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 facilitate a more coherent and explicitly transdisciplinary analytical framework for Mediterranean studies using digital tools and methodologies. The series of three annual institutes, hosted by the University of Toronto Scarborough, 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) Translation, mediation, and circulation (2012); and Multi-ethnic sociability and materiality (2013). 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.
Format: The institute features a combination of individual presentations, seminar-style discussions of shared materials, hands-on workshops on a variety of digital tools, and small-group project development sessions. Participants will explore new formats for conducting research and presenting their findings. By teaming up with information technology specialists and digital scholarship experts working outside the Mediterranean, participants will have a chance to develop long-term collaborative projects to enhance their ongoing individual research agendas. In order to maximize the potential for future collaboration and broad, thematic conversations, groups will be composed of participants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and at different stages of their scholarly careers, from senior scholars to advanced undergraduates. Participants are encouraged to engage each other’s materials, bring insights from their own field of expertise to a broader methodological and conceptual discussion, and begin to draw out connections between what are often seen as disparate fields of knowledge.
Annual theme: This second annual summer institute (2012) will focus on Translation, Mediation, and Circulation. Specifically, it seeks to address processes of cultural mediation in the Mediterranean by attending to the ways in which language served as a central site for the elaboration and contestation of sociocultural boundaries from the eighth century to the Scientific Revolution. Participants, drawn from Toronto area-based faculty and graduate students as well as internationally, will consider the various practices involved in the transmission, adaptation, and contestation of scholarly knowledge across boundaries, and experiment with different forms of “translation” within and between different media and genres. In this context, special attention will be paid to digital technologies and the potential synergies between textual and multimedia digital humanities projects.
Some of the questions that participants in the 2012 institute will engage collectively include:
1. What role did institutions such as chancelleries, academies, universities, and schools, play in developing, defining, and standardizing “official” vernacular languages and in distinguishing them from other language varieties? What role did such institutions play in processes of language instruction and socialization across metropolitan and peripheral settings? How were these institutions themselves shaped by the range of (often multilingual) milieus in which they operated?
2. To what extent, in the contexts of colonial expansion, imperial consolidation and inter-imperial rivalry, did specialized cadres—including diplomatic interpreters, commercial brokers, missionaries, court scribes, notaries, lexicographers, and philologists—develop to regulate linguistic and cultural difference?
3. What language ideologies and practices emerged in the inherently bilingual contexts of imperial borderlands, such as medieval Iberia and North Africa, Venetian Dalmatia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Ottoman Bosnia?
4. How were linguistic and cultural differences objectified and mapped onto one another through a range of genres, from court records and commercial manuals to travelogues and polyglot comedies?
5. How do the histories of premodern translation, mediation, and circulation speak to current debates about knowledge production in the digital age and the role of scholarly networks in the acquisition and dissemination of texts and technologies?