European Islands Between Isolated and Interconnected Life Worlds Interdisciplinary Long-Term Perspectives
Conference and Edited Book November 15-16, 2019 SFB1070 RESOURCECULTURES University of Tuebingen, Germany
Islands make up 2% of the earth's surface and are defined by their circumference with the sea (Ratter 2018, 2). Yet, since the emergence of seafaring, these seemingly marginal territories came into contact with countless trade partners and their respective languages, religions, migrants, information networks, and goods, bringing islands from the margins into the center of European cultural developments. The connection with the sea also presented reoccurring dangers, such as assaults by conquerors, pirates, privateers, smugglers, sailors with contagious diseases or revolutionaries with controversial ideas. Nevertheless, in direct contrast, some islands were isolated from the information of impeding attacks, assistance from allies, raw materials required to rebuild after storms, or the food and water needed in times of scarcity. Insularity at times prompted innovative solutions and disparate cultural customs not seen on the mainland.
The central question of this conference analyzes how islands in the waters around Europe were used and understood by past societies, considering the cultural practices, social norms, and solutions of island residents to the many opportunities and challenges they have faced from 3000 BC to 1800 AD. Islandspecific factors will be examined to better understand the fragile equilibrium of island life between scarcity and excess, between local customs and global contracts, between dependence and independence, between security and insecurity, between control and power, and between physical, political, or social isolation and cross-regional or global maritime networks.
The conference takes place within the academic context of the collaborative research center SFB1070 RESOURCECULTURES and the University of Tuebingen work group “Insularitäten / Insularities.” In various projects, islands are used as units of analysis to understand dynamics related to resources, defined as “tangible and intangible means by which actors create, sustain or alter social relations, units and identities” (Scholz et al. 2017, 7). Concepts related to insularity phenomena, such as insular longterm developments, connectivity and isolation, or perceptions of islanders are examined within an interdisciplinary, diachronic, and cross-cultural framework.
Possible thematic questions include:
• Are island residents more attuned to climate change because of their dependence on its control?
• How are islands different from other isolated locations (e.g. desert communities)?
• Which social and societal practices are unique to small islands (<10,000 km2 ) vs. larger islands?
• What is the role of islands in processes of globalization?
• How do islands cope with adversity through their religious beliefs, technological outlays, regulations, and social norms? Can these practices be seen as a (cultural) resource for the islanders?
• How do we distinguish different types of identities between archipelagos and islands?
• Does the distance to the mainland play a role in island historical development? Can differences be traced between geographical regions?
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