Sites of mediation

RM4: 'Entangled world’ – Venice, the Ottoman Empire and Byzantium in the Renaissance

Director: Prof. Lucas Burkart (History, Basel)

The thesis underpinning this project is as follows: The Humanist interpretation of a history of the relationship between Italy and the East offers more than simply a founding narrative for a forward-looking notion of Europe that appealed to a shared canon of values and thus helped to create identity. The conquest of Constantinople is ‘artificially’ foregrounded here and stylised as a key experience, ignoring the long-standing and continuing political, economic and cultural interests, ties and relations between Italy and the Levant. This narrative generated the figure of ‘the Turk’, while the ambivalences and ambiguities as well as motives and effects of the history of this relationship between Italy and the Ottoman Empire disappear from view.

The dichotomy that understands the relationship between East and West in terms of unambiguous discourses of identity or alterity, while at the same time interpreting it as a conflict between Islam and Christianity, will be replaced in this module by a plurilocality that takes account of not two but of three poles: Latin Christendom in Italy, the Muslim Ottoman Empire and Byzantium/Constantinople as an important (not only) symbolic site for Christendom, which, however, also represented alterity within Christendom after the Schism of 1054. We understand plurilocality as a blend of cultural, political, religious and social traditions and innovations, whose interpretation cannot proceed along rigid boundaries, but rather must shape the field of interaction of transcultural encounter.

Individual projects: