Southern thought and other essays on the mediterranean

The Mediterranean: A New Imaginary

Traditional Mediterraneanist anthropology, with its fixation on honor and shame complexes, rural villages, and agrarian political economy, gives us little sense of fluidity and motion aside from shepherds roaming in their fields.

In addition, even though the region itself is defined by the sea, in fact most studies of Mediterranean cultures have largely ignored the sea except when it defines a limit or horizon. As a consequence, sea-based modes of being and the role of the sea as bridge and barrier to cultural flows and exchanges have been undertheorized Bromberger In the twenty-first century these models are insufficient for analyzing the increasingly complex ebbing and flowing of people and ideologies, both within the cultural and imaginary space we call the Mediterranean and between this area and others in northern Europe, North and West Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere.

The new Mediterranean, as many scholars have pointed out e. Over a million Moroccans traverse the Straits of Gibraltar each summer returning from homes in Europe; the flows of their remittances as well as hybrid ideologies of identity Are they European Moroccans? Moroccan Europeans? The Mediterranean, like other intermediary geographical, political, and cultural zones, is a site of contradictions and indeterminacies—not only in terms of geographical and political realities, but also in our conceptual modes of thinking about subjectivity.

A focus on fluidity and flux suggests a novel cartographic imagination for the analysis of culture in the Mediterranean. Following Cooke, Cassano, and Chambers, I envision the Mediterranean as a volatile space for the promotion and contestation of ideologies of nationalism, regionalism, and even notions of peace and tolerance. Mediterranean thinking does not merely entail replacing unity with diversity or finding unity in the diversity of the region a sort of sea-based E pluribus unum. We need to insist on plurality, indeterminacy, and change as the basis of Mediterranean cultures and of culture in general.

Embracing a rhizomatic, aquacentric model requires analysis of culture as a network of potentialities and actualities in particular cultural-historical moments, as tendencies and particularities, trends and individual life stories. Attention to circulation, flow, and mobility not only allows us to rethink aspects of the Mediterranean as a culture area, but promotes a deterritorialization of social and cultural theory. Unmooring culture from the landed biases of the nation-state allows us to glimpse and taste a Mediterranean basin both more alive to cultural exchange and dynamism and more threatening to Anglo-Saxon narratives of modernity.

An aquacentric theory of culture suggests a different sort of ethnographic practice as well, one less anchored to terra firma and its landed ideologies and more open to navigating new spaces, new cartographies of the imagination. The itineraries reveal not a Mediterranean space of unity and diversity, but an emergent assemblage of ideologies and pathways of rupture as well as connection. Why music and food? Music and food embody and embrace this rhizomatic complexity. As the two most transportable forms of cultural heritage of itinerant cultures and peoples, musical and culinary practices and lore animate the cultural imaginary and transport ideologies of selfhood and person.

In their production, circulation, and consumption, they also discipline bodily habits—in music through the practices of performing, listening, and dancing Cowan ; Shannon ; Small , and in food through preparation, circulation, and commensal consumption Allison ; Counihan ; Sutton Both have the power to create states of being in the world that allow for the construction, reenactment, and contestation of communal memories and histories.


In a condition of scarcity and within an ever-narrowing bandwidth of viability, the peoples of the Sahel are facing impossible pressures to coexist. Institutional Login. By clicking or navigating the site, you agree to allow our collection of information on and off Facebook through cookies. In politics, however, there is no such thing as permanent enemies or absolute friends. Track My Order. Pezzani, and S. The French, however, did not give up their claim, and in agreed to a partition of the kingdom with Ferdinand of Aragon, who abandoned his cousin King Frederick.

Culinary cultures, also eminently portable, transcend national boundaries even as they are rhetorically deployed to enforce them. In combination, music and food are powerful conduits for the transnational movement of people, ideologies, capital, and mass media images Appadurai ; songs and recipes travel wherever people go, but they also travel where people cannot go, or to where they might hope to go, sounding and tasting at the same time spaces of hope, desire, and longing.

