Monday, February 20, 2012

Byzantine studies in the economist

This article on the recent drama in Byzantine studies and the problems the field is facing is a surprising sight to see in something like the Economist. I have nothing to say about the main subject of the article, but the closing paragraph caught my interest.

"Despite all the razzamatazz of exhibitions at prestigious venues, the field has been facing serious problems since the 1980s, Mr Koder says. In most Western countries, the number of people who study Latin and Greek at school or university has plunged. It used to be that a classical education was a basic precursor for the study of the later medieval period. For Byzantinology to survive, Mr Koder reckons it will have to be better integrated into the broader field of Mediterranean studies, to illustrate the relationship between Byzantium and the rise of Islam and later of Renaissance Europe. Perhaps the first step in that direction will be the Met’s forthcoming exhibition, which will concentrate on the early Muslim centuries: a time when, in between fighting, the Byzantines and Muslims were exchanging artistic techniques."

I know almost nothing about Koder, but I really like the idea of moveing towards integration into a broader Mediterranean field. (though I do wonder where Mediterranean ends, ie is Persia Mediterranean?) Working to show how the Eastern Roman Empire interacted with the cultures around it is one of the ways I see to try and break the insularity that allows a vibrant and extremely influential historical culture to not be understood by the people who study it's temporal and geographical neighbors (and causes the people wanting to study it to perpetually be in fear of not getting a job), and the broad Mediterranean field is a way (though certainly not the only one) to do that.

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