Featured post

Dead Blog?

Because of serial spam attacks which the Blogger platform seems unable to deal with (yes - people warned me about Blogger), I have moved the...

Friday, 21 February 2014

Destruction porn

Here is a(nother) splendid and thoughtful post from The Plashing Vole (though his interest in fencing - as in l'escrime, not handling stolen goods - seems to have led him to write balestra for ballista).  I was thinking about Baudrillard myself, only yesterday, as it happens and pondering how the 24-hour news culture that he discussed leads to a sort of inversion of the usual historical narrative process.  normally one gets jumbled accounts from various sources, which are then gradually sifted and reassembled into a narrative, or more often several competing narratives.  In the instant transmission of pictures and stories, the simulacrum of reality that Baudrillard discussed, the story and the lesson are almost decided in advance, certainly they are already part of the 'information' received through the TV screen.  So, in a way, we have to take the historical narrative and then take it apart in order to arrive at the jumble of disparate sources and viewpoints.  Then, needless, to say, we put it back together in a different order.  Of course, even in other periods, historical sources are also interwoven with their own narratives and viewpoints, but it nevertheless seems to me that there is still some sort of crucial inversion, or at least (and perhaps better) reordering, of the process involved here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Michael Scott, I salute you

Imagine the scene, if you will.  At the end of the day I took a break from reorganising my house, having just had the loft floored (thus allowing me to conceal heaps of junk and give Château Grumpy a sense of airy, spacious modernity) and channel-hopped to BBC4, where I chanced upon Dr Michael Scott's TV History offering on The Greeks.  This dealt with the relationship between drama and politics, the decline of Athens and the rise of comedy.  Anyway, I rolled up my sleeves and looked forward to some Snow-esque idiocy that I could sharpen my wits on here. Incidentally, while we're on the subject of Dan 'the history guy' Snow and his idiocy, can someone confirm that he really did say, in part 1 of his awful triumphalistic, jingoistic series on The Royal Navy, "As the Elizabethans gathered here, beneath the dome of St Paul's..."?* I can't find it on YouTube to check.  But I digress.  Back to Michael Scott and The Greeks.  Imagine my disappointment as, in spite of my deeply-held prejudices against TV history, classicists, Oxbridge products and - especially - handsome, successful young men, this turned out be be - I thought - a really good programme.  It did that irritating classicist thing of gratuitously referring to Athens as a democracy at every opportunity.  Sure Athens was a 'democracy' - in much the same way as (or to a lesser extent than) ante-bellum Alabama was a democracy. Other than that, though, I thought it was accessible, intelligent and, for once, presented by a bona fide historian**, the first TV History I have seen that really trod worthily in the footsteps of Michael Wood.  I had been about to blog about who would put the history into public history, so yes, Michael Scott, I doff my hat to you, sirrah.  You bastard. ;-)

------

*. Yes.  Here. 22 seconds in.  Cheers, Theo.

** Assistant (or associate) professor at Warwick, or, as a sniffy Torygraph review amusingly called him, deputy professor.  I think we should have deputy professors, not least for the possibility it opens up for reworkings of Bob Marley's 'I shot the Sheriff'.  Also for the possibility of me 'deputising' a posse of grad students.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Clarification

[Before I gave the paper in the previous post, I rewrote the third paragraph (of the actual text of the paper).  I think it makes the position a little clearer.  Here is the revised version.]

The conference rationale mentions the debate over the ‘creation of the individual’ and the counterview that early medieval people saw themselves primarily as members of groups.  In my estimation, both opinions are, mistaken.  The key, shared error seems to me to lie in thinking of groups as composed of individuals, in thinking of the individual as the fundamental 'atom' to which groups can be broken down.  Yet that atom is already split. A person has a series of identities, based on sex/gender, age, ethnicity, kindred or family, religion, profession and so on.  Everyone stands at a very particular, probably unique intersection of them.  But that is what forces us to reject the term individual.  The relationship between group and identity is complex and reciprocal, as I will argue.  It might be that the group analytically precedes the so-called individual.   Even in basic psychoanalysis, the ‘self’ is divided into conscious and unconscious and, in Lacanian terms, the subject is always split upon its entry into the world of the symbolic.  In recognition of this, the British philosopher Simon Critchley coins the term ‘dividual’.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Subject, individual, exclusion: Some theoretical reflections and Frankish applications

[This is the paper I will be giving later this week to a conference on La Construction du Sujet Exclu (IVe-IXe Siècles): L'Individu, La Société et L'Exclusion.  For reasons that may be obvious, I decided not to try to write this in French...

