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Session C5036 (Is There a Modern Muslim Mediterranean?), 2017
Within this year’s Thematic Conversation, I hope to focus on the following issues. In the current state of affairs, modernity (in its various denotations) and the historiographic Mediterranean appear as mutually exclusive; wrongly, in my opinion. Scholars do think of the modern Mediterranean in terms of rupture, but they do so regarding many and variously dated modern/Mediterranean divides. In fact, definitions of the Mediterranean tend to come with their respective definitions of modernity, which are said to have ended the Mediterranean world so-defined. As a result, if we add all these Mediterraneanist accounts, we end up with a long chain of ruptures, Pirenne’s, Braudel’s, Horden & Purcell’s, and so forth. Our ability to speak of Islamic history in the modern Mediterranean depends on our capacity to treat “Islamic” as we would any other scaling device of potential regional scope, similarly to “European”, “Arab”, or “Christian”. In such a perspective, the account of the modern Mediterranean would depart from the demise narrative. Instead, we would be able to see what forms of connections do emerge across the sea in modern times, what claims to relatedness (belligerent or otherwise) people make through these connections, what idioms they use and on which scales, and to which points in the past they reach to inform their present. Such a view would enable us both to see certain moments in or around the modern Mediterranean as the outcome of a colonial project and to examine how other, more recent projects have emerged in its wake and treated that colonial legacy.