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How Mediterranean Was Goitein’s Mediterranean Society?

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Chapter Summary

The author raises the issue of "how Mediterranean was Goitein's Mediterranean society?" not for the sake of a common, momentarily enjoyable intellectual exercise of questioning the validity of a basic historical construct. One frequently encounters such revisionist questions vis-à-vis the validity of such accepted notions as "the Middle Ages", "feudalism", "the Renaissance", "modernity", and "East and West". And it must be noted that in the years following Goitein's death in 1985, the Mediterranean construct has been subject to attack, especially in the anthropological field, by the likes of Joao de Pina-Cabral in Portugal and Michael Herzfeld in the United States, to mention only two of the more strident critics. Most of the people represented in the Geniza documents that provided the primary source material for Goitein's Mediterranean Society were Jews who lived in the Islamic lands surrounding the Mediterranean on three sides from Spain to Syria.

Keywords: Goitein's Mediterranean Society; Jews; Joao de Pina-Cabral; Michael Herzfeld; Spain



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