Medieval Jewish Studies Medieval Cross-Cultural Literary Exchange Middle Ages
I am a historian of cross-cultural exchanges in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. My research reinterprets the history of the seventh-century papacy through the perspective of its networks. Although this period is frequently seen as when the unity of Christendom fractured, by considering together admirers of Rome from both the post-Roman West and the Eastern Roman Empire, I argue that we can trace how echoes of Greek disputes were passed westwards by these transnational pro-papal networks. My publications therefore focus on the influence of eastern ideas on Latin authors, particularly Gregory of Tours and the Venerable Bede, and argue for a more interconnected Christendom at the end of late antiquity.
Nancy Um is professor of art history at Binghamton University. She received her MA and PhD in art history from UCLA. Her research explores the Islamic world from the perspective of the coast, with a focus on material, visual, and built culture on the Arabian Peninsula and around the rims of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Her first book The Merchant Houses of Mocha: Trade and Architecture in an Indian Ocean Port (University of Washington Press, 2009) relies upon a cross-section of visual, architectural, and textual sources to present the early modern coastal city of Mocha as a space that was nested within wider world networks, structured to communicate with far-flung ports and cities across a vast matrix of exchange. Her second book, Shipped but not Sold: Material Culture and the Social Order of Trade during Yemen’s Age of Coffee (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), explores the material practices and informal social protocols that undergirded the overseas trade in 18th C Yemen. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, African Arts, Northeast African Studies, Journal of Early Modern History, Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, Art History, and Getty Research Journal. She has received research fellowships from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.
I joined the Department of History, Culture and Civilization of the University of Bologna after winning the “Montalcini” program against the so-called “brain-drain” and after a long period of research at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge (first with a fellowship from the Institute for Aegean Prehistory and then with a Marie Slodowska Curie IF). Previously, I had earned a Ph.D. at the Institute of Archeology, University College London, funded by the AHRC and the British School at Athens. My research interests range from prehistory and archeology of the Mediterranean (with particular attention to the Bronze Age), to social theory (in particular Marxist archeology) to the use of applications based on graph-theory, to cultural heritage studies (with specific attention to the so-called “difficult heritage”), and, finally, the history of the archaeological thought.
My work relates to two principal themes or research interests. I work on the history of English law in the central middle ages, and have published and spoken on the cultural and social history of law, as well as one specific legal texts. I also work on the cultural and social history of religion, and have worked on both Benedictine monasticism and the work and impact of the episcopate.
I study the material and visual cultures of late ancient and early medieval Europe, with a special focus on the social histories of objects and buildings in the post-Roman world. My doctoral dissertation, entitled ‘”The Fitting Face of Empire’: Palaces and Power in the Early Middle Ages’, reincorporates a neglected class of monuments into the heart of debates surrounding the transformation of the ancient world. Though a constant through Antiquity and the Middle Ages (and beyond), palaces underwent dramatic changes architecturally, conceptually, and institutionally during this period. In this study, I show that palaces were not just ‘stages’ for political display, but social spaces in which the nature and extent of political authority was defined. Beginning with an architectural survey of palaces between the fourth and ninth centuries CE, I demonstrate that a coherent visual grammar of Late Roman palace architecture precipitously broke down after the Western Empire’s fragmentation. In its place arose a formally distinct configuration that responded to a changed lexicon for social display. Turning from architectural to social forms, I argue that the rituals of the palace were not unmitigated assertions of royal power, but a symbolic dialogue that negotiated the limits of political authority. In the project’s second half, my attention shifts to the networks between palaces and the landscapes in which they were embedded. In two case studies, focused on Northern Italy and the Frankish regnum, I show that palaces were essential instruments in the reordering of political space in post-Roman Europe. This project not only reconceptualises the role of palaces played in pre-modern political systems, but also connects early medieval architecture to broader conversations concerning the nature of political authority and its constitution. My interest in visual cultures on the ‘edge’ of hegemonic polities has led me to my next project, an investigation of artistic exchanges between the northern Spanish kingdom of Asturias (eighth to tenth centuries CE) and its ‘imperial’ neighbours: the Frankish kingdoms across the Pyrenees, the Byzantine Empire of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus. Tentatively entitled Empire’s Edge: Mobility and Exchange in the Art of Asturias, this study seeks to re-evaluate Asturian visual culture in terms of the movement of people and objects across borders both real and imaginary. By emphasising the mobility of craftsmen, diplomats, luxury materials, and portable objects in the formation of a local and independent visual language, this project will both replace Asturian art in the broader context of patronage and production in the Early Middle Ages and offer a vital insight into the interconnectedness of the Mediterranean world before the millennium. My broader interests include the disciplinary formation and methodological development of the History of Art; social and anthropological theory; urban studies; and concepts of identity, ethnicity, and community in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
I am a historian of premodern german literature and culture. My current focus is on medieval concepts of aesthetics of production. Methodologically, my work draws largely on historical semantics and recent historical narratology. More generally, I am interested in the history of literary forms and forms of production, in the light of contemporary intellectual history on the one hand, and in relation to rhetorical, religious and social practices on the other. My research areas include: · Current Book Project: The Poetics of Genesis-Reception and the Problem of Literary Creativity in the Middle Ages
· Anthropological Perspectives: Space, Image, Gift
· Telling and Counting (Zählen und sagen): The Interference of Numerical and Narrative Knowledge in the Middle Ages
I am interested in American popular culture, particularly how it intersects with race, gender, and/or age.