Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

California Italian Studies

California Italian Studies banner

Predrag Matvejević’s Mediterranean Breviary: Nostalgia for an “Ex-World” or Breviary for a New Community?


In recent years, the declining importance of the nation-state and an increase in globalization have encouraged scholars to move towards the borderless world of seas and oceans, giving special attention to their diasporic movements of people and goods. Lately, this “new thalassology” has witnessed an outburst of Mediterranean studies. Yet the resurgence of the Mediterranean in the postmodern, anti-nationalistic arena must be critically assessed. The risk in such studies is a reinforcing of old stereotypes, what the anthropologist Michael Herzfeld calls “Mediterraneism.” The present article highlights the work of two scholars and one writer who alert us to the manifold dangers of Mediterraneism and who offer standpoints for launching a serious interrogation of Mediterraneism. Roberto Dainotto points to the asymmetries couched in the alluring metaphors of liquidity and flows. Iain Chambers views the Mediterranean as a space of solid borders that entail the production and consumption of the immigrant as outcast. The writer Predrag Matvejević shows how Mediterranean identity cannot be understood as an all-encompassing unity, but as a satura, a discrete ensemble made up of differences and conflicts. By constructing a metonymical network of landscapes, things and crafts, and relying on the philological excavation of everyday words, his Mediterranean Breviary succeeds in asserting a humble communal identity against the clamor of wars and the retracing of borders.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View