The main, political point I am trying to make as the subtext of this paper is that there is - there can be - no community without the recognition and acceptance of dissent and disagreement.  The obsession, of at least one leading early medievalist, with painting a picture of cozy consensus and harmony in early medieval politics, seems to me to be entirely reactionary, rather like the Haigiography I discussed a couple of weeks ago - a case of 'we're [or we were] all in this together.'  It finds a pretty obvious context in the politics of the present.  Indeed it maps pretty well onto the social politics of academic early medieval history in the UK, which are pretty viciously conservative - for all the widespread pretence at left-wing credentials.

As for the paper itself, it opens with a critique of the notion of the individual -  whether as something natural, something to be valorised, or even as an analytically useful category - suggesting that each social actor stands at the (ever-changing) intersection of a number of different identities of groups. Each identity functions, however, only as an ideal, towards which a subject may move, and thus as a signifier like any other, as much composed of what it is not as what it is, or might be.  Even what it might be is ever-changing as a result of social dynamics.  The subject is thus always already excluded from whatever category s/he may wish to be included in.  I propose a concept of the 'unworked individual' as a basis for discussion.  Social dynamics are discussed as more contingent and uncertain, and with a greater possibility of misrecognition and miscommunication than I acknowledged in early works.  
 
After a discussion of ways of trying to limit the slippage and miscommunication in sixth and seventh-century Gallic society, especially through a heavy semiotic investment in costume, the paper compares subjectification in the Roman Empire with that in seventh-century and later Gaul to argue that in the latter case there was no master-signifier that could serve to fundamentally 'work' (or operate) or construct a political community in the same way as the Roman civic masculine ideal had done in the Roman Empire.  This means that references to consensus and community in seventh-century and later texts should be seen for what they are, not as descriptions of a reality, but as active attempts to create a community including some, while excluding others.
 
Update 23/11/2014: I have updated this post so that it now represents the text submitted to the volume, with footnotes etc.]
 
