In recent years, it has become commonplace to argue that space is an important topic in the humanities and social sciences. But what does space do? Can we speak of space as having agency? Historians’ responses to these questions are strikingly varied. Some propose an almost deterministic role for spatial characteristics, while others deny that space can have any causal function at all. This article seeks to navigate a path between these unsatisfactory extremes. It uses insights from material culture studies and actor-network theory to discuss ways of re-framing agency as an assemblage of human and non-human affects. Agency can thus be defined not in terms of first causes and definitive outcomes, but instead as a coincidence of occurrences. This allows historians to speak of “spatial agency” as the emplacement of affective elements, the gathering of agencies at a particular site and moment.
On Some French Memoirs of the Illyrian Provinces 1809–1813
This article examines how four French memorialists recall and represent the former imperial territories of the Illyrian Provinces (1809–1813) on the eastern Adriatic seaboard. It explores how their memoirs deploy Enlightenment ethnography and Romantic exoticism in distinct ways while problematizing these approaches in light of lived experiences in the region. The article thus sheds light on the evolving character of tropes about the western Balkans in early nineteenth-century France, highlighting the influence the landscapes, cultures, and peoples of the territories had on the French officials posted there, including on their later self-presentation as memorialists.
Some Themes in Recent Work on Colonial Violence
The study of violence has emerged as an important analytical category for historical analysis, especially in the areas where Europeans attempted to establish either dominance or colonies, such as Ireland, North America, Asia, and the Middle East. This article surveys some recent work on colonial violence, in which historians have tried to distinguish between different types of violence and have pointed to the importance of intelligence gathering, fear, and emotion as analytical tools for understanding the nature of colonial violence.
The Persistence of Poetic Realism in French Cinema of the Occupation
Whereas the aesthetics and politics of poetic realism in French prewar cinema have been analyzed in depth, the extent to which poetic realism persisted in French cinema of the Occupation and the textual space that it created for spectators within this cultural context remain comparatively neglected. Responding to this critical oversight, this article analyzes Christian-Jaque’s Voyage sans espoir (1943) and Jean Grémillon’s Lumiére d’été from three perspectives: first, it evinces iconography in each that was central to the 1930s poetic realist films directed by figures such as Marcel Carné, Jean Renoir, and Jacques Feyder; second, it illustrates how poetic realism’s characteristic focus on gender was reconfigured during the Occupation; third, it determines how these aesthetic and social aspects spoke to French society under occupation. This article ultimately argues that poetic realist praxis persisted during the war years and constituted a major vector of resistance against German rule and the Vichy government.
Tenants in Court and Proprietary Formalization. Rengo, Chile, 1820–1830
Víctor Brangier and Mauricio Lorca
This study focuses on disputes between small and medium tenants, who sought to formalize old land rights. The context under study is Rengo Valley, Chile, between 1820 and 1830, where there was increasing pressure to clarify rights over possessions. The analysis of a sample of 31 trials showed the relevance of the judicial use of the figure Posesión de Tiempo Inmemorial (Possession of Time Immemorial). This was a resource derived from the value of possession in the Hispanic American agrarian legal culture, one that the litigants used strategically. This study’s findings provide new data on the use of socially valued legal figures in justice to defend possession, thus contributing to the discussion on the dispossession of peasants in contexts of proprietary formalization.
Evy Johanne Håland
This article presents ethnographic fieldwork combined with studies of historical sources to explore modern and ancient healing rituals in Greece. It focuses on the importance of the senses, especially smell, taste, and sight, in relation to gendered practices and beliefs about healing. In Greece, healing rituals are generally connected with the domestic sphere where women are the dominant agents of power. Based upon the author’s fieldwork, the article presents the “female sphere” from the perspectives of female informants. It seeks to deconstruct male perceptions of women and their magic healing rituals that appear in ancient sources produced by men, by a comparison with the modern material.
The Role of Privileged Enclaves in Early Modern French Cities
In France, formal guild training was not as ubiquitous a means of socializing young people into a trade as it has been portrayed by scholars. Guilds were limited geographically, and in many French cities privileged enclaves controlled by clerical or noble seigneurs curbed the sway of corporate structures, or even created their own. Eighteenth-century Bordeaux provides an extreme example of how limited guild training was in France's fastest-growing city. The clerical reserves of Saint-Seurin and Saint-André that housed much of the region's industrial production had quasi-corporate structures with far more open access and fewer training requirements. In Bordeaux, journeymen contested masters’ control over labor and masters trained almost no apprentices themselves. Formal apprenticeship mattered exceptionally little when it came to training people to perform a trade in Bordeaux.
The Meanings and Uses of a Legal Concept in Premodern Europe
The place and function of custom as a species of law—distinguished from custom as simply polite manners or cherished cultural traditions—has long been a source of research and debate among legal theorists and historians. One school of thought, reflecting the authority of written statute in modern jurisprudence, has relegated custom in a juridical sense to “primitive” societies, whereas proper law belongs to a world of state sovereignty. Other scholars have revisited the continuing validity of custom, including a trenchant body of work on the use (and manipulation) of custom in modern colonial regimes. At the same time, some have seen benefits in the acknowledgment of custom as a source of norms. A 2006 collection of articles, for instance, explored ways in which customary law might serve as a better foundation for the sustainable development of natural resources. As David Bederman has written, “Custom can be a signal strength for any legal system—preliterate or literate, primitive or modern.”
Esther Liberman Cuenca
This article examines 45 preambles in collections of urban customary law (called custumals) from 32 premodern towns in England between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. Urban custom was the local law of English towns, and constituted traditions and privileges that gained legal force over time. How lawmakers conceived of “bad” custom—that is, the desuetude or corruption of custom—was crucial to the intellectual framework of urban law. Evidence from preambles shows that lawmakers rooted the legitimacy of their laws in “customary time,” which was the period from the supposed origins of their customs to their formalization in text. Lawmakers’ efforts to reinforce, ratify, and revise urban customs by making new custumals and passing ordinances were attempts to broaden their autonomy and respond to the possibility of “bad” custom.
Self-Descriptive Uses of “Nationalist” in Contemporary Russia
Nationalism is an ism rarely used as self-description. This article suggests that nationalist discourses are on the move, meaning the concept may be used in novel ways. In Russia, for example, the president recently identified himself as a nationalist, claiming ownership of the concept in the long-standing struggle against manifestations of oppositional nationalism. The article asks who describes themselves as nationalists in contemporary Russia, how do they define the concept, and how did it change during the years 2008–2018 when nationalism as a political idea became increasingly important in Russian politics? Drawing from Russian newspaper sources, the article suggests that diverse, self-proclaimed nationalist actors rely on narrow ethnic understandings of the concept and do not embrace the president's interpretation of multinational nationalism.