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.
About the co-authors:
Simona Cerutti is currently Directrice d’Etudes à l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She was co-director (together with Carlo Ginzburg and Giovanni Levi) of the book series Microstorie (Einaudi, 1985-1990). In 1989 she became co-director of the journal Quaderni Storici, and in 2015 she became a member of the Research Community (WOG) Urban Agency at University of Antwerp, coordinated by Bert De Munck. She is a 2018 fellow of the Italian Academy at Columbia University.
Her main interests concern social classifications and hierarchies in early modern societies, with particular attention to the culture of law in the language and in the categories of social actors. The social belonging of places and the claims of rights to local resources are at the heart of her most recent works. She is responsible for an international research group (Citoyenneté et propriété au nord et au sud de la Méditerranée, XVIe-XIXe siècles: 2016-2020), comprised of students engaged in a comparative project on “citizenship” both in northern and the southern regions of the Mediterranean. She is developing a reflection on the future of social history and the developments of micro-historical methods. She is currently writing a book on petitions and communication with authorities in early modern Italian societies.
Her publications include the research monographs La ville et les métiers, Naissance d’un langage corporatif (EHESS, 1990); Giustizia sommaria. Pratiche e ideali di giustizia in una società di Ancien Régime (Feltrinelli, 2003); Etrangers. Etude d’une condition d’incertitude dans une société d’Ancien Régime (Bayard, 2012). Recent articles include “Who is below? E. P. Thompson, historien des sociétés modernes: une relecture,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 2015/4; “Suppliques. Lois et cas dans la normativité de l’époque moderne,” (with M. Vallerani), Atelier du Centre des Recherches Historiques, and “Archeology of rights. Petitions in early modern societies.”
Isabelle Grangaud is a researcher at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. She is associated with the Institut de Recherche et d’étude sur les Mondes Arabes et Musulmans (IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence) and is a member of PROCIT, Propriété et citoyenneté au nord et au sud de la Méditerranée (XVI-XIXe siècles), a research program of the ANR in France. Her work examines the urban societies of the Maghrib in the early modern period, with a special focus on Ottoman Constantine and Algiers. Her main themes of research include the social and institutional practices of individuals and groups, the assertion or exercise of their rights to a locality’s resources and the effects of such initiatives on social stratification. She has coordinated an international, interdisciplinary network of researchers working on the question of local belonging in the Mediterranean world (PALOMED) and is currently working on an online edition of research produced by this network, a dictionary titled “The Words of Belonging.” Grangaud recently completed a book manuscript on the Ottoman bayt al-mâl of Algiers.This work builds on the analytical approach she has developed throughout her research, which lays particular emphasis on the generative and conflictual processes at work in the constitution of historical archives. Finally, she is completing a book about the constitution of the Ottoman archives of Algeria, having discussed various aspects of this topic in several published articles. Her publications include the research monograph La ville imprenable. Une histoire sociale de Constantine au 18e siècle (Paris, Editions de l’EHESS, 2002), and a number of articles, including “Affrontarsi in archivo. Tra storia ottomana e storia coloniale (Algeri 1830)”; “Società post-coloniali: ritorno alle fonti, a cura di Isabelle Grangaud, Quaderni Storici, n°129, a. XLIII, 2008”; “Masking and Unmasking the Historic Quarters of Algiers: The Reassessment of an Archive” in Zeynep Celik and Julia Clancy-Smith (ed.), Walls of Algiers: Peoples, Images, and Spaces of the Colonial and Postcolonial City, Getty et University of Washington Press, 2009; (with M’hamed Oualdi) “Tout est-il colonial dans le Maghreb? Ce que les travaux des historiens modernistes peuvent apporter,” L’Année du Maghreb, 10 | 2014; and (forthcoming), “Le passé mis en pièce(s). Archives, conflits et droits de cité (Alger, 1830-1870),” Annales, H. S. S., 2017/4.