***

This chapter examines the volume’s key terms from a slightly different perspective from those adopted elsewhere; I hope a new and productive one.  It is fair to suggest that when borrowing approaches from other disciplines, early medieval history has, most frequently been shaped by social theories from sociology, anthropology and ethnology.  Durkheim and Weber were mentioned in the rationale for the Padova conference and my own earlier work borrowed much from this field.[1]  I this chapter, however, I will employ an approach drawn from what, in the UK, is called ‘continental philosophy’ to challenge the ontological status of the categories – and communities – into which we are accustomed to organising early medieval society.[2] 
*
What do we envisage when with think of medieval binaries?  Normally a list of pairs separated by a colon is brought to mind.  The following seems like a reasonable selection:
      Free : unfree
noble : free
  (or noble : peasant)
     Frank : Roman
  adult : child
         man : woman
Usually the terms on either side of the colon are seen as fixed entities, to which definitions can be appended.  What is at stake is often privileging the categories to the left of the colon and seeing those placed in the category to the right as excluded.  I want to refocus the analysis, so to speak, on the colon itself.  That is to say that I wish primarily to discuss not the categories but the relationships between them, seeing the latter as constant, contingent work, continually, retroactively, defining or redefining the content of the terms on either side.
The conference rationale mentions the debate over the ‘creation of the individual’ and the counter-view that early medieval people did not see themselves as such, but as members of groups.[3]  In my view, both opinions are, mistaken.  While someone may identify with a particular group, that person will be a member of any number of other, different groupings: sex/gender, age, ethnicity, kindred or family, religion, profession and so on.  Everyone stands at a very particular, probably unique intersection of them.[4]  That conception of the social actor as standing at the intersection of different identities forces us to reject the term individual, for the very reason that a specific persona can indeed be divided.  It is made up of component parts.  It is not individual.  It is, furthermore, a category error to confuse the notion of the self with that of the individual.  Even in basic psychoanalysis, the ‘self’ is divided into conscious and unconscious and, in Lacanian terms, the subject is always split upon its entry into the world of the symbolic.[5]  In recognition of this, the British philosopher Simon Critchley coins the term ‘dividual’.[6] 
Miguel Benasayag has seen the different dimensions of a persona as ‘arms’ reaching out to identify with others, making that social actor a part of others.[7]  This compels us to perceive identities as contingent, ever-changing creations produced from specific interactions between particular people.  This is vital to remember whenever we speak of concepts like ‘Frankish ethnicity’ or ‘aristocratic identity’, ‘the free’, or even ‘child’ or ‘woman’.  These are not fixed categories with historical lives and trajectories of their own.  I hope to demonstrate that this has profound implications for our understanding of early medieval society and politics.
The concept of the individual is, then, problematic, and to equate it with the self or the subject is an error.  To equate it historically with Reason, freedom, democracy and choice, as in one recent book,[8] is an even bigger mistake.  Indeed it seems to me that, as a basis for social analysis, the very notion of the individual have difficulty in standing up badly to close scrutiny, without losing the key elements that supposedly differentiate it from its alternatives.  The key point is that the individual, so far from being natural, is, as Michel Clouscard put it, a contingent product.[9]  It is the political creation of specific circumstances.  It subordinates composite identity to the idea of a whole, self-present, unique entity.  What the obsession with the individual does – ironically – is to create a single category or class: of individuals. The acts of denying the subject’s ‘dividuality’ and of valorising societies which allegedly conceive of people as individuals in opposition to those which, supposedly, do not, produces the very unidimensional categorisation that it claims to oppose.  The creation of ‘individuals’ is a matter of power.  Where a social actor wishes to be considered individual, that inextricably suppresses those identities, or dimensions of identity, which might call into question what that agent considers as their fundamental (individual) identity. The establishment of others as individuals, that is to say as persons defined by a single (individual) identity, is also an act of power and exclusion, negating shared dimensions of identity or those which stress commonality.[10]
It is important to see identity or identification not as a simple, inherent or inherited essence but as a ‘motion towards’ an ideal.  In life, such a ‘motion towards’ is never complete.  The subject constantly asks what ‘they’ want of me – in Lacanian parlance, ‘che vuoi?’[11]   Am ‘I’, ‘ego’, this signifier for a specific conjunction of social roles or positions, each with a recognised meaning, correctly living up to that symbolic content?   The subject always stands in the imagined gaze of others, or of the Lacanian ‘big Other’, which you might think of as ‘society’ in the imaginary register.[12]  Lacan memorably said ‘a man who thinks he is a king is no crazier than a king who thinks he is a king’.[13]   He meant that the subject is constantly shaped by what he or she, as someone in that particular role, thinks others expect of it, how that person is supposed to act, and so on. The rationale for the Padova conference correctly pointed out how every identification carries with it an exclusion.  Crucially, however, exclusion is inherent even within the notion of identity itself; the libidinal motion of identification is always driven by a sense of not being ‘that thing’. 
