Rethinking Imperial Space 13 / 14 July 2022

Organized by the Mediterranean Platform Konstanz in cooperation with the Centre for Cultural Inquiry (Zentrum für Kulturwissenschaftliche Forschung, ZKF) and the Dr. K. H. Eberle Research Centre "European Cultures in a Multipolar World"

13 July 2022, 17.15 - 19.00, Room Y 311
Keynote Lecture by Jane Burbank / Fred Cooper (University of New York):
Empires and Space

Streaming of Introduction and Keynote

Abstract of Keynote:

The essence of empire is the extension of power across space and cultural difference. Empires
make connections over long distances and among unlike societies. But they also break and
prevent connections, as imperial leaders try to organize economic and political life along vertical
relations to their centers of power and to impede horizontal relations among incorporated
territories. Imperial connections are asymmetric, often conflictual. Extending power meant
coming to grips with space as it actually existed, in a geographical sense but also a political one,
as configured by earlier and ongoing politics. Subordinated people may evade or oppose imperial
power or they may twist the empire’s interventions and innovations to their own benefit. Rival
empires with their own lines of connection and networks of many types – trade, religious,
communal – crisscross the empire’s claimed space.
Empires attempted to maintain control over densely and lightly populated agrarian regions,
deserts, seas, oceans, rivers, islands, mountains, valleys, each of which posed particular
limitations and possibilities for incorporation, resistance, or reconfiguration of imperial power.
Historians’ recent focus on Atlantic, Indian Ocean, or Mediterranean worlds can be augmented
by the new interest in terrestrial connections (Saharan or Eurasian) and riverine or litoral routes.
These perspectives are not alternatives; they complement each other. A major question is the
relationship of different kinds of space to others within, across, or against imperial formations.
Our introductory talk is intended, through examples and analysis, to open up discussion of these

14 July 2022, 9.00 - 20.00, Room K 07
Workshop Rethinking Imperial Space

Contributions by: Manuel Borutta, Ulrich Gotter,
Daniel G. König, Kirsten Mahlke, Nora Lafi,
Malte Fuhrmann, and Andreas Guidi

A great deal of world history is imperial history. The Mediterranean in particular was strongly affected by empires across the ages. Some of them, like the Roman, remained “long-lasting reference points for later empire-builders” worldwide, while others, such as the Umayyad caliphate or Habsburg Spain, had a global impact as well. Thus the region seems to be a good starting point to rethink imperial space. Although the Roman Empire has been researched extensively, the ‘new Mediterranean studies’ have neglected the topic of empire so far, and the post-Roman Mediterranean has been no privileged area of investigation for imperial history. Against this background, our workshop compares trans-Mediterranean empires that had a firm basis in the region but also transcended it. Since empires are large political bodies, they are fundamentally challenged by spatial distance. Therefore, we will focus on the imaginary geographies and spatial practices of trans-Mediterranean empires in order to understand how imperial space within and beyond the region was conceptualized, shaped and remembered. We will do this with a threefold aim: (1) By contrasting distinctions between ‚cores and peripheries‘ or ‚metropoles and colonies‘ that are well established in theories of empire, with alternative forms of political organization such as the ‘municipality’, the ‘commonwealth’, or the ‘nation-state’, we wish to sharpen our understanding of imperial space. (2) By comparing pre-modern with modern empires5, we try to overcome the narrow time range of the ‘new Mediterranean studies’ that often exclude the modern age or relegate responsibility to anthropologists when the latter is concerned. (3) By focussing on empires that all transcended the region, we wish to intensify the dialogue between Mediterranean and global history.

Workshop Programme 14 July: Trans-Mediterranean Perspectives

09.00   Manuel Borutta (Konstanz):

09.30   Ulrich Gotter (Konstanz):
Communities, the Imperial Framework, and the Sea: The Mediterranean Dimension of the Roman Empire

10.30   Coffee Break

10.45   Daniel G. König (Konstanz):
From Caliphate to Commonwealth: Political Fragmentation and the Resilience of Imperial Standards

11.45   Kirsten Mahlke (Konstanz):
Imperial counternarrative(s) in 16th Century South American Chronicles

12.45   Lunch Break

14.15   Nora Lafi (Berlin):
Rethinking Ottoman Imperiality: an Urban and Mediterranean Perspective

15.15   Manuel Borutta (Konstanz):
Rethinking Modern France: Algeria, Corsica, and the Midi

16.15   Coffee Break

16.45   Malte Fuhrmann (Konstanz):
Germany's Mediterranean Empire: Colonial Fantasies and Bloody Consequences

17.45   Andreas Guidi (Konstanz):
Fascist Colonialism as Post-Ottoman History: Imperial Continuities in a changing Mediterranean Space viewed from Rhodes

19.00   Final Discussion

20.30   Dinner