Line II - Movement, trade, networking

The aim of this line of research is to group together several research themes from different disciplines around trade link structures to analyse how the movement of objects, ideas, knowledge, stories, literary works, techniques or beliefs form rationally or empirically organised sets that can be defined as networks on a "world-system" scale.

"Iberian time" and the global approach. Historiography and all the social sciences have been profoundly affected since the late 1990s by the so-called "global" approach to interdependencies or integration on a global scale that aims to revamp our understanding of the globalisation process over the long term through an analysis of the many forms of movement and exchange between different economic, political, cultural and religious sectors and between the different ecosystems. This juncture of World History or Global History revives in a different context the project of a “histoire sans rivages” (history without shores) by Lucien Febvre, but which is reformulated under headings such as "connected" history or "transnational" history. These approaches propose1, As stated by Sanjay Subrahmanyam in his inaugural lecture at the College de France in 2013, "a global history that is not destined to replace regional, national or continental history, but rather to supplement it."2 The postulated unity of the Mediterranean at the time of F. Braudel and the anthropologist Michael Herzfeld has been negated by Postcolonial Studies and more recently by World and Global Studies3. By throwing off the shackles of the Europeanist and purely territorial approach, these latter works opened new horizons focusing on the environment, movements, trade and migration from a transregional and transnational perspective. Even if the maritime space is extracted from political circumstances and presented as a global world, albeit fragmented into interconnected micro-regions, the fortunate development of Sea Studies4 leads to a reformulation of the issues on other scales; this wider framework requiring us to be open to mobility, movement and fluidity.

Because of its "transnational" location in the Spanish-speaking world, the EHEHI actively participates in these ongoing debates which address the issue of movement and trade at the centre of a paradigm shift and change of scale in the human sciences. As pointed out by Serge Gruzinski, from the Romanisation of the Iberian Peninsula in the Islamic era of al-Andalus to the overseas projection of the Catholic monarchy's empire in modern times, "Iberian time" has been deeply marked by successive "globalising processes".5 These should not be carelessly grouped into a single unit but rather approached from the specificity of the movement of individuals, institutions, practices, beliefs and property, underpinning the construction and transformation of societies in the Spanish speaking world. 

Iberian spaces and patterns of movement in the world-system. Studies of this "Iberian time" and the complexity of exchanges arising therefrom, allow for an analysis of how movements on a global scale developed in Iberian spaces. We will therefore prioritise research projects that look into the change of scale from local or regional strategies at different time periods, while trading goes on well beyond the socio-political framework of the communities putting cities, ethnic groups and States in complex, global-scale networks.6 The distinction drawn between "world-economy" from a Braudelian perspective and "world-empire" proposed by Immanuel Wallerstein contributes, for example, to opening and refining the analysis of the logic of expansion and hegemonic strategies underlying phenomena of movement and effective networking on a global scale, be this in modern or contemporary times or in antiquity.

In this context, we seek to explore long range movement through distant maritime areas (the Eastern Mediterranean to the American or Scandinavian coast) and land routes, especially those connecting Southern Mediterranean territories to those of Northern Europe. The specific identification of the unavoidable routes used by man (movement related to trade, religious practices, migration flows), goods, ideas or cultural models, the inventory of ports and physical infrastructure erected, the legal arsenal linked to the territorialisation of the sea, maritime law and trade or the identification of the stakeholder (merchant guilds, exchange agents, administrators) are aspects which should enable us to gain a deeper understanding of the geostrategy of conflicts and competition sparked by attempts to take control of movements and trade.

In short, movement and trade shape various "geocultures" polarised around different areas of influence, which lead to intermingling, acculturation or standardisation between the various units responsible for this flow of trade. Consideration of the epistemological and historiographical issues raised by these material and intangible movements and exchanges implies questioning the mobile dimension of European societies and their interconnectedness with other global cultural spaces. These movement issues play a significant role in writing history.

