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RSA Plenary Session: The Global Renaissance
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The Plenary Session of the 2012 RSA Annual Meeting

When: Friday, 23 March 2012
5:30-7:00 pm
Where: Grand Hyatt Washington, Independence Ballroom

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Location: GRAND HYATT WASHINGTON, Independence Ballroom
Organizer: Alison K. Frazier, University of Texas, Austin
Chair: Hannah Wojciehowski, University of Texas, Austin
Respondent: Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Notre Dame University

Ann Blair, Harvard University

Information Flows in a Global Renaissance: Through Orality, Manuscript, and Print

The European Renaissance witnessed information explosion due both to increased travel to different parts of the world and to the rediscovery of ancient texts. In addition to these external factors, however, new conceptions of proper information management caused the explosion — notably the idea of taking and saving notes on texts and direct experiences. Information flows based on this note-taking were neither uniform nor one-directional. In particular, information was treated differently depending on the form in which it traveled: in manuscript (whether meant to be secret or for more-or-less broad diffusion), in print (in different genres to reach different audiences), and/or through direct human transmission. What difference did it make when texts traveled with people rather than by themselves as unaccompanied objects, especially when those people were themselves "documents” of other worlds?

Natalie Rothman, University of Toronto

Mediating a Global Mediterranean: Translation, Commensuration, and Articulation

This paper draws out some of the methodological and conceptual implications of the recent resurgence of the Mediterranean as a historical object for our understanding of the so-called global Renaissance. It considers shifts in the historiography of early modern Mediterranean empires, focusing on the growing scholarship on ethnolinguistic, religious, and juridical boundary-crossing. The paper highlights the importance of processes of mediation, commensuration, and translation in their myriad transimperial settings, and explores how the global Renaissance was articulated from the vantage point of self-proclaimed cultural intermediaries and the variety of genres and state institutions they engaged. These intermediaries and their role in enabling the circulation of texts, ideas, and objects has all too often been assumed, or rendered transparent. This paper suggests that attending to sites of mediation can bring to light the very conditions for envisioning a global Mediterranean, both then and now.

Ken Albala, University of the Pacific

The Renaissance of Food in Global Perspective

While historians have long traced the many global exchanges in ingredients, peoples, and pathogens that took place in the wake of the age of encounters, few have looked closely at actual culinary traditions. What traditions of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European kitchens were adapted to local conditions, ingredients, and available technologies and why do they survive long after disappearing from European cuisine? There are surprising culinary rudiments dating back to the Renaissance, stretching from the kasutera of Japan to the capirotada of Mexico. This talk will discuss European cookbooks and cooking traditions and the fascinating ways they influenced cooking around the world, long before the era of transnational conglomerate food corporations.

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