This is an apt description of the new cultural dynamics of the Mediterranean basin, where music and food have come to mark boundaries between people even as they transgress, transform, and reinterpret them. Like the waters of the Mediterranean itself, musical and culinary practices construct and challenge cultural imaginaries, offering spaces for the elaboration of memories and desires and for the creative play with identities, margins, and boundaries.

Tracing musical and culinary itineraries can help us overcome our terrestrial geopolitical biases and understand the deeper core of cultural creation and dynamism in the region. Yet aside from indirect references to the linkages between these domains, scholars have paid scant attention to the ways musical and gastronomic cultures are coperformed, how music and food are often coconsumed and coperformed.

Moreover, the circulations of songs and recipes also trace emotional, affective, mnemonic, as well as geographical itineraries. Moving beyond the confines of the Mediterranean, such an approach helps us understand culture in general as wavelike, indeterminate, in flux, though with certain ports of call and anchorage points that give it temporary groundings and moorings of stability and continuity. I begin with music. Many genres of music circulate in and around the Mediterranean today. As a result of migration patterns that have grown both more intensive and extensive in the past decade Monzini , other musical styles have emerged in the Mediterranean space in the last decade: not only transnational or global popular forms such as rap, pop, rock, jazz, classical, and world music, but also songs from West Africa, Egypt, the Arab lands, sub-Saharan Africa, and as far away as India, Pakistan, and China Plastino Later stanzas detail that while some may have financially benefited from being abroad, homesickness and the travails of war bring them home, by the grace of God.

The religious referents are important in the overall thematic of the song, as they were important undercurrents in early twentieth-century nationalist sentiment.

Moving to France in , from the s through the s she became one of the most popular recording artists in French history. Her Mediterranean roots—Italian born, Egyptian raised—were important signifiers of difference in a France coming to terms with its own trans-Mediterranean dilemma, the Algerian Civil War. Dalida made a major splash internationally in the s, with successful concerts and recordings in North America and worldwide.

As a global dance hit, the song has at once transcended its Mediterranean origins and at the same time reinscribed them in a wider circuit of European and global self-fashioning, in which the Mediterranean and especially its southern and eastern shores plays a constitutive role. The song and its cultural history and itineraries are fascinating examples of the subversion of national borders and the decentering of subjectivity in and of the Mediterranean.

In its original form, it spoke to the displacements and aspirations of a nation struggling under colonialism. In the voice of a postcolonial subject, the song reveals the fractured nature of contemporary Mediterranean subjectivities: it performs boundaries and subjectivities in states of flux; it carries echoes of rupture. The circulation of the song traces the arcs of trans-Mediterranean memory cultures, invented traditions, and what we might call, borrowing from Rosaldo , a postimperialist nostalgia and desire for the Mediterranean Other.

They collectively sound a Mediterranean that both draws us into its expanse and exceeds our capacity to define and limit it. Culinary Itineraries in the Mediterranean: Circulations of Taste. Leaving the circulation of song in the Mediterranean echo chamber, I turn now to gustatory circulations. Like music, food is both portable, mobile, intimately tied to conceptions of home, and literally incorporated into bodies, both individual and sociopolitical. As a moral substance, food, in its production, circulation, and consumption, engages collective identities and social contradictions, national histories and cultural indeterminacies, memories and amnesias.

Food also intimately connects with forms of knowing and distinction, hence the close linguistic associations in many Mediterranean languages between taste and knowledge: the Spanish sabor-saber, the French saveur-savoir, and the Arabic dhawq , which applies to both taste and knowledge in Sufi thought Chittick In this way, cuisine as a multisensorial moral substance links peoples in such a way as to challenge the cultural and political forgetting at the heart of nationalist agendas. From ancient to early modern times, the spice trade linked Mediterranean populations with a far-flung network of middlemen and traders as far as sub-Saharan Africa, northern Europe, East Asia, and, beginning in the late fifteenth century, the New World Abulafia ; Abu-Lughod ; Freedman ; Wright This extensive trade in food commodities linked Mediterranean ports such as Barcelona, Valencia, Naples, Rhodes, Tangier, Salonika, Athens, Marseille, Tunis, Tripoli, Ancona, Trieste, Alexandria, Carthage, Beirut, Genoa, Venice, Majorca, and many others in a vast network spanning the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, with connections extending globally.

