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Week 2: Individuals and Communities

This week we will consider relationships between individuals and the communities they belonged to. Some go-betweens moved and mediated between different religious or cultural communities, either of their free will as diplomats or traders or due to their membership of minority or migrant populations. Two such examples we will discuss concern Iberian Muslims whose life trajectories saw them pass back and forth between North Africa and Europa. Our third case consists of the members of the Julfan Armenian trade network, who rather operated as part of a community of go-betweens. LINK.

Required readings

Sebouh David Aslanian, From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), Ch. 1: 'From Trade Diaspora to Circulation Societies', pp. 1-22. Link.

Natalie Zemon Davis, Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006), pp. 3-13, 109-124. Link.

Primary Source Texts (select one)

Leo Africanus, Robert Brown (ed.), The History and Description of Africa and of the Notable Things therein contained, written by Al-Hassan Ibn-Mohammed Al-Wezaz Al-Fasi, a Moor, baptised as Giovanni Leone, but better known as Leo Africanus. Done into English in the Year 1600, by John Pory (London: Hakluyt Society, 1896), pp. 4-11 and 179-190. Link.

Matar, Nabil, In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2003), 'Ahmad bin Qasim [al-Hajari]', pp. 5-21. Link.

Seminar Questions

- What differences do you see in the ways individuals and communities perform intermediary roles?

- To what extent is the notion of 'trade diaspora' appropriate to describe the Julfan Armenians?

- What are the benefits of using non-Western sources when studying global history?

- In what ways is the figure of al-Hasan al-Wazzan/Leo Africanus read by modern audiences?

- How does John Pory (‘To the Reader’) construct Leo Africanus’ status as a reputable go-between?

- How does Leo Africanus (‘Description of Africa’) represent Africans and how is his own subject position manifested?

- In what ways does Ahmad bin Qasim mediate between worlds?

- Compare the cultural positioning of Ahmad bin Qasim to that of Leo Africanus: what are the differences and similarities?

Further reading

Andaya, Leonard Y, ‘The “Informal Portuguese Empire” and the Topasses in the Solor Archipelago in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 41.3 (2010): 391-420.

Anderson, R., ‘The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-Century Brazil’, Journal of Latin American Studies 28.3 (1996): 545-566.

Arbel, Benjamin, Trading Nations: Jews and Venetians in the Early-Modern Eastern Mediterranean (Leiden/New York: Brill, 1995).

Black, Crofton, 'Leo Africanus's "Descrittione dell'Africa" and Its Sixteenth-Century Translations', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 65 (2002), 262-272.

Brooks, George E., Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003).

Duarte, Ramón E., ‘Producing Yeni Dünya for an Ottoman Readership: The Travels of Ilyas bin Hanna al-Mawsuli in Colonial Latin America, 1675-1683’, in: Albrecht Classen (ed.), East Meets West in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: Transcultural Experiences in the Premodern World (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013): 687-700.

García-Arenal, Mercedes, and Gerard Wiegers, A Man of Three Worlds: Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew in Catholic and Protestant Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopins University Press, 2003).

Ghobrial, John-Paul, “The Secret Life of Elias of Babylon and the Uses of Global Microhistory”, Past and Present 222.1 (2014): 51-93.

Kagan, Richard L. and Philip D. Morgan (eds.), Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

Rietbergen, Peter, ‘A Maronite Mediator Between Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean Cultures: Ibrahim Al Hakilani, or Abraham Ecchellense (1605–1664) Between Christendom and Islam’, Lias 16 (1989): 13–42.

Trivellato, Francesca, The Familiarity of Strangers. The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (Yale University Press, New Haven & London: 2012).

Yannakakis, Yanna, The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

Zhiri, Oumelbanine, ‘Leo Africanus and the Limits of Translation’, in: Carmine Di Biase (ed.), Travel and Translation in the Early Modern Period (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006): 175-186.

Armenian Merchant

BBC Documentary

Leo Africanus: A Man Between Worlds (2011)