Week 3 – Anthropology of the Mediterranean

The readings this week synthesize three different approaches to the anthropology of the Mediterranean. Briefly describe each “face” of the Mediterranean. Which one is most compelling to you?

One thought on “Week 3 – Anthropology of the Mediterranean

  1. There are three “faces” described in these articles addressing the way anthropologists over the centuries have described the Mediterranean. The first being a Mediterranean of exchanges and encounters (the side by side Mediterranean, as Bromberger puts it). The second is a Mediterranean of conflict and hatred (the face to face description). And the last is a Mediterranean of different societies revealing “family resemblances” (the Mediterranean of underlying cultural connivances). I find the first “face” the most compelling.
    Clearly there is truth to all of these separate descriptions, and there are ways that each description is not wholly complete without taking a bit from the others, however the first “face” of a side by side Mediterranean appeals the most to me. Bromberger writes: “The first Mediterranean is the one of exchanges, encounters, co-existences, harmonious polyphony, and conviviality symbolized by places, characters, and emblematic objects”. This is a very optimistic description of this region of the world as it has also seen war and bloody confrontation throughout all parts of history, but from an outside perspective, the Mediterranean world seems to be in constant trade of cultural ideas and items. It’s important to mention that at one point all of the region was united under Rome, which set a political and social basis for all of the countries to follow. Bromberger mentions this idea of “traveling cultures”- people moving all about the region to different countries and bringing their ideas, food, and clothes with them. The Mediterranean, as previously discussed, is not a “melting pot” but more of a “salad” where all the individuals stay individuals without mixing to create a new thing. This is a dangerous pitfall of this description of the Mediterranean because it does suggest the region to be like a “melting pot”. However, even though the people didn’t necessarily blend their roots, it is still clear that the Mediterranean has thrived off of these exchanges, encounters, and co-existences. Many different foods, clothing, and practices have inevitably been shared between countries to the point where one cannot remember where they originally came from. Of course there has been lots of hatred and conflict in this region, as with anywhere in the world, but the hatred and conflict are not the most characteristic traits of this region. The emblematic object of the sea and the harmony and cultural exchange it has brought to the Mediterranean far better describe this unique region.

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