In my early work, based around my research on the Merovingian region of Metz, I discussed social interactions in terms of the deployment of identities.[14]  I proposed that, in social interactions with other persons, a social actor chooses from a set of identities, as though playing a game of cards, selecting either those which stress a shared, inclusive identity, or those highlighting difference and thus exclude. [15]
Let us consider the example of Gregory of Tours and his count, Leudast.[16]  Gregory  was male, a mature adult – I suggest that, according to normal late antique Gallic age-rounding, at the time of his dealings with Leudast he probably thought of himself as ‘forty’[17] – a cleric, celibate, in his eyes a nobilis of senatorial status, from the Auvergne and owing his appointment to king Sigibert.[18]  Leudast (although, admittedly, we have only Gregory’s account to draw upon) was certainly male, perhaps about the same age as Gregory, of (in Gregory’s view) low birth, a Poitevin, in secular royal service and thus, perhaps, also self-identifying as a Frank, who owed his position to kings Charibert and Chilperic.[19]  Gregory chose to highlight the many dimensions of their identities that raised barriers, or differences, between the two men  but he could hypothetically, had he been so inclined, have downplayed them by stressing those things they had in common : their gender and age, religion, common service of King Chilperic and shared residence in Tours.  Thus the two acted as though to exclude one another not because of any monolithic identities and their inherent opposites but because of the contingent situation in which they found themselves and their own personal desires.
Insights from Pierre Bourdieu and the British sociologist Anthony Giddens suggest that the social value of any identity is not fixed but always constituted by the collective, shared knowledge of correct and incorrect behaviour.[20]  Every action, whether exaggerating, confirming or infringing previous norms, infinitesimally affects those values, what is held to be appropriate and what is not.  This makes change dynamic.  If we compare sources from the sixth and seventh centuries it is possible to see changes occurring even within relationships which, in theory, were fixed – governed by the law.  J.Y. Okamura’s study of ethnicity uses the term ‘setting’ for the broader context within which an interaction takes place and ‘situation’ for the precise interaction or set of related interactions.[21]  The setting in the example above is later sixth-century Gaul, or even Tours, and the various identities listed earlier in that place and time, but the situation would be Gregory’s and Leudast’s interactions, meetings and precise employment of those identities.
I may previously have given too great a sense of a free choice but, other than that, I wish to refine this approach, not reject it.  The social deployment of an identity, rather than being akin to playing a card with – at least in a specific time and place – a fixed value, should be seen as more uncertain, more of a wager, a wager on the other person accepting that you have such a card to play and on acting towards you in accordance with expected fashion as a result.  Agents do not actually possess identities as finite objects. 
I suggest, too, that the symbolic value of an identity was constituted as much by what it was not as by what it was.  An identity, just like any other signifier, is perceived within a chain of signification and difference.  Thus, when one takes a stance in social interaction through performing a particular identity, there is always the risk of misunderstanding or miscommunication.[22]  An identity is never a self-present reality, but functions as a sign composed of a set of relational differences.  In choosing to deploy one identity over another, or to see a person in terms of one identity rather than another, a social actor makes a decision based not upon self-evident data but upon political or ethical choice. Like any other sign, therefore, identities operate within a space of Derridean différance.  In analysing social and political interaction, in the past or present, then, we undertake an operation akin to deconstruction, in its correct, Derridean sense, to uncover and scrutinise these choices.[23]
*
There are of course means of slowing the inevitable dynamism of social relations, and reducing the possibility of slippage and miscommunication.  One is the management of space.  People defined by particular identities – an operation of power – might be physically separated to fix them within the bounds of that identity.  We might think of the effort spent by the Roman élite, even at local levels, on creating imposing avenues of approach to their villas, and on entrance and reception rooms often more elaborately decorated than more private spaces.[24]  Even the fencing off of different units within a village has an analogous effect by making the passage into someone else’s property formal, visible and something experienced bodily.  The removal from the settlement of the dwellings of the more powerful members of society reduces the scope for chance encounters wherein it is more difficult to perform that specific identity which separation is meant to prioritise.[25]  Within buildings, male and female quarters may be separated; the decision to house animals in separate structures might have been motivated by analogous concerns.[26]  Finally space might be used to create areas within which all conduct and behaviour is governed by particular rules.  Sites of religious ritual are the obvious examples but it may be worth considering more secular governmental spaces, like the Roman city or at least its monumental centre, as another.
