Migration across the Mediterranean and landscape changes: an historical perspective

Dr. Felicita Tramontana, The University of Warwick, UK

In the past few years the construction of Islamic religious buildings has increasingly become the subject of harsh political debates. Indeed, mosques and minarets have been the target of right-wing and anti-migrant propaganda well before the break out of the so-called “European migration crises”, in 2015. This is because they are one of the most evident signs of the change in European landscape linked to migration. However, they are not the only one. More recently, the construction of facilities and camps to host migrants has consistently altered the landscape of some Mediterranean islands, such as Lesbos and Lampedusa.

Departing form the history of migration in the Mediterranean, this paper addresses the relationship between migration and landscape change from different, but intertwined perspectives. Since the antiquity, the Mediterranean has been characterized by an intense mobility between its shores. During the early modern period the Mare Nostrum was crossed by refugees, slaves, convicted criminals, and people fleeing famine or in search of a better life. Departing from these premises, the paper will analyse more specifically the effects on the landscapes of both the departure of migrants and of the arrival of newcomers in different settings, such as 15th century Tunisia, 17th century Ottoman countryside, and Italian port cities. The analysis will shed light on the complexity of the relationship between migration and landscape change. In addition, it will pave the way to some reflections on how such a relationship was and, still is, mediated by local authorities, economic and political considerations.

Felicita Tramontana works on geographical mobility in the 17th century-Mediterranean. As Marie Skłodowska Curie fellow at Warwick (2016-2018) she explored migration between Palestinian villages through the sacramental records of the local Franciscan parishes. Her previous research focused on Ottoman Palestine (Una terra di intersezioni, Rome, 2015), on religious conversions to Islam and to Catholicism in Palestinian villages (Passages of Faith: Conversion in Palestinian Countryside, Wiesbaden 2014) and on sales on credit granted to peasants (an article on the topic is forthcoming in Turcica). She has also worked on Catholic missions in 17th century Palestine, on the Custody of the Holy Land, on the Catholic Reformation and on Ayyubid Syria. In 2015 she was fellow at the Wissenschftskolleg zu Berlin and between 2010 and 2013 lecturer at the University of Palermo (Italy).