East v West: Geographies and Identities of “The Middle Sea”
History; Classics: Geography; Politics; Anthropology; International Relations.
What is the role of the Mediterranean Sea in the make-up of cultural and political identity? In prehistorical and Classical times the so-called “Middle Sea” was an engine of cultural exchange and geopolitical competition, an agent of “civilization” in all the fraught meanings of this term. The Mediterranean connected and shaped cultures not only along the coasts from the Levant to Gibraltar, but also in the hinterlands of Anatolia and Africa as well as the far-flung wilderness of the European continent. Today, center and periphery seem to have switched positions: the powerhouses of political and cultural influence have drifted north, leaving the Mediterranean to connotations of economic problems, environmental challenges, migration crises, religious and ethnic tensions. How did the cultural and political mapping of old world identity shift? How did the Middle Sea engender the division lines we see today? This project is conceived as an interdisciplinary exploration of the ancient roots of the dichotomy of East v West and the modern stereotypes about geopolitical power and cultural prestige.