Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Georges Huppert: After the Black Death. A Social History of Early Modern Europe

Huppert is attempting to understand that changes that took place in Early Modern Europe in the aftermath of the Black Death, otherwise known as the bubonic plague, that wiped out nearly a third of Europe's population at the time.

Huppert points out that interconnected living was cultivated and implemented in places around Europe starting in the twelfth century, serving to create a societal order and functions with every class between merchants to peasants in an arrangement that cultivated and connected these otherwise separate class entities. In these deeper growing connections was a new sense of trade and a growing dependence of one sphere on the other.

I also found it interesting that Huppert points out that with such a devastating effect on the population of the continent previously, came much change in societal roles and values. For example, women were no longer pressured to marry so young,. Huppert makes the argument that this advanced the status of women in society since there were so many less people in general.

Huppert juxtaposes the purpose of both the cities and the rural areas, highlighting that it was the rural entities that were responsible for cultivating the food, and the city's responsibility to cultivate money. It was here that trade really began to flourish, especially in the sense that delegating tasks in this way would stream-line processes of development and growth. The persons who mainly suffered from this arrangement, though, were people outside of the cities.

Mary Elizabeth Perry: Gender Disorder in Early Modern Seville

In this chapter Perry articulates on several occupations women participated in and the significance of their gender in these roles. According to Perry, the women that took part in Seville in Hapsburg Spain were greatly economically and spiritually active, despite their degenerate role in society, and the forces with which institutions attempted to control their activities.

I found it interesting the Church's role in the gender disorder that took part in the time period Perry is exploring, and wonder perhaps what prompted such institutions to be so fearful of a female class.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trent 1475 Reading

The author investigates blood libel trials against Jews after the murder of a Christian child, in a case made against them that Jews use the blood for ritual sacrifice. The setting of these trials takes place in Trent, Italy, where the suspects were intolerably tortured to the point that they were forced to confess. I found it interesting how the author was able to trace out how exactly the fraudulent charges were made, and how the fraudulent confessions were formed.

The case itself highlights one of the long-standing anti-semitic accusations against Jews in the middle ages--that they would kill and use Christians and their blood for ritual sacrifice. These accusations would later become known as "blood libel".  In the case of the murder of this child, 18 Jews were imprisoned, all the men eventually being subject to execution and the women torture.

The beginning of the book highlights the historical context in which the murder and subsequent "trials" took place. Chia later goes on to describe the various torture methods and the unpredictable outcomes this torture lead to--like the confession of a crime that the accused did not commit. Chia makes the case that the main reason much of this torture and forced confession took place was because of the prince-bishop of Trent's upbringing and his role in the process.

Despite the so-called evidence the bishop of Trent received proving the guilt of the Jews in France, Chia makes it clear that this "evidence" is not valid and that the persecuted were, once again, victims of anti-semitic claims that were able to gain traction.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

R. I. Moore: The Formation of a Persecuting Society

Moore begins by stating the medical definition of leprosy, as well as pointing out the complicated history the disease has. There has been much confusion historically surrounding the bacterial infection partly due to the number of ailments that may have similar symptoms and the difficulty diagnosing it correctly. Moore places the difficulties of this disease placed in twelfth-century Europe.

I found it interesting the marked organization and expenditure on the separation of Lepers to institutions specialized for them beginning in 1250 in England and Wales due to an increase in demand for their segregation from the rest of society.

Moore finalizes his chapter with the claim that Lepers became the image of the most "repellant, the most dangerous and most desolate of creature, representing the last degree of human degradation" between the actual pains of the disease itself, but more so society's reaction to it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pieter Spierenburg: The Spectacle of Suffering

Spierenburg attempts to trace the origins of pre-industrial repression, making the point that the evolution of repression is deeply connected with the development of the state. The chapter focuses on how repression is a system of control.

Spierenburg makes an interesting point, highlighting that originally, repression of crime focused mainly on the crime and its impact on the community, rather than the purpose for which the crime was being committed. Criminal justice in fact had nothing to do with the criminal or the amount of guilt this person had, that is at least until the nineteenth century.

What I found most interesting about this reading was the fact that Spierenburg points out that the increase in capital and corporal punishment between the 12th and 16th centuries was not a result of a growing bloodlust in the general population, but rather a "consequence of growth and stabilization of a system of criminal justice."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Kai Erikson: On the Sociology of Deviance

Erikson begins his argument with the idea that when convicting a member of a society of committing a violation of law, a group of like-minded people must come together to identify the person guilty of committing the crime, which often times is difficult because they do not stand out. Society as a whole somehow decides which character features it wishes to punish and then builds institutions as a result of punishing these features. Erikson makes the claim that sociologists, in order to decipher which of these features society historical has chosen to qualify as deviant through letting social groups provide their own definitions of what behavior they consider dangerous or embarrassing enough to bring a special circumstance to it.

I find this approach to understanding crime and punishment interesting, especially in regards to how the societal image of deviant behavior transforms throughout time and place.

Erikson also makes the point that each society deals with what they deem as deviant behavior in vastly different ways. In society, the main goal with these methods which he refers to as "deployment patterns" is to deploy the deviants to the edge of society to provide group space for the rest of society.

Diane Owen Hughes: Distinguishing Signs

Hughes begins her study questioning why the Virgin Mary had to have gone through a purification ceremony, given her vital role in the birth of Jesus Christ. She juxtaposes Jesus's presentation at the temple as the new law, and Mary's presentation as the old. Hughes describe how only through removing her ear-rings was Mary able to turn to the Christian world. This signified a sign of a woman's exotic background as Lorenzetti's painting portrayed, however ear-rings at the time were only really worn by Jews, who were concurrently forming a stronger community in Italian cities.

Ear-rings would later become a sign of Jewish identification and the vices of Franciscan rhetoric, as well as a woman's vainglory. This kind of dress would also become associated with prostitution. A connection between Judaism and prostitution has often been made, but never explained. Eventually this connection would lead to the assumption by many that Jewish women were whores, with ear-rings being the sign of sexual impurity.

Hughes concludes her argument settling what might be the purpose behind either removing ear-rings from portraits of the Virgin Mary or making an obvious point that her ears are pierced, finalizing the concept that even something so minuscule as an ear piercing was symbolic of purity and impurity in the late middle ages.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Erving Goffman Readings

Goffman argues that we often attribute a supernatural power to those who have a stigma, while also viewing the person with this stigma as undesirable and dangerous. I wonder, is it the fear of these victims of stigma having an unknown power to us that makes us view them as undesirable and not worthy?

Something I found most interesting about this reading was Goffman's analysis of people who attained stigmas later in life. The juxtaposition between their pre-stigma acquaintances and how they view the person with the associated stigma "being attached to a conception of what he once was" while post stigma acquaintances see him as just a faulty person. In both cases they saw the person attached to the stigma as somehow damaged, yet having known the person before receiving the stigma made no difference in their reputation.