Our knowledge of sixth- and seventh-century archaeology does not allow us to make confident statements in this sphere, although this has surely been one of the areas of most dramatic progress in Merovingian studies over the past twenty years.[27]  Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to suggest that, in northern Gaul, the use of space to demarcate – physically – particular dimensions of social organisation was not especially pronounced.  Separate élite settlements may have been beginning to develop around 600, but not until the latter half of that century is it possible to discuss more established settlement structures in detail.[28]  Even in the south, where a greater continuity from the Roman settlement pattern can be demonstrated, sometimes into the seventh century, we must concede that this aspect of social relations had undergone significant change.[29]  We might, however, suspect that space was used to restrict the forms of interaction between different agents, and place it within a formal register, in the building of churches.  Gregory’s interactions with Leudast are moderated to some extent by their location.[30]  This possibly sheds a slightly different light upon the construction of religious edifices on villa-sites, widespread across southern Europe, and the foundation of churches within towns.[31]  The royal palace would be the secular equivalent, another delineated area within which behaviour might be effectively kept more or less within defined parameters.[32]  A final such space, I suggest, is the communal cemetery, the scene for the staging of certain social identities – and perhaps for the playing down of others.
On the whole, however, I suggest that, especially in the sixth century, in the absence of the architectural and spatial means of limiting interaction, heavy investment in costume was intended to perform a similar function.  Costume defined and created particular social categories –young man, child, married woman.  Such costume used the body and its adornment, sometimes advertising its concealment or highlighting excluded areas, to create a social demarcation, suggesting the right and wrong forms of interaction, some of which is enshrined in Salic Law.[33] It is important to underline that the content of the archaeologically-visible signs of identity is, like that of other signs, composed partly of its opposed terms. As I have argued elsewhere, the elaborate attention devoted to covering or pinning up a woman's hair, not only manifests the ideal category of the betrothed or married woman; by drawing attention to the (concealed) hair it emphasises the taboo involved in touching it, referred to in the Law, as well as referencing different categories, young girl (or boy), woman in mourning, sexual impropriety or madness.[34] The differences in belt-sets between men and women reference their opposites. The presence or absence of particular forms of jewellery makes a similar point, and so on.
An element of power was clearly involved here too.  Social norms define those dimensions of a person’s identity which are held to be appropriate for marking in costume, when and how.  If we can reliably read such things from northern Gaulish cemeterial data, the norms of formal sixth-century costume laid primary stress on age and sex.  What we might consider as signs of class or wealth distinctions were laid out within those bounds.  This says important things about the nature of community in sixth-century Northern Gaul and its role in social organisation.  The imagery of the ideal occupant of a social category created by costume is, furthermore, as external to the person choosing to play that identity as it is to the person choosing to deploy a different one in response.  Social dynamics, moreover, forever modify what that ideal might be. One important change that had occurred since the Roman period concerned the conception of gender.  In an as yet unpublished paper I argued, on the basis of a polarity in the grave-goods, that post-imperial gender, unlike that in the late Roman Empire, was conceived in terms of two sets of ideals, feminine and masculine, rather than the single masculine ideal that dominated in the classical era.[35]
I conceive of the subject, then, as something fundamentally ‘unworked’ or ‘désoeuvré’, to use a term that I think originated with Maurice Blanchot,[36] and, in important senses, always already excluded.  This has important implications for how we view early medieval political communities, allowing us to challenge the problematic ‘consensus model’.[37]  To pursue this, we must consider late antique and early medieval processes of subjectification.  Following a series of philosophers from Hegel onwards, in this chapter I have presented the case that the formation of the subject is fundamentally bound up with desire, with an attempted move to an ideal.  Herein lies a vitally important difference between the Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages.
In the Roman world, the very process of subject-formation was closely bound up with the existence of the Empire. The civic masculine ideal lay at the centre of the whole signifying system.  It was a master signifier: in Lacanian terms, a point de capiton or quilting point.[38]  Other signifiers received their precise content from their relationship with this concept.  In the Roman context, that libidinal motion of subjectification was shaped by the masculine ideal.  This was not true only of men; the Roman concept of sex/gender was one in which the female was defined qualitatively by a nearness to or distance from the masculine ideal.  By the late Roman period, we should not underestimate the extent to which this was the case even beyond the frontiers of the Empire.[39]  The Roman masculine ideal was, of course, inextricable from the concepts of lawful authority, or legitimate participation in government.[40]  This, clearly, brought all kinds of people towards a common ideal, which was in part delineated by a relationship to the Roman state.  This was surely one reason for the imperial state’s resilience.[41]  It created a real ground for the working of political community.
For fifty to seventy-five years immediately after the Western Empire’s political demise, something like this continued to be the case, thanks partly to the emergence of another, martial model of masculinity.[42]  The ‘barbarised’ martial and the ‘Roman’ civic models stood in relationship to each other via a shared link to the Emperor, who in some ways embodied both ideals.  Something equivalent to this situation existed in the earlier sixth century, when a distinction between ‘barbarian’ soldier and ‘Roman’ taxpayer or churchman persisted.  I suggest that that changed crucially at the end of the sixth century.  Justinian’s ‘Wars of Reconquest’ surely made it clear to anyone living outside the areas of direct imperial administration in the West that they could no longer, legitimately claim to be living within the Roman Empire and with an automatic, legitimate link to the emperor.  This, I propose, made a huge difference, which profoundly affects the way we envisage early medieval society and political community.  The Roman situation had meant that people of all sorts saw their ideals and felt themselves judged, or in the gaze of others, according to the same ‘master signifier’: the Roman male.  This, as noted, was intimately connected to the imperial state.  By the middle quarters of the seventh century, any possible master signifiers that might have fulfilled a similar role were not identifiable with the political units in which people found themselves.  Christian ideals were not specific to any particular kingdom, especially with the disappearance of earlier doctrinal differences in the West around 600.[43] 
