Current public discourse is dominated by the seemingly contradictory concepts of “the clash of civilizations” on the one hand, and the globalized digital superhighway, on the other. While scholars recognize that the digital revolution is rapidly producing its own hierarchical structures of knowledge production and circulation, we are also intensely interested in the ways in which the very nature of our scholarly networks might be transformed in the process, allowing for qualitatively different types of interaction across linguistic and disciplinary boundaries. Given this, a discussion of historical modes of scholarly interaction across linguistic, religious, and political boundaries is more important than ever. This is especially so because dominant social science and public discourses tend to assume that insurmountable obstacles to communication between different cultures and religions, particularly between Islam and Christianity, have typified history from time immemorial.
The Roots and Routes Summer Institutes aim to question this prevailing paradigm and to provide a coherent framework for new directions in research by exploring how scholarly networks past and present were instrumental in the acquisition, translation, and dissemination of texts and technologies. Starting in June 2011, the three annual week-long institutes will bring together international scholars of digital humanities with faculty and graduate students in the field of pre-modern Mediterranean studies from the University of Toronto and beyond. The institutes are organized around three annual thematic clusters: (1) Spatialities and Borderlands (2011); (2) Multi-ethnic sociability and materiality (2012); and (3) Translation, mediation, and circulation (2014). Together, participants will chart out the multiplex networks of interaction that profoundly transformed practices of meaning-making in and about the Mediterranean from the eighth century to the Scientific Revolution. They will also engage in developing digital platforms and research tools—including a Web 2.0 collaborative research portal and a multimedia text source—that will generate new types of knowledge about these networks and disseminate that knowledge to new publics.
The first of three annual, week-long Connaught Summer Institutes on the topic of Scholarly Networks and Knowledge Production in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean and in the Digital Age took place at the University of Toronto from June 27th to July 1st, 2011.
Aims. The Roots and Routes Summer Institutes convene a multi-disciplinary and multi-generational group of researchers and students studying the pre-modern Mediterranean along with IT and digital humanities experts from the GTA and beyond. The Institutes aim to (1) facilitate interdisciplinary conversations in the emerging field of pre-modern Mediterranean studies; (2) address the conceptual and methodological linkages between pre-modern and contemporary scholarly networks and modes of knowledge production and circulation; and (3) help participants develop collaborative digital projects that directly contribute to their own scholarship and teaching.
Theme. 2011’s Institute, under the theme of “Spatialities and Borderlands,” addresses the significance of terrestrial and maritime borderlands as porous zones through which objects, people, and practices passed, and in which they interacted. The Institute also explored spatial representation and forms of knowledge, and sought to consider in a sustained way the impact of digital technologies on inquiries into the sensory dimensions of the past, including sights, sounds, and smells.
Format. The Roots and Routes Summer Institute combines participants' thematic roundtable discussions and informal presentations of research materials with hands-on workshops led by digital humanities experts. In lieu of traditional papers, participants are encouraged to explore new formats for presenting their research questions and findings, and to team up with information technology specialists and digital humanities scholars working outside the Mediterranean in order to develop digital tools for the analysis and/or presentation of their research.