CSSH is thrilled to announce that Simona Cerutti and Isabelle Grangaud‘s essay, “Sources and Contextualizations: Comparing Eighteenth-Century North Africa and Western European Institutions” is the inaugural winner of CSSH’s Jack Goody Award.
“Sources and Contextualizations: Comparing Eighteenth-Century North Africa and Western European Institutions” provides not only a clear and systematic summary of common ways of thinking about comparison, but offers a fresh way of conceptualizing what kinds of comparisons might be done, what results from them, and how this method both illuminates particular cases and prompts further questions about broader issues. Reorienting the existing literature on the institutions of the French droit d’aubaine and the Ottoman Bayt al-mal, Cerutti and Grangaud show that what seemed like mechanisms of state expropriation come to appear instead as mechanisms for the definition and protection of private interest, particularly as concern lineages and families. At first reading, the intriguing approach they propose appears methodologically troublesome, as the similarities between the two institutions are only discoverable after the fact. But in the end, the extraordinary insight and depth of the actual interpretation may not have been possible without the framework they set forth. By not taking at face value the textual statements of laws and regulations, but instead digging away at the actual interpretations and actions of administrative agents, the authors show affinities and similarities that are counter-intuitive and highly revealing. In doing so they open up a whole series of questions relating to distinctions between the religious and the secular, the foreign and the local, family and property, poverty and belonging. What is particularly important are the implications for the general study of citizenship and “foreignness” in ancien regime societies. By demonstrating that, for both early-modern French society and Ottoman society, “foreignness” and “poverty” belong in the same category, reflecting the same condition of being “unplaced” and lacking social bonds, they undermine many anachronistic accounts of citizenship and belonging in the early-modern state. Altogether this is a very fine and original piece of work, an inspiring model for how one might approach any number of issues.”
Cambridge UP has kindly offered to make the article free to access.