Ethnic identity was, by the seventh century, very different from what it had been in the sixth century.  By the time that Lex Ribvaria was issued, in northern Gaul Roman status had deteriorated to dependent semi-freedom and Frankish identity had become more or less the norm among the free.[44]   Consequently, the military organisation that had underpinned the distinction between Franks and Roman evaporated.  Armies came to be raised primarily down lines of aristocratic patronage and dependence.[45]  The appearance of the concept of the ‘personality of the law’,[46] which finds no support in sixth-century data, has two important implications.  One is that I suspect that, in practice, the demand to be tried by the law of one’s own people was only open to aristocrats.  The other is that a multiplicity of ethnic identities existed within the Frankish kingdom.  Ethnic identity, therefore, may have come to be more restricted to the aristocracy, at least in its effective, political performance.  Simultaneously, however, there was no ethnic identity that was coterminous with the Frankish kingdom.  The regnum francorum manifestly was not simply ‘the kingdom of the Franks’.  It never had been, but my point is that the different ethnic identities of the sixth century took their definition and ideals from a set of relationships to the throne and the state, in a way that was no longer the case in the seventh century. 
As aristocrats were distinguished with increasing security from the remainder of the free population it seems that even the communally-held notions or master signifiers, connected with gender and the life-cycle, which may have underpinned local political communities in the sixth century, were now moderated and undermined by wealth and class.[47]  In some cases, differences were demonstrable from one class to another; in others, what had been generally-adopted norms may have become restricted.[48]  Gender may have come back to being structured around a central masculine model, albeit a different one.[49]  In all cases, though, the nature or existence of the Frankish kingdom was now no longer commensurate with these norms or ideals.  If anything, gendered and age-based ideals increasingly focused on the biological family.  Therefore, without the underpinning of a master-signifier directly related to the kingdom, I contend that seventh-century and later Frankish political community – and politics – differed profoundly from their Roman and sixth-century Frankish precursors. 
To borrow a term from Jean-Luc Nancy, this was, was fundamentally an unworked community. [50] Nancy’s communauté désoeuvrée is essentially community in its true or natural form, wherein people present themselves to and accept each other, in such a way as to stress no overriding shared identity – for this, he has developed the term comparution, which has no English translation: compearance has been used.
The location for such meetings changed in line with this.  My sense is that political gatherings now, increasingly took place mostly on more private locations, especially in or around churches or monasteries.[51]  A network of administrative loci connected with the state rather than individual families is hardly suggested in seventh-century or later sources.  Episcopal centres have superseded it.  Often, even the churches were in some way private.  That apart, the only vestige of a general ‘public’ space of the old sort is the royal palace, again a curious mixture of public and private.  The locations for the production and storing of documents change in similarly.
Nancy’s view is that the unworked community is an ideal; its working through should be avoided, precisely because inclusion inevitably implies exclusion.[52]  Clearly this view was not shared by early medieval people.  Seventh-century and later politics demonstrate attempts of all kinds to create community from the bases I have discussed.[53]  The value of the notions of the unworked individual or community is that they compel us to see politics in terms of attempted workings, recognising their lack of any solid basis in subject-formation, and thus to see the contingency of such communities as were (allegedly) created. It prevents us, above all, from accepting that the early medieval rhetoric of consensus described the actual bases of political action.
The rhetoric of consensus – then as now – is insidious.  Like that of communion and excommunication, it works by portraying those who have actively been excluded as having excluded themselves.[54]  It was the excommunicate’s choice, wilfully, to sin; it was the excluded’s choice, wilfully, to refuse to agree with everyone else.  As we all know, though, sin is defined by those with the authority to pronounce on social and moral norms; what is described as the ‘consensus view’ also results from the operations of power.  
We must, therefore, be careful about how we understand political references to the regnum francorum or to laws and other actions being made with the consent of ‘all the Franks’.[55]  These are very clear signs of active political work to create a community, by certain agents, excluding others in the process – such as the Ibbo who was fined a huge 600 solidi for failing to serve in the Neustrian army during a factional war against the Austrasians in 677.[56]  It is not a passive description of a cosy harmonic state of affairs; it is an active statement of relations of power, the inescapable partner of all attempts to establish – to work – a political community.  It is, in yet other words, the practical working out of one the maxims set out in the rationale of the Padova conference, that there is no inclusion without exclusion. 
 


