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Week 2

Theme 1 Identity and identification: linking the self to the skin

 Week 2

 Establishing Early Modern Identity

How and why did individuals, communities, and institutions of the state seek to establish identity in the early modern period? To what extent were such identities ‘embodied’ – rooted in physical traits or characteristics – and to what extent did they rely on other attributes, or on relationships? Did ‘identity’ carry the same weight and meaning then as it does now?

Seminar: The Return of Martin who?

Using one of the most famous ever historical cases of contested identity, that of Martin Guerre, we will explore questions of how we know who we know – and indeed, who we and those around us are. Have a look at this translation of a key historical text on this case [weblink below] and if possible, watch some or all of the film, on reserve in the Library or even snippets of the musical (yes, really: a contemporary musical based in early modern court records. Who would have thought?) available on YouTube.

 Jean de Coras Translation

 

Required Reading:

  • John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), Chapters 1 and 2 If you cannot access this volume, try: John Torpey, 'Coming and Going: On the State Monopolization of the Legitimate "Means of Movement"', Sociological Theory 16 (Nov. 1998): 239-259. JSTOR

Or

  • Valentin Groebner, ‘Describing the Person, Reading the Signs in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Identity Papers, Vested Figures, and the Limits of Identification, 1400-1600’, in Jane Caplan and John Torpey (eds), Documenting Individual Identity The Development of State Practices since the French Revolution (Princeton: PUP, 2001): 15-27.

NOTE: this chapter can be hard to read in places; don’t give up. Read on, and focus on the facts and stories that the author brings in as evidence, rather than on the theoretical analysis.

 Background reading

 Film: The Return of Martin Guerre

Natalie Zemon Davies, The Return of Martin Guerre (various editions)

Barbara B. Diefendorf and Carla Hesse, eds, Culture and identity in early modern Europe (1500-1800): essays in honor of Natalie Zemon Davis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993)

Andrea Geselle, ‘Domenica Saba Takes to the Road: Origins and development of a Modern Passport system in Lombardy-Veneto’, in Jane Caplan and John Torpey (eds), Documenting Individual Identity The Development of State Practices since the French Revolution (Princeton: PUP, 2001): 199-217

Michael Wolfe, ed. Changing identities in early modern France (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996).

New Readings for Paper Writers:

Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, 'Visible Bodies: Power, Subordination and Identity in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World', Journal of Social History, Volume 39, Number 1, Fall 2005, pp. 39-64