Argument

MERAP-MED aims to explore heritage-making processes carried out by religious communities in the Mediterranean from an ethnographic and comparative perspective. In order to renew the field of heritage and religious studies in that region, the programme will concentrate on the various ways in which religious identities are constructed and represented in such a multiconfessional context.
Historically, the Mediterranean is considered to be a peculiar cultural space where the co-existence of the three monotheisms seems to be central to local socio-cultural structure. If one can observe a wide variety of modes of coexistence, from the mythical convivencia in medieval Spain to violent religious conflicts, some soft modes of side-by-side living exist, showing that interconfessional life is a long-term reality in the Mediterranean. Mixed marriages, conversions, ritual syncretism appear not only as real plural spaces but also as confessional devices to ensure confessional coexistence and persistence. The affirmation of uniqueness and the softening of differences both form part of this multiconfessional  context.
The cultural and religious in-between of the Mediterranean has recently become a subject of study for the social sciences and humanities, although the heritagisation of the cultural memories of the monotheisms seems to begin with the colonial conquest enacted by the European states at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and has now become increasingly important for the independent nation states, the revival of minorities and the development of cultural tourism. Monotheist heritage in the Mediterranean has been, and still is, materialized through the preservation of architectural vestiges, archaeological remains, places of worship, museums and religious itineraries intended for foreign or local tourists and pilgrims.
On the one hand, however, the history of these religions, the superposition of religious and political powers, and colonial uses of heritage have blurred the boundaries between religious memories and heritage as a political resource for the process of state building. On the other hand, some specific and localized heritage claims appear in the Mediterranean which tend to singularize and safeguard religious heritages beyond the three great monotheisms, which are in fact made up of many confessional subgroups, such as Sephardim, colonial Catholics, Armenian Christians, Sufi, Gnawa or even Protestants.
Scholars of the Mediterranean have published very few on this entanglement of religion and heritage, or, at least, they have only recently begun working on research applied to heritage preservation without questioning the role played by heritagemaking as a social practice that can be used by local actors, by confessional minorities or by ecclesiastical institutions as another device to stabilize identity, power and to negotiate their role on the plural scene of the Mediterranean.
So if the pasts of the various religious groups are today being transformed into heritage, the members of MERAP-MED propose to explore religious concern for the past as an essential part of the monotheist way of believing. There is no doubt that the past is theologically and ritually important in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (prophets, temples, saints, or holy texts), but we need to understand what is at stake today in the foundation of museums, archives, guided tours and brochures by the Mediterranean confessional minorities and ecclesiastical institutions.
The members of the team, historians, geographers and anthropologists have undertaken several studies of religious-heritage management, shared and mixed devotions, church heritagisation, confessional minorities or ritual revival on the shores of the Mediterranean. They will provide a wide range of competences and will lead fieldwork exercises, which will be shared through a series of 3 closed working meetings and displayed at 2 workshops and a final doctoral school.

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