of attention will be phases of major upheaval constituted by the expansion of Latin-Christian rule into regions which for centuries had been part of the dar al-islām. The new structures of rule could only be established and stabilised by means of constant processes of communication, interaction and negotiation. As mentioned above, mediators and mediator groups were of central importance in these processes and therefore will be a main focus of the research project. By analysing the multitude of processes of interaction which arose between the already resident and newly immigrated population groups as well as the representatives of the new rulers, it will be the main task to draw conclusions on the possible roles, motivations and behaviour patterns of these mediators as well as the mechanisms of communication established with their participation.

The main questions will be: (I) Which concrete moments of interaction between the resident ethnic, religious, social and legal groups and the new authorities can be traced? (II) How did these groups assert their demands towards the rulers and their representatives? (III) Who were the mediators in the underlying processes of communication, interaction and negotiation? What potentially motivated them to participate? (IV) Which patterns or mechanisms of communication and/or interaction between the participating sides (‘ruled’ – ‘mediators’ – ‘rulers’) emerged and were established? (V) Change of perspective: Which strategies did the rulers and their representatives apply in order to establish their authority over and within the heterogeneous structures of the different interest groups?

By studying these main questions, my second book aims at providing a comparative analysis of both case studies adding new perspectives to the scholarly discussion on the dynamics of communication and interaction in the multireligious and multicultural societies of the Mediterranean region.

Latin and Arabic

Research Project Prof. Dr. Daniel G. König

Social Histories of Linguistic Entanglement

For centuries, Latin and Arabic have played a preponderant role as languages of administration, intellectual endeavours and religion in the wider Euromediterranean sphere. In these functions, they are commonly regarded as cultural markers of European Christendom and the (Mediterranean) Islamic world.

Both linguistic systems came into contact in the ancient Roman Near East where entanglement was still limited to a restricted repertoire of forms. The Arabic-Islamic expansion into the western Mediterranean, dominated linguistically by Latin and its Romance derivates, significantly increased the number of Latin-Arabic forms of entanglement. From the early modern period onwards, however, the interaction of Latin and Arabic progressively receded into the sphere of academic endeavours while Romance-Arabic entanglement produced various phenomena, including a Mediterranean pidgin known as lingua franca. Since the European vernaculars increasingly supplanted Latin functionally, Latin ceased to fulfill certain functions of a world language, still largely retained by Arabic. For this reason, phenomena of Latin-Arabic entanglement only continue to exist in highly specialized academic milieus.

Phenomena of Latin-Arabic entanglement exist in different forms. These range from analysis (comments on the other language), regulation (statements on linguistic policy) via transformation and appropriation (oral / written translations, bilingual word-lists, glossaries, loans, calques) to graphic, literary or systemic forms of hybridity. Reconstructing the respective set of extralingual (e.g. social, political, economic etc.) conditions that prepared the ground for the emergence of specific forms of entanglement, provides insights into highly complex social and cultural constellations that cannot be explained in terms of religious or culturalist dichotomies, e.g. between “Christians” and “Muslims” or “Islam” and “the West.”

See Daniel G. König (ed.), Latin and Arabic. Entangled Histories (Heidelberg: HeiUP, 2019), Open access, DOI: .

Those interested in this field of research might also take a look at the homepages of the Centre for the History of Arabic Studies in Europe, hosted by the Warburg Institute in London; the Digital Averroes Research Environment, hosted by the Thomas-Institute in Cologne; the Forschungsstelle Philosophie- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte der griechisch-arabisch-lateinischen Tradition, hosted by the Department of Philosophy of Würzburg University, and the project Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus, hosted by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities.


