Italy, Islam & the Mediterranean(Part I) featuring Ali Aydin Karamustafa

“I’m from Saint Louis, but I’m also originally Turkish and Iranian, so I have a basic experience with the Mediterranean. Coming to Italy there were a lot of things that were immediately recognizable, even just on the visceral level: sights, sounds, colors, smells, facial features. On the other hand, I was surprised by how much I felt that Italian culture and society had its back turned on the rest of the Mediterranean and was really looking towards Northern Europe.” Ali Aydin Karamustafa

Join me for the first half of my conversation with global historian, Ali Aydin Karamustafa, in which we trace his personal and professional path from St. Louis, Missouri to Bologna, Italy. In this episode, Ali engages us in an illuminating narrative about Italy’s relationship to its Mediterranean neighbors and to the Islamic world through the ages. During his recounting, Ali identifies key historical moments, offers valuable insights on those moments and their vestiges, and provides different lenses through which to look at Italy’s connection to its Mediterranean neighbors and what that relationship means and has meant to Italians. We also discuss Ali’s complicated relationship to Italy, how he sees himself in the country in light of his own cultural identity, and we delve into the notion and significance of a “Mediterranean identity”. Finally, we touch upon what it’s like to be a young academic in Italy today and I ask Ali to tell us about his research and teaching, his keen interest in contemporary geopolitical issues and economic exchanges, and how he sees Italy’s current relationship with the Mediterranean.

Ali Aydin Karamustafa biography

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Ali Aydin Karamustafa is a historian of the Ottoman and Safavid worlds, and his research focuses on oral and written traditions concerning origins, conquest, legitimacy, and rebellion which were produced and circulated by political communities from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries across Eurasia. Primarily based in Bologna, Italy, since 2018, he currently teaches at Stanford University’s Breyer Center for Overseas Studies Program in Florence. In January 2020, he received his PhD in history from Stanford in Transnational, International, and Global History. His dissertation focused on the popular culture of the Middle East in the 16th-18th centuries, in particular, the epic of Köroğlu. He speaks and reads several regional languages, and works with manuscripts, journals, and print sources for his research. He has extensive travel and research experience in Iran, Turkey, Jordan, the Caucasus, and Russia. He is interested in applying his expertise in historical analysis and language skills to carry out research on contemporary politics and economics in Europe and the Middle East.

Recorded March 5, 2024 @ Musikalmente Firenze

Production Intern: Mark Scott

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