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The Dynamics of Belonging: Comparative Community Formation in the East and West Mediterranean

Issue: Vol 33 No. 1 (2020)

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jma.42348


An archaeology of communities is an effective way to compare interactive dynamics and identities both in
localized contexts and at a regional scale. Such an approach brings an especially productive perspective to
the study of cross-cultural interaction and mobility, because it allows for the de-centering of ethnicity in
favor of practices and interactions. In this study, I explore the divergent regional trajectories of Ionia in the
eastern Aegean and the northwestern Mediterranean littoral that stretches between modern Barcelona and
Marseille. Both regions were important environments for interactions between Greek-speaking inhabitants
and a myriad of other local populations. Ionia developed a strong communal and regional identity
and was pulled into the center of the Greek cultural imagination; the northwestern Mediterranean coast,
however, did not. Comparing the dynamics of community and interaction in these two areas reveals that
the mechanics of interaction and affiliation between a diverse range of inhabitants in each region may not
have been so different; rather, the forces that fomented a common Ionian identity likely came not so much
from within the region as without. Finally, this comparison highlights the diversity among communities of
practice that may be present within a single residential community.

Author: Catherine Steidl

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