Legal Cultures in the Medieval Mediterranean

Second book project  Dr. des. Theresa Jäckh

Legal Cultures in the Medieval Mediterranean: Communication and Decision Making amongst Multireligious Societies

My second book project seeks to investigate how groups and individuals in the multireligious societies of the medieval Mediterranean navigated between different legal arenas to seek advice or receive justice. More specifically, it will focus on how religious minorities (Jews and Christians in Islamic territories, and Muslims and Jews living under Christian rule), communicated and manoeuvred legal concerns outside their own religious-legal boundaries. To investigate such dynamic legal cultures, my study will draw on a diverse corpus of Arabic, Hebrew and Latin sources. Amongst these, it will particularly engage with a vast body of legal opinions. This corpus provides a macro-historical frame from which Islamic, Jewish and Christian/Roman legal conflicts and their ‘ideal’ rulings can be explored and examined in comparative perspectives. These findings will be contrasted with regional case studies which will consider the legal arena of the ruler’s court or notary offices and analyse these forums and their acts by reference to the prevailing legal system (Islamic vs Latin-Christian rule). As such, my book will not only seek to bridge a complex field of often-disconnected research disciplines and traditions, but also offer new findings on the Mediterranean’s multicultural and religious societies from a bottom up-perspective.

Literary stages of cultural hybridization

Literary stages of cultural hybridization. A digital text analysis on intertextual relations in the works of the church father Jerome.
Project fundet by the German Research Foundation (DFG, 2017-2020): Barbara Feichtinger,

Quid facit . . . cum evangeliis Maro? (Jer. ep. 22,29,7). By modifying a citation of Tertullian St. Jerome (around 347-420) refers in this question to Virgil and the gospels. He thereby draws eloquently classical-pagan and Christian literature and culture tight. This literary motivated constitution of cultural hybridity accompanies the ascetic, translator of the bible and exegete Jerome - a liminal mediator between different cultural spaces of the Greek and increasingly Christian influenced east of the Roman Empire and the still more pagan Latin West - in his entire work. Jerome`s strong focus on literature and the reading of the very same as part of the constitution of Christian identity in late antiquity suggests to take a closer look at the phenomenon of intertextuality in his work. Therefore, the project regards intertextual relations firstly as the literary stage to deal with questions of cultural positioning and it considers them secondly as markers for literary processing of cultural transformation and hybridization through Christianization. Starting from Jerome`s letters classical-pagan and Christian intertextual references will be examined in regard of their configuration and narrative embeddedness. How does Jerome weave citations and allusions into his (autobiographical) texts? Are there differences in marking, pondering and valuating the source texts and their related cultural spaces pointing out for a narrative strategy? Can the phenomenon of intertextuality be regarded as a literary instrument of authorization and legitimation of writing or as a strategy of cultural distinction? To what extent is intertextuality entangled to Jerome`s conception of Christian authorship? To detect intertextual relations there will be used digital text analysis methods initially which are in particular designed for the highly inflected Latin language. So, automatic analyses can provide very fast and systematic results examining a vast amount of textual material of Jerome`s letters, classical authors and Christian texts. These results need due to their mass further visualization in order to extract information. The following close reading of allusions is aligned contrastive with a cultural emphasis. A further aim of the analysis is to compare the results obtained by both, digital approaches and traditional methods of manual commentators, in order to identify the potentials of each method as well as the combination of both. Methodical results will be published, too.

Ongoing project:

Quoting as a narrative strategy. A digital hermeneutic analysis of intertextual phenomena using the example of the letters of Church Father Jerome.
The objective of the (ongoing) project is to develop and establish a differentiated classification system for the analysis of quotations and allusions, which more closely examines quoting as a discursivenarrative strategy und enables a deeper understanding of cultural hybridization processes of Christian late antiquity. Beyond a comprehensive account of Church Father Jerome’s intertextual strategy, the project aims to formulate generalizing methodical statements about quoting techniques in (late) antiquity. The project rests on two pillars of equal importance: a primarily computer-based as well as a historico-cultural hermeneutic path of analysis. Specifically, as a first goal, the mixed-methods approach of computerbased detection of intertextual phenomena shall be expanded into a universally applicable digital hermeneutic analysis model for text references. The second goal is to develop a holistic picture of Jerome’s referencing technique based on a comprehensive structurally- as well as semantically-oriented analysis of his usage of antique and biblical pre-texts. In order to be able to compare the computer-aided results to the findings of the highly fruitful pilot project on the intertextual usage of Virgil’s Aeneid and interpret them, additional text comparisons are drawn to Virgil’s Eclogues and Georgica, Cicero’s oeuvre as well as authors and works, from which no quotations have been found in Jerome’s epistolary corpus yet. For this, the digital filter specifications must be improved through additional semantic parameters. For an even further-reaching historical contextualization of Jerome’s intertextual strategy, the analyses are extended to Augustine’s and Ambrose’s epistolary corpora. With regard to its intrinsic value for the cultural sciences, the narratological investigation of Jerome’s quoting technique is continued as well, first, by systematically examining Jerome’s quotations from the Bible and the classics by means of a comprehensive classification grid. Second, the semantic reference analysis is supposed to contribute to a deeper understanding of the contents of the letters and to innovative (individual) interpretations of the letters of friendship in Jerome’s early communication network. For a subsequent classification and evaluation of the quoting techniques employed in the early letters, the analyzed corpus will be expanded and include letters from Jerome’s later period and letters with different main topics, as well as other types of texts (e.g. Biblical praefationes) of Jerome’s oeuvre. The new corpus is then subjected to an analog systematic examination. Because a large number of findings is to be expected, methodical research shall help to find adequate forms of presentation of intertextual phenomena ensuring a recipient-friendly way to communicate the results which transcend traditional extensive appendices.

