DS0802 -

Citizenship and property in the northern and southern Mediterranean (16th-19th centuries) – PROCIT

Property and Citizenship in Northern and Southern Mediterranean (XVIth-XIXth c.)

PROCIT proposes to explore the theme of citizenship from the perspective of property and its attached rights and is focused on the early modern era. This program aims to contribute to research on processes of social integration and the nature of the socio-economic and legal inequalities that determine the direction of that integration and are, simultaneously, its products.

Citizenship, social integration and inequalities in the longue durée history of Mediterranean societies

Two choices characterize this project: on the one hand, raising the related issues of citizenship, integration and inequalities in the longue durée history of Mediterranean societies; on the other hand, incorporating these issues from a comparative perspective. The comparative and historical approach is indeed crucial to individualize and historicize the so-called theme of “origins” that would be an obstacle to integration. This very idea of origin – at the same time imprecise and freighted with culturalist implications – is put to the test by our historical analysis, attentive to reconstitute the different terms of the construction of social bonds; and – this is the second specific characteristic of our project – put them into perspective thanks to the work and fields of the twenty researchers who work together on European, North African, Egyptian and Ottoman areas. <br />Facing the image of an irreducible distance between northern and southern Mediterranean, property was found to be a key and a common variable of societies where the status of citizen (or of a subject of a central authority) is closely linked to the recognition of the ability to transmit, and where the relation to objects creates social status, relations, links and provides access to rights of membership. Thus, PROCIT pursues the ambitious project to draw a new “map” of citizenship in northern and southern Mediterranean by conducting a great survey on the forms of property and the access modes to resources in these Mediterranean societies, and on the roles assigned to them in social integration and in the making of citizenship rights. This approach is able to reconstitute a new configuration of Mediterranean space and to deeply reread its stratification, its forms of integration and their conditions of possibility, beyond the political and cultural boundaries.

PROCIT’s approach is not characterized by the comparison of institutions or processes previously qualified by researchers, but is rather based on sources as empirical units. From an empirical and critical perspective, our analysis of the sources is not only attentive to the information they contain, but also to their processes of production and thus allows a form of contextualization close to the actors’ experience supporting the individualization of relevant fields for comparison. This empirical method thus conjugates two approaches usually conceived as alternatives: a particular attention to local contexts, and operations of comparison that open them up in order to build interpretive models.
Resolutely included in the “material turn”, these operations of comparison imply a specific attention to the way in which objects (goods located and grounded into a social and territorial context) are able to create relations, networks, social bonds and thus to take part in or impede processes of social integration. By participating in exchanges and thus contributing to social bonds; or as transmission object essential to the making of kinship or communities; or also as goods subtracted from the market in order to fund multi-functional institutions that must be investigated, the properties, goods and objects that are central to our analysis bear witness both to the specificity of contexts in which they are part of and to the more widely shared social demands that motivated their uses. This “processual” approach can reveal unexpected proximities able to question the alleged incommensurability between localities.

Among the main inflexions coming from our researches, which bear witness both to the rigour of the empirical work done and to the historiographical progresses they promise, we could mention four of them, that strongly transform our understanding of the links between property and citizenship in early modern Mediterranean societies:
1. The organisation of corporative markets. By working on goods subtracted from the market and dedicated to “waqf”, benefices, etc., or to transmission, we have realized that these goods are not immobilized but intended to small groups of right holders. This discovery calls into question the alleged clear distinction between free market and goods outside from market, and thus allows us to question the claimed objectivity of the market.
2. Guardianship and responsibility. The surveys have displaced the question from the acquisition of property to its management, presenting a more complex and complete picture of the modalities for people’s integration or exclusion of the local resources’ enjoyment.
3. Memberships and Jurisdiction. They also brought out the centrality of the jurisdictions’ theme in the structuration of ordinary memberships, but also into the management of social hierarchies.
4. The symmetry of objects and people. A. Buono’s survey has made an important revelation: the ancient right didn’t distinguish between objects and people but between able and unable entities, thereby rethinking the right(s) of property.

