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Representing Islands and Water in the Early Modern Period - RSA Dublin 2022

Dublin, Ireland
Organisation: The Renaissance Society of America (RSA)
The Mediterranean islands have occupied, at least since antiquity, a central position within the political and economic imperatives of numerous civilizations. These military powers will establish various forms of maritime control over the Mediterranean space. From the Minoans to the Genoese and Venetian Thalassocracies, as well as the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean Sea became the scene of countless battles for control of its islands and surrounding waters (even still today). When thought as a separate entity, the island often refers to the idea of isolation, but it takes on a whole new meaning when it becomes plural: when we speak of the Mediterranean islands, we think of battles but also of commerce and cultural exchange. Likewise, the water that surrounds the islands can be both a vector of isolation and a way for communication. In the early modern period, cartographic representations of these islands, coveted by foreign powers but also inhabited by different cultures and religions, are still linked to power relations and are part of the attempts of different powers to assert their territorial legitimacy.
The question of the territorialization of the seas, which began in the 17th century with Hugo Grotius, already exists, however, through early modern cartographic representations, whether we speak of isolarii, nautical charts, Geographies or wall paintings. To control an island is also to control the surrounding waters: in the same way, to represent an island is also to represent the maritime space that surrounds it, whether it is empty, filled with hatching, figurative details or simply colored. What is the relationship between the island and the surrounding waters? Does the latter make it an enclosed place, a fortified wall, a place of exchange? What about the islands of the Indian Ocean, or those of the New Territories? Is this plural idea of the relationship between the island and the sea to be found in the representations of other maritime spaces at the same time?
Venue: The Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1