Communities in the Early Middle Ages

Project in partnership with ECOLE FRANÇAISE DE ROME (COMMUNAUTES. À la recherche des communautés du Haut Moyen Âge : formes, pratiques, interactions - VIe-XIe siècles; P.I. Geneviève Buhrer Thierry, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and Maria Cristina La Rocca, Università di Padova, DISSGeA)

“Communities in the Early Middle Ages” is a five-years research project financed by the Ecole Française de Rome (2018-2022). It focuses its attention on small communities that are based on common practices on a local or regional scale, looking for their constituent elements. The exogenous notion of community makes it possible to orient our research not towards its essence, but towards the modalities of its implementation (i. e. through the lived space, collective memories, circulation and mobility through space) and to assess if the expression of its identity is conscious or if it is instead created or manipulated by an outside agent (i.e. group of people paying the same tax, or having to fight together).

Recent historiography reveals two main strands of research: the first one is interested in identifying the formation of religious communities within society; the second is interested in the process of  the institutionalization of communities. If communities never represent moral persons before the 12th century, nevertheless certain historians do not hesitate to define communities certain villages or group of villages from the Early Middle Ages, in relation to the territory and the emergence of the seigneurial lordship. W. Davies uses the concept of community territory to emphasize the fact that peasant ownership is not a series of isolates plots but constitutes a network of interrelations.

The scientific interest of such a study is based on the discussion of concepts from the social sciences such as the flexible notion of community of practice (E. Wenger): the members of a community are gradually trained through their participation more and more complete with the group activities. Their interactions with experienced members gradually transform them into full members, capable in turn of forming new members. We will also consider the modes of construction but also of dissolution/destruction of communities: construction by the norm, by processes of exclusion and inclusion, by the constitution of a hierarchy. Finally, we will tackle the crucial question of ideal communities: the study of the discourses that legitimize the community will shed light on the way it represents itself, reproduces itself, transmits its own memory and guides the construction of the identities of the subjects that compose it.

The project has brought together several conferences, which are currently being published by Brepols editions (Collection Haut Moyen Age).

Participants at Dissgea:

Maria Cristina La Rocca (P.I.)

Gianmarco De Angelis

Giulia Zornetta