1. Two thematic schools (2019-2020)
At the project design stage, the pedagogical component was a main objective of PROCIT. We intended to train PhD and post-doctoral candidates from Europe, Maghreb, Near and Middle East to the theme and approach developed by the project’s members.
From October the 22nd to the 24th of 2019, with the financial support of LabexMed (Aix-Marseille University, 5 000€), we organized a first thematic school in Frejus (Southern France), entitled “Citizenships in northern and southern Mediterranean. Actions, objects, relations: an interdisciplinary perspective”, for 20 PhD and post-doctoral students. Nine researchers were involved ( historians,anthropologists and political scientists.), including six project’s members: procit.hypotheses.org/ecole-thematique
Unfortunatley, the second summer school, which would have taken place in Tunis or Alger, had to be canceled for health and safety reasons linked to pandemic.
2. Impact enhancement through the production of a short film in order to reach a wider, non-academic public and to establish links between the results of our research and contemporary issues, a video-making project is under development. The film consists in the editing of a number of interviews to various members of the team, alongside images of documents and maps, aimed at communicating our research methodologies, the questions that underlined them, and the findings that resulted from our work.

1. A collective book
The team-members’ surveys will be published by Anacharsis in a forthcoming collective book , provisionally entitled: “Citizenships in northern and southern Mediterranean. Rights of things, rights of persons”. A particular attention will be paid to
2. An augmented abecedary
In addition to this book, PROCIT takes over the coordination of an augmented book project, provisionally entitled “The Mediterranean Citizenships augmented abecedary” (https://palomed.hypotheses.org/les-mots-de-lappartenance) and initiated in a previous research program (funded by LabexMed, Aix-Marseille University), that reunited PROCIT coordinators. This editorial project is well under way (texts’ edition and editorial platform building are in progress) and provides for a partnership with HumaNum (Data archiving) the services of the French national institute for scientific and technical information (INIST/CNRS, publication on a personalized Omeka plaform). It additionally received a reward from an academic publisher (Mediterranean house for Humanities, MMSH) in order to become the model for their future numerical collection.

PROCIT is a project backed by an international, multidisciplinary network around the topic of “Local identities in the Mediterranean” and is intended to explore the theme of citizenship from the perspective of property and the rights pertaining thereto. It will focus on the modern era.

This project is intended as a contribution to research on processes of social integration and the nature of the socio-economic and legal inequalities that determine the direction of that integration and are, simultaneously, its products. Two decisions in particular characterize this project: the decision to deal with the connected dimensions of citizenship, integration, and inequalities in the longue durée history of Mediterranean societies (from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries); and the decision to situate these themes in a deliberately comparative perspective, on the basis of research carried out in Europe, North Africa, Palestine, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire. The eighteenth scholars working together on the PROCIT project are from institutions rooted in these different countries. Together, they can already boast a shared experience of work and collaboration.

The notion of citizenship considered in this project does not refer to the formal political prerogatives of which nation-state members can avail themselves, but rather to the set of rights to which one has access as a result of acknowledged belonging to a particular place. These rights conferred by belonging, in the societies we wish to analyze, are the point of origin of differential access to resources (such as the market, property, credit, work, charity, etc.), which structure the social scale. The term “citizenship” thus refers to a status where access rights to resources encounter the social recognition of these rights as well as the ability to claim them. Our research is thus focused on the processes that have produced this status in different societies north and south of the Mediterranean.

In this project, property has appeared as a fundamental variable shared by different societies. In modern societies, the notion of property refers to a vast semantic field, which cannot be reduced to material wealth alone. Differential access to property rights not only outlines economic hierarchies or symbolic primacies; it also creates prerogatives that occupy individuals more broadly. In a wide range of cases, the condition of “citizen” or subject of a central authority is closely linked to the recognition of one’s capacity to access property or to transmit it. In modern societies of the northern and southern Mediterranean, relations to things create social statuses, relations, and ties, and grant access to rights related to belonging. The ability to exercise property rights traces the outline of local communities, and, as a result, of wider territorial communities. Access to property, in that sense, is an essential phase in every process of social integration.

This major investigation into citizenship in the northern and southern Mediterranean requires painstaking comparative analysis. The comparison implemented here avoids culturalism entirely and is based on reasoned, methodologically informed empiricism. It will explore an original method, based on sources. This method must allow us to grasp practice as closely as possible to the documentary systems that shape and show them. This will allow the researchers to build a relevant questionnaire and explanatory framework together. This method requires close coordination among scholars, who will choose among three thematic axes: access to the market; creating trusts (“off-market” goods); and finally, wealth transmission practices. Two historians specialized in each theme in the northern and southern Mediterranean will coordinate each axis and organize the comparative work.

Project coordination

Simona CERUTTI (Centre de recherches historiques)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


TELEMME UMR7303 Temps, Espaces, Langages, Europe méridionale-Méditerranée
IRMC USR3077 Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain
CNELIAS UMR8562 Centre Norbert Elias
CRH UMR8558 Centre de recherches historiques

Help of the ANR 310,339 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 42 Months

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