Mediterranean entanglements: France and Algeria between colonization and decolonization

Research project  Prof. Dr. Manuel Borutta

In his current book project Manuel Borutta explores the specific role Southern France played within the colonization and decolonization of Algeria. By focusing on interactions between the island of Corsica, port cities such as Port-Vendres, Sète, and Marseille, rural areas like the Midi viticole on the one hand and different parts of Algeria (Oran, Algiers, Constantine) on the other, his monograph will bring together strands of scholarship that are still compartmentalized into local, regional, national and colonial subfields. In this way, his book aims to show that Southern Europe and North Africa were so closely linked by Mediterranean entanglements that they cannot be analyzed separately.

The Modern Mediterranean: Dynamics of a World Region 1800 / 2000

The Modern Mediterranean: Dynamics of a World Region 1800 / 2000
DFG Modern Mediterranean Research Network
Coordinator: Professor Manuel Borutta

see website of project

The Making of Illegality

Postdoc Project: Dr. des. Andreas Guidi

Recent media coverage of the Mediterranean emphasizes disputes about the boundaries between legality and illegality in terms of human mobility, state intervention, and circulation of commodities. Reports about human trafficking, arms trade violating treaties and embargos, circuits of drug smuggling operated by organized criminals have become part of our perception of the maritime region. To discuss the modern history of the Mediterranean, its nomos is just as important as the flipside, an antinomos through which territoriality and extra-territoriality are negotiated through illicit and illegal practices.

Whereas the concepts and terms used in discussing illegality in the Mediterranean have largely been produced by the social sciences, a longue durée historical perspective on the making of illegality using the Mediterranean as a spatial unit is missing. My post-doc project aims at filling this gap by retracing the geography, the human figurations, and the juridical framework that shaped illicit and illegal economies in this region. Throughout the period analyzed, a mix of private and state actors, sailors and laborers, captains and diplomats, traders and brokers were involved in these economies, although the balance of power between them oscillated according to the context.

This project thinks large in time and space. I aim at analyzing moving boundaries between legality and illegality from the Napoleonic wars to the early 21st century and to create an inclusive narrative on the whole Mediterranean. This ambitious choice is pondered upon the  connectivity throughout the region, which made and unmade illegal practices, and it builds upon existing historiographic literature which has provided excellent, yet often small-scale or short time-analysis.

Leaning on a multilingual repertoire of archival sources, I will thus study maritime borderlands between nowadays Spain, Morocco, and Algeria, Italy, Malta, Tunisia and Libya, Albania, Montenegro, Greece and Italy, as well as Turkey, Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon are the most salient portions of the Mediterranean where local economies have been intersecting international flow of resources at the threshold of illegality. In terms of temporality, an overarching narrative covering the 19th and 20th centuries relies on the palimpsestic feature of these economies. Rather than linear developments and archival continuities, longstanding trade networks and routes can become idle and reappear at the liminal space between according to the contingent situation, which results in a fragmented landscape of documentary records on the phenomenon of illegality.

