This Iméra-ERC-Wenner Gren workshop brought together 12 scholars of Anthropology conducting research on the edges of Europe inclusive of what have been called Mediterranean, Southern European, Anatolian, Maghhrebi, Levantine, Ottoman, Balkan, Andalusi cultures and spaces. Our guiding set of questions were how the “demos” has been defined and conceptualized in and across these spaces. How has public reason been shaped at the intersection of the imperial and colonial histories that have traversed them? What is the role of cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions in the discursive and material arrangements of public life in these societies? What are the modifications of long-standing norms of public reason under the pressures of late capitalism? The organizer, Samuel Sami Everett, is a multi-year resident at Iméra as part of the Mediterranean program.


We collectively explored the ways in which the edges of Europe have staged the public sphere and public reason, historically and currently in the shadow of the expectation that the globe would inevitably conform to the values of Western liberal democracy. We considered modes of public life in an open-ended way including but not limited to the construction of the demos and the public sphere of civic trust, public religion, community, conviviality and agonistic relations, and the challenge of living together with difference. In particular, we sought to go beyond explicitly politicized domains and considered the role of everyday interactions, entertainment, art, and trade, as generative of this “public”.

On Wednesday June 5 we met at the inauguration of the new permanent installation at the Mucem entitled Méditerranées which was a fantastic introduction to Marseille and the notion of Mediterranean pluralisms, partly contingent to the project of our workshop. 

Thursday June 6 the workshop presentations began and ran across two days. Samuel Sami Everett spoke about Maimonides in Marseille, linking the great philosopher to embodied traditionalist public reasons of care and cuisine. Moving from Marseille to Sicily, Naor Ben-Yehoyada demonstrated the significance of the subjunctive as a grammar of secrecy in the complex relations of Sicilian political life and its relationship to kinship. The question of voice and the body carried through in Marlène Schäfers presentation on Kurdish repertoires of women’s experience expressed in song and the question of their transmission. After lunch Carl Rommel, turned the focus to structural factors, in particular the notion of projectualité in the contemporary Egyptian lexicon and its effects on the structuring of both civil society and mega-cities. Continuing the movement from the discursive and sonic to the material, Jeremy Walton took us through an impressive array of traces of imperial histories across time and space in the Balkans. Moving between these discursive and material edges Wilson closed the days presentations discussing the gendered edges of the Western Saharan movement.

In the evening, to understand the public foundations on which present-day Marseille is built, activist and Sociologist Samia Chabani and art historian Julie Rateau from civil society organisation Ancrages in association with the Amidex project Mars Imperium engaged the group by way of a walk across Marseille with a focus on Imperial discourse and its traces in the architecture of the city today. 

Friday June 7 Charis Boutieri kicked off presentation proceedings discussing Tunisia’s post-revolutionary constitutional reform and the prison and community-based forms of reasons that worked to hold together the project. David Henig, increased the focus on Islamic edges, honed in the fatwa genealogy of Husein Đozo and their transmediterranean afterlives. Othon Alexandrakis moved the conversation from circulation of fatawât to circulation of Syrian children post 2011, particularly to the birthplace of the demos, Athens. To synthesize some of our efforts to consider translation as a technology of public-ing Paul Silverstein discussed the Tamazgha cultural history from musics and poetry, to novels and film. Reaching into the historical and local scales on which the Amazigh movement plays, Stavroula Pipyrou then explored generational differences in mobilisations of public reasons of the Greek-language community of southern Italy. Shifting from linguistic to religious margins, in the final presentation of the workshop Erica Weiss discussed the pitting against each other of coercion and freedom in secularist liberal grammars in Israel-Palestine.

Our final sessions sought to generate a communal workshop bibliography before the public screening of “Les Minots du Paniers degainent leurs automatiques” including a Q&A with the film’s directors Annick and Hervé Cohen. Well attended and thoroughly well received by the public, the film and the discussion around imbricated memories, histories and methods of testimony provided a generative end to the two days. 


The edges of Europe working group will take forward two publication projects and numerous interpersonal collaborations. While the latter are building blocks, the former constitutes a “forum” style publication of short anthropological essays followed by a more ambitious publication of an edited volume that would include documents and could have a pedagogical purpose for which we will meet again in June 2025.