Imagining Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish, Roman and Byzantine Concepts of Space and Power in the Slavlands, c. 750-900
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CitationKabala, Jakub Jan. 2014. Imagining Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish, Roman and Byzantine Concepts of Space and Power in the Slavlands, c. 750-900. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation offers a comparative cross-cultural investigation into the imagination of space in three sibling centers of civilization driving the formative expansion of Europe in the early Middle Ages: the Frankish court, the papacy and Byzantium. At its center stands the Slavic world of eastern Europe, which in the eighth and ninth centuries attracted the expansive energies of a young Carolingian empire, a newly aggressive papacy and a resurgent Byzantine Empire. A close reading of Latin, Greek and Church Slavonic records reveals three models of imagining space, and three ways of conceptualizing power.
Frankish authors at the courts of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious represented areas of the world under Frankish power as territories, and areas beyond Frankish reach as ethnicities. Their "imagined territoriality" of power included the Slavic world at those times and in those places when and where Frankish imperial reach was possible. At the same time, and especially in moments of crisis, court authors represented Frankish space as a heterogeneous network of nodes of landed wealth. This complex Frankish imagination of space was ultimately shaped by an exercise of power that was fundamentally economic in nature. Meanwhile, Roman authors at the ninth-century papal court imagined the spaces of eastern Europe very differently as homogeneous areas clearly delimited by strong borders. They reveal a geopolitical brand of territoriality as defined by geographers and historians of the modern nation-state. This papal vision of space was influenced by a power that was jurisdictional in nature. Finally, and in stark contrast, Byzantine authors imagined a non-territorial space of peoples in Eastern Europe: instead of drawing border lines to distinguish territories, they drew lines of faith to distinguish peoples. In the Church Slavonic sources, the most important principle ordering this ethnographic space was jezykb, a term meaning both "language" and "people," emphasizing both a Byzantine imperial ideology that was fundamentally ethnographic in nature as well as an exercise of power grounded in written cultures and even alphabets.
This dissertation both exposes the critical role played by eastern European Slavlands in the origins of European conceptions of territoriality and demonstrates the power of cross-cultural investigations to deepen our understanding of the medieval past.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13068538
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