Category Archives: reading group

ANZAMEMS Reading Group

The first session of the 2024 ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate reading group is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26. This will be a session on astrology and public health. See schedule below.

All readings and any updates to the schedule will be shared through the reading group’s Google Drive folder:

Please contact the convenors with any queries: Alexandra Forsyth (University of Auckland),, and Emily Chambers (Murdoch University),

ANZAMEMS Reading Group

The next session of the semester 2 ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate reading group is scheduled for Tuesday, November 21. It’s going to be a King Arthur Christmas spectacular led by Vesna McMaster.

Please find further details, including the session time, in the attached schedule. The link for the readings is:

Email / with any questions.

ANZAMEMS Reading Group

The next session of the semester 2 ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate reading group is scheduled for Tuesday, September 26, on the topic “Violence and Behavioural Control.”

Please find all further details, including the session reading and time, in the attached schedule. Email / with any questions.

ANZAMEMS Reading Group (updated schedule)

The session of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR reading group on ‘Race in Mughal India’ which was initially scheduled for Tuesday August 29 at 6pm AEST has been postponed to the new date of Tuesday September 5 at 6pm AEST. Please find all further details in the attached schedule.

All queries to and

ANZAMEMS Reading Group

The second session of the ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgrad reading group for semester 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, August 1, on the topic of “Shells, Bodies, and Materiality.” The session will be led by Alexandra Forsyth (University of Auckland).

Please find all further details, including the session topic and hour, in the attached schedule. Email / with any questions.

ANZAMEMS Reading Group: Semester 2 Schedule

The convenors of the ANZAMEMS reading group are pleased to provide the below confirmed schedule for Semester 2 2023.

The first session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 4; please find all further details, including the session topic and hour, in the schedule.

The organisers are still interested to hear from members who may be interested in leading one of the listed sessions, for which readings have already been selected. Please email / if you would like to participate in this way.

ANZAMEMS Reading Group: Semester 2 2023

The ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate Reading Group discusses the latest research in medieval and early modern studies, with the aim of promoting engagement with emerging and established fields of inquiry in MEMS research.

Virtual sessions of the reading group will take place via Zoom monthly between June and October/November 2023. Each session will take one or two recent articles or chapters related to a certain topic/methodological approach/trend in MEMS scholarship, and feature a short presentation from an ANZAMEMS member (whose own research is ideally in the vicinity of their chosen session theme), followed by questions-led discussion.

The reading group will be co-convened by Emma Rayner (PhD candidate, ANU) and Emily Chambers (PhD candidate, University of Nottingham).

We hope to foster a convivial and intellectually productive online space—think advanced graduate seminar!—where we can come together to talk all things MEMS research in a fairly informal manner, while expanding our networks or strengthening existing connections. Everyone is welcome, including more senior members of ANZAMEMS.

ANZAMEMS members who are interested in leading a session based around one of the below themes or a topic of your own selection, AND/OR who are interested in providing a short write-up of a session for a planned ANZAMEMS postgrad blog, please email / no later than June 16, 2023.

A finalized schedule and Zoom link will be circulated ahead of our first meeting for the semester on June 27.

Possible session themes include:

  • Periodization
  • Affect / emotion studies
  • Critical race studies
  • Cultures of materiality
  • Ecocriticism
  • Comparative / transnational studies
  • Travel and cultural encounter
  • Visual culture
  • Religion, religious culture
  • Borders, borderlands
  • Language and translation
  • Genealogies
  • Geography, cartography
  • Rhetoric
  • Poetics
  • Epistemologies
  • Historiography
  • Time and temporality
  • Performance studies
  • Knowledge production
  • Humanism
  • Virtue, vertu
  • Cultures of collecting
  • Book history
  • Afterlives, reception studies
  • Adaptation
  • Digital Humanities
  • Manuscript studies
  • Incunabula
  • Intellectual networks
  • Devotional communities
  • Reading, coteries
  • Marginalia
  • Disability studies
  • Canonicity
  • Gender studies
  • Class studies
  • Archives
  • Methodologies
  • Pedagogy

ANZAMEMS Reading Group Summary: Session 4 ‘Slavery and Sexual Violence’

The fourth session of the ANZAMEMS PGR/ECR Reading Group took place on Zoom on Tuesday 2 May. This week’s reading, kindly recommended to the group by Natalie Tomas (Monash), was Tamar Herzig’s article on ‘Slavery and Interethnic Sexual Violence: A Multiple Perpetrator Rape in Seventeenth-Century Livorno’, The American Historical Review, 127/1 (2022): 194–222, which studies the 1610 rape of a group of 14 enslaved Jewish women by Muslim slaves and Catholic forced laborers in the slave prison (Bagno) at Livorno. Using written sources which respond to the rape, Herzig argues that it was orchestrated by the high-ranking physician Dr Bernardetto Buonromei in order to put pressure on the city’s Jewish community to pay high ransoms for the women. Herzig places the rape in the context of the Mediterranean slave trade and of the place of Jews in the Italian city, and skilfully mines limited primary source material to shed light on the event and its consequences.

