Abstract

Abstract:

Periodization is inherently political and bound up with racial ideas. Following Kathleen Davis's model for the analysis of feudalism and secularism, this essay asks how race governs the politics of time. Understanding the racial logic behind the construction of Italian history in the premodern and modern periods can help us to understand and challenge those categories and logics, thereby destabilizing the ancient/medieval/modern divides. Older concepts of periodization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century historiography divided the ancient world from the Middle Ages, juxtaposing Romans with foreign barbarians as well as with Africans. This essay will first analyze the historiographical category of late antiquity, arguing that the construction of the Lombards, a post-Roman group who ruled much of Italy in the sixth- through eighth- centuries, played a fundamental role in Italian self-definition beginning in the nineteenth century. Finally, this essay examines the use of the concept of Romanitas (Roman-ness or romanità, or the political and cultural values spread by Romans throughout their empire) in modern Italian scholarship and politics to demonstrate that shifts in its conceptualization suggest that the desire to create a white Italian identity was tied to Europe and had devastating effects on those excluded.

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