They encode cultural and social memories and forms of nostalgia and are at the same time manuals for a type of self-fashioning in a postmodern era of multiple and contrasting subjectivities. They at once are important documents in the construction of national identities and carry within them traces of centrifugal cultural forces that undermine them. Recent ethnographic and historical research has focused on the production, circulation, and consumption of food commodities such as sugar Mintz , olive oil Meneley , coffee Roseberry , and salt see Matvejevic , In other words, it is an aquacentric text par excellence.

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Roden begins the revised and updated version of her classic text with a story of her first recipe: ful medames or ful mudammas , a popular Egyptian dish of cooked fava beans in olive oil with cumin, garlic, lemon, onion, and sometimes tomato and parsley, often served at breakfast time but eaten in Egypt throughout the day. Delicious ecstasy! The lowly fava bean, for the great modern composer as for the exiled Egyptian schoolgirl, symbolized the comforts of home.

People migrate and travel, and their ideologies of home travel with them, often in culinary form—and usually the basic national dish comes to stand metonymically for the entire nation. The recipes for these dishes then become manuals for rehearsing a rupture and reliving its momentary repair.

Moreover, the historical and contemporary links between Middle Eastern and southern European cooking are well known Rodinson , Zaouali From spices and ingredients, to the names of dishes and preparations, the Mediterranean—from Syria to Spain, Malta to Morocco, Turkey to Tunisia—has been a crossroads not only of peoples but of foods and ideologies of cooking and eating that one can literally taste when voyaging about the sea.

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The Mediterranean space encourages the rhizomatic diffusion of gastronomic ideologies, recipes, and spices that form powerful food chains, some manifest, others hidden, connecting peoples both in and across the region and with others both near and far. Indeed, in an era of increasingly policed Mediterranean borders and resurgent cultural and culinary nationalisms, the cookbook qua memoir reads as a marker of a rupture. Dishes that are the distillation of centuries of cooking, of culture, of historical composition and combination not only evoke the aroma and tastes of a place; they also register what elsewhere has often been brutally cancelled and institutionally ignored.

Chambers — These debates sometimes lighthearted, but often very serious are also reminiscent of recent food politics in crisis-ridden Europe. In a similar fashion, the anti-immigrant sentiment of extreme right-wing groups in Greece, including the now outlawed Golden Dawn, have often found expression through food: restrict the circulation of certain foods, the message seems to be, and you restrict the flows of the people who produce and consume them.

Ironically, international agencies such as UNESCO have had a hand in the promotion of gastronationalisms in their nomination of towns and even culinary traditions as World Intangible Heritage. Terrestrial models of culture cannot capture the nuances of flowing circulating forms.

They form the material and affective linkages in a widespread, decentered, and indeterminate cultural system in which taste is knowledge, the savor of life the savoir faire of making do in new lands and circumstances. I have argued in this essay that scholars of the Mediterranean can benefit from an aquacentric, rhizomatic orientation toward cultural forms in this region, for doing so allows us to transcend the landed certainties of a terrestrial knowledge and capture the nuances of lived experience in situations of flow, flux, and transition.

The two brief cases I have explored in the realms of music and cuisine are merely two intertwined strands in a multifaceted and ever-changing Mediterranean tapestry. Moreover, I argue that unmooring social theory from the dictates of terrestrial national models opens up new trajectories for cultural analysis that do not attend to fixities and coherence, but take disruption, erasure, and nostalgic reconstruction as the basis of analysis, not only for a Mediterranean modernity, but for global modernity as well.

Mediterranean marketing and southern thinking: retrospects and prospects

In an era marked by increasingly rapid movements of capital, technology, peoples, and mass-mediated subjectivities and ideologies, an aquacentric, off-shore anthropology grants us a novel perspective from which to devise social theory. Abulafia, David. The Great Sea.

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Find this resource:. Abu-Lughod, Janet. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Aksoy, Ozan E. Allison, Anne. Appadurai, Arjun. New York: Cambridge University Press. Cookbooks in Contemporary India.