[1] G. Halsall, Settlement and Social Organisation. The Merovingian Region of Metz (Cambridge 1995).
 
[2] On the (in the UK) bitter hostility between ‘Continental’ and ‘Anglo-American’ or ‘Analytic’ philosophy see S. Critchley, Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford).
 
[3] Crucial in this discussion was C. Walker Bynum, ‘Did the twelfth century discover the individual?’ in ead. Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley, CA, 1982), pp.82-109.  The recent discussion of the topic by L. Siedentop, Inventing the Individual (London 2014). The Origins of Western Liberalism is deeply problematic and historically badly informed.  See the review by D. Abulafia in the Financial Times, 24 Jan., 2014, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/26722be8-81f1-11e3-87d5-00144feab7de.html#axzz3JWuX0Omk (accessed 19 Nov., 2014).
 
[4] Halsall, Settlement and Social Organisation, pp.21-24
 
[5] On Lacanian psychoanalysis, see L. Bailly, Lacan (Oxford, 2009); A. Eidelzstein, The Graph of Desire (London, 2009); D. Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (Hove, 1996); B. Fink, The Lacanian Subject (Princeton NJ, 1995); S. Homer, Jacques Lacan (London, 2005); J. Lacan, Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse, (Le Séminaire vol. 11: 1964) (Paris, 1973) [Eng. Trans.: J. Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis (New York, 1994)]; S. Žižek, How to Read Lacan (London, 2006) .
 
[6] S. Critchley, Infinitely Demanding. Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (London, 2007), p.11
 
[7] M. Benasayag (trans. A. Weinfeld), Le Mythe de L’Individu (Paris, 1998).
 
[8] Siedentop, Inventing the Individual.
 
[9] M. Clouscard, La Production de l’ « Individu » (Paris 2011). This work was originally published in 1972.
 
[10] On this issue, see G. Agamben, Homo Sacer. Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita (Torino, 1995) [English translation: Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, Cal., 1998).
 
[11] J. Lacan, Écrits vol.2 (Paris, 1999), pp.295-7 [Eng. Trans. A. Sheridan, Écrits: A Selection (London, 1989), pp.345-8]; Eidelstein, The Graph of Desire, pp.125-40; Fink, The Lacanian Subject, pp.49-68; S. Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (2nd edition: London, 2008), pp.95-144 (esp.pp.123-35).
 
[12] Evans, Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, pp.132-3.
 
[13] J. Lacan, Écrits, vol.1 (Paris 1999), p.170;  Žižek, Sublime Object of Ideology, pp.20-21.
 
[14] Halsall, Settlement and Social Organisation.  G. Halsall, ‘Social identities and social relationships in Merovingian Gaul.’ Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian Period: An Ethnographic Perspective, ed. I.N. Wood (Woodbridge, 1998), pp.141-65 (with discussion at pp.165-75)
 
[15] Halsall, Settlement and Social Organisation, pp.21-22; Halsall, ‘Social identities and social relationships’, pp.141-3.
 
[16] See Gregory of Tours, Histories, 5.47-49.  Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum 1.1, ed. B. Krusch & W. Levison (Hanover, 1951); English translation: Gregory of Tours. History of the Franks