The group praised Herzig’s research and writing throughout the session, noting that the article offers an example par excellence of how historians can work with and not against archival silences. The main sources taken up by Herzig were the petitions of the Jewish leaders (massari) to Grand Duke Cosimo II. These supplications do not describe the rapes themselves, but instead underline their graphic results of sexual violence for the women, with one attempting to kill her daughters and then herself in response. The group also appreciated Herzig’s attentiveness to the strategies of rhetoric silencing deployed in Buonromei’s response to the allegations, which essentially served to erase the traces of the violence done to the female slaves. For instance, Buonromei uses the plural masculine form, ebrei (Jews), to refer to the slaves, and makes reference only to forms of punishment administered to men (e.g. head-shaving). Our members found this example of the contemporary historical erasure of the Jewish female slaves in real-time particularly fascinating, as the process is usually understood as something which is enacted retrospectively.

Herzig described the Jewish population in the free city of Livorno at the time as “thriving” and segregated into a semi-autonomous community, but as nonetheless lacking in power or status in important ways. Whereas Muslim slaves could expect decent treatment, or else the Maghrebi authorities would in turn retaliate against Catholic slaves, enslaved Jews had no sovereign Jewish power to call down in the event of maltreatment, and were also unable to gain their freedom via exchange with their Christian counterparts. The reading group mused that the existence of a Jewish nation or government in the seventeenth-century may have ensured a better treatment of Jewish slaves in Italy. We also acknowledged that the treatment of Mediterranean slaves was really based on financial or business reasoning, rather than human motivations. Both Cosimo and Herzig honed into the financial element of securing ransoms from the Jews of Livorno for these Jewish female slaves. However, it was pointed out that the Jewish community had only a small fund and a firm cap on ransoms, while the slaves had been captured with their families and so had no kin to pay ransoms, meaning that Livorno could not expect profitable ransoms for the women. The rapes could also have had a wider motivation of leveraging fear amongst the city’s minorities. However, Buonromei was probably unaware of the financial state of the Jewish community and expected them to be able to pay up.

We also considered the complete lack of censure or prosecution which Bounromei faced; following the supplications, he remained in his role in the slave prison and continued to enjoy Cosimo’s favour. This is unsurprising, as the Grand Duke was unlikely to side with the enslaved women (and by extension, with the Jewish massari) against a state official. As the women were slaves, it was unlikely that the rape would be prosecuted. We also noted that, as slaves, they were assumed to lack honour, so (theoretically) could not be “dishonoured” by the rape. This led to a discussion about the nature of honour, during the course of which the following questions were posed: Was the honour at stake in this multi-perpetrator rape a communal honour wherein the Jewish men were shamed by the attack on their women? Was ransoming a restoration of personal honour, meaning that slavery’s loss of honour was only temporary, but was rape a permanent alienation of honour? Was honour attached to agency, or to a lack of it, in women?

The group also questioned what the women’s value as slaves would have been at the time – Herzig gives no sense of their monetary worth or the market value of slaves in seventeenth-century Livorno. We understood it was more profitable to ransom slaves than sell them to buyers. Herzig did note that those who converted to Catholicism could not be sold, and that the babies of slaves were baptised, leading mothers to either accept conversion too or else be separated from their children. This led to a discussion on the practice of appropriating children into religion at birth, which was very widespread, and of using socio-economic incentives to seek Jewish conversions to Catholicism. On this subject (but through a nineteenth-century lens), Natalie Tomas recommended the following book: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, by David I. Kertzer.

Emily Chambers (University of Nottingham)

The next session of the reading group will be on Tuesday 23 May, 4:00pm (AEST), on the theme of Language and Translation. All ANZAMEMS members are welcome.

If you’ve missed any of the past sessions, summaries are published on the ANZAMEMS newsletter:

Please contact the convenors with any queries: Emma Rayner (ANU),, and Emily Chambers (University of Nottingham),