In particular, my project aims to discuss how illicit and illegal economies of the borderlands evolved from informal and decentralized practices to organized networks and accumulation of capital, how war and peace impacted the geographies and the figurations of smuggling, and how juridical notions interacted with state interventions targeting actors on the ground.

Transmediterranean History. Commented Anthology of Primary Sources

Transmediterranean History. Commented Anthology of Primary Source
Daniel G. König, Theresa Jäckh, Eric Böhme (Eds.)

As opposed to its Franco- and Anglophone counterparts, the German book market only proffers very few anthologies of primary sources that provide access to qualitative translations of Latin and Arabic sources and, in consequence, a well-founded insight into relations between medieval Latin-Christian Europe and the Arabic-Islamic sphere. Given that historical themes play an important role in current politicized debates, e.g. about Islam, integration, salafism, Islamophobia, Christian-Muslim relations, the anthology’s purpose is to collect, display and comment selected Latin and Arabic primary sources and concomitant research as to facilitate a nuanced appraisal of this large variety of medieval relations. The anthology will provide insight into the fields of political, economic, social, cultural, religious and intellectual history within an enlarged medieval framework (c. 6th–17th cent.).

An excellent collection of commented primary sources on this wide field of research, including texts, images and artefacts, can be found under:

Open access, DOI:

Youth between Empires

completed Ph.D. project:  Dr. des. Andreas Guidi

My doctoral research discussed a change in sovereignty observable in Rhodes in the first half of the 20th century. I investigated how Italy’s rule – first as a military occupation (1912-1923) and then as a civil administration of a Possedimento (1923-1945) – transformed a former Ottoman Mediterranean province by asking how the socialization of the local population changed in this period.

I argued for connecting the historiographies of the Ottoman Empire with that of Italian colonialism by stressing the legacy of a dynamic Ottoman province as a challenge, but also a resource, for Italian rule.  I inserted political institutions in flux in broader domains of socialization. These included the family, education, work and leisure, mobility, and political activism, each discussed in a separate chapter but connected to each other.

The focus on generational dynamics is useful to embed individual actors in their family socialization and to analyze the circulation of resources within the family. Furthermore, generational bonds were negotiated and thematized outside the domestic sphere: a new concept of education stressed the demarcation between parents and children, normative stances on productivity and idleness stigmatized youth behavior, the socialization of mobile people revolved autonomy from distant relatives and new bonds with peers at the destination setting, political activism increasingly attracted youth, which became a target for diverse ideologies.

My research addresses the transformation of the society in Rhodes through the interactions between families, communal institutions, and government authorities while discussing the balance of power holding them together. These interactions help bypass a dichotomy separating narratives “from above” and “from below”, and allow to highlight the confessional diversity of Rhodes (Orthodox, Muslims, Jews, Catholics). I discussed community structures, citizenship regimes, and – especially in the 1930s – race as categories of power affecting the whole population beyond confessional boundaries, through similar challenges but also different responses. The use of archival sources in Italian, Ottoman Turkish, Greek, Ladino, and French is therefore not only a methodological advantage point, but the very prerogative of this endeavor.

Managing a post-Ottoman setting implied three challenges for Italian rule. Firstly, preserving and reinforcing politics of difference based on confession by domesticating communal institutions. Secondly, severing the bonds between Rhodes and a foreign Mediterranean context itself undergoing profound changes after World War One. Lastly, increasing the interference on the everyday socialization of the local population of all confessions through the colonial police. These challenges were often translated in generational terms. Authorities propagated the idea of a “new generation” of loyal Italian colonial subjects, communities denounced generational discontinuity as a danger for their coherence, families struggled in managing generational bonds through a widespread scarcity of resources in a socio-political world in flux.

The research also led me to some conceptual theses on generations and youth in settings marked by rapid political and social transformations. For government, communities, and families in Rhodes, “generations” and “youth” were situational, correlative, and projective notions. The collectivity they targeted could vary depending on the contingency of the situation; they were always related to values and norms, sometimes to praise and sometimes to stigmatize behaviors; they legitimized present actions by projecting them in normative ideas of the past and the future, either as a rupture or as a continuity.

Mediterranean Disentanglement: The Southern Adriatic in the Age of European Territorialization, 1718-1856

Research project by Jovo Miladinović