From movements to analyses of networks. The approaches proposed prioritise the study of dynamics and processes at the expense of structures, the latter having dominated social science studies for many years. In other words, all the questions and issues considered here encourage addressing social phenomena by mobilising approaches to integrate relations between actors capable of articulating the various social milieu, first between political and economic actors. In the different projects proposed, these approaches also encourage a series of questions on the relationship between the configuration of social groups, the development of conflicts and the resulting dynamics, taking into account the different contexts in which these processes occur and the strategies employed by those involved. The proposal is to define areas of research to organise an analysis of the strategies employed by stakeholders with those of their social group while taking into account the rules of the social game. 

It may be useful to recall that these debates are certainly not new. They have been around since the 1980s, some encouraging exploration of this route, especially within the historical community. We are specifically referring here to the decisive work done by Norbert Elias which receives little attention today. In his research on institutional structures such as the state, the family or the factory, he stressed addressing these in terms of dynamic configurations; in other words, as systems within which personal interdependencies prevail.7 By doing this, and on a more social than legal basis for one and socioeconomic basis for the other, N. Elias proposed revisiting the famous dispute during the 1960s between R. Mousnier and E. Labrousse over the notion of order and class in their analyses of hierarchies and social stratification of societies of the Old Regime. Upon revisiting but also surpassing these old debates through relational analysis, the approach envisaged should contribute to applying these at the level of the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds.

These debates among historians make perfect sense if one recalls that these challenges to the then dominant approaches date back to the theoretical contributions from the so-called Chicago School and the analyses developed by network sociology born in the 1950s. The latter helped us to distance ourselves from functionalist approaches, so dominant in this discipline, enabling us to rethink the functioning of the social aspect giving the actor part of the initiative that both functionalism and structuralism denied him. The analyses that this new thinking has allowed to prosper in all the social sciences, have contributed to a profound renewal of our questioning from the 1990s; network analyses are now one of the brightest and most widespread types of analysis. From history to geography, including sociology, anthropology and economics, micro-level analyses combined with the "scale-game" endorsed by B. Lepetit are now quite useful in linking up with global approaches and the macro level once exclusively favoured. 

It is precisely the dialectic between these two levels of analysis that we would like to see pervade the programmes included in this research line, while stressing the issues of mobility, i.e. movement of individuals as well as tangible and intangible assets. In other words, crossing spatial, social and community boundaries, this line of research will bring together researchers from the various disciplines of all social science such as archaeology, history, geography, land use planning, art history, sociology, anthropology, as well as economics and communication.

1 Caroline DOUKI, Philippe MINARD, « Histoire globale, histoires connectées : un changement d'échelle historiographique ? Introduction », Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 5/2007, n° 54, p. 7-21.

2 Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM, Aux origines de l’histoire globale, Paris, Collège de France/Fayard, 2014, p. 63.

3 Marie Noëlle BOURGUET, Bernard LEPETIT, Daniel NORDMAN et Maroula SINARELLIS (dir.), L’invention scientifique de la Méditerranée : Égypte, Morée, Algérie, Paris, Éd. de l'EHESS,1998 ; Dionigi ALBERA, Anton BLOK, Christian BROMBERGER, L’Anthropologie de la Méditerranée, Cahors, Maisonneuve et Larose, Maison méditerranéenne des sciences de l’homme, 2001.

4 Peregrine HORDEN, Nicholas PURCELL, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History, Oxford, Blackwell, 2000.

Serge GRUZINSKI, Les quatre parties du monde. Histoire d’une mondialisation, Paris, La Martinière, 2004.

6 Immanuel WALLERSTEIN, Comprendre le monde. Introduction à l’analyse des systèmes-monde, Paris, La Découverte, 2006.

7 Norbert ELIAS, La civilisation des mœurs, Paris, Calmann-Levy, 1973 ; id., La société de cour, Paris, Calmann-Levy, 1974. Voir aussi du même auteur, Qu'est-ce que la sociologie ?, Paris, Pandora, 1981.

09/02/2016 - 26min 37s - Espagnol