The Mediterranean Sea is, etymologically, " the sea between lands ," a body of relatively navigable waters surrounded by the shores of three continents--Europe, Asia and Africa. In Franco Cassano's Pensiero Meridiano Southern Mediterranean Thought , Ulysses--the eternal wanderer who must continue to leave even as he dreams of going home to Ithaca--is still today the enduring archetype of what Cassano calls "Mediterranean Man": "What makes Ulysses great […] is the ability to house within himself this wandering and at the same time the desire to return.
This presentation argues that some contemporary women writers, poets, critics and philosophers, including Adriana Cavarero, Toni Maraini, Caterina Resta, Francesca Saffioti and Bianca Tarozzi, use the Italian idiom to write about the Mediterranean in a different way. This new approach to the Mediterranean may be defined as a creative and critical expansion and revision of the myth and semantic possibilities of the figure of Penelope, seen in contrast and opposition to the figure of Ulysses--archetypal Mediterranean hero, defiant explorer, and consummate yet deceitful storyteller.
These women in fact use writing itself to resist and oppose the deceptions of patriarchal norms and limits, and to imagine new and different cartographies of the postcolonial Mediterranean. Ironically, international agencies such as UNESCO have had a hand in the promotion of gastronationalisms in their nomination of towns and even culinary traditions as World Intangible Heritage. Terrestrial models of culture cannot capture the nuances of flowing circulating forms.
They form the material and affective linkages in a widespread, decentered, and indeterminate cultural system in which taste is knowledge, the savor of life the savoir faire of making do in new lands and circumstances. I have argued in this essay that scholars of the Mediterranean can benefit from an aquacentric, rhizomatic orientation toward cultural forms in this region, for doing so allows us to transcend the landed certainties of a terrestrial knowledge and capture the nuances of lived experience in situations of flow, flux, and transition.
The two brief cases I have explored in the realms of music and cuisine are merely two intertwined strands in a multifaceted and ever-changing Mediterranean tapestry. Moreover, I argue that unmooring social theory from the dictates of terrestrial national models opens up new trajectories for cultural analysis that do not attend to fixities and coherence, but take disruption, erasure, and nostalgic reconstruction as the basis of analysis, not only for a Mediterranean modernity, but for global modernity as well.
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