Urban Communities and Non-Urban Sites and Centres
By overcoming essentialist models of 'European' and 'Oriental' cities, this Transversal Work Group will focus on improving research terminology for expressing structural differences between the case studies. These will be assessed without any reference to pre-existing rigid models, but will be based on a close reading of source texts instead. Working with highly diverse empirical material is particularly productive for assessing semantic and semiotic differences both between the source languages and within modern research traditions. For instance, when assessing the role of the late medieval rural and pastoral hinterland for Tibetan market centers and Dalmatian ports, one also has to reflect upon and examine the tools and terminologies embedded in the different forms of historiography encountered. In turn, this can make use of the advances achieved so far, such as the identification of several common elements that define particular types of communities as objects for closer scrutiny. This TWG allows for a comparative approach across the regions and periods examined, while taking into account that urban and quasi-urban settlements imply a development of centralizing political, economic and social functions. The infrastructure, opportunities, and constraints implied in the coexistence of heterogeneous groups led to intensive processes of negotiation and contestation among alliances and oppositions, which in turn led to almost continuous processes of formation and restructuring of the communities involved. Based on such parallels, this TWG will focus on questions such as:
- How did religious affiliations influence and shape the social as well as spatial developments of urban communities?
- Which kinds of relationships existed between urban or similar settlements and their surrounding areas (e.g., kinship or intermarriage)?
- How did different groups act in and around urban settlements in times of crisis and conflict; how was stability achieved or disrupted?
- Which forms of conflict mediation were applied in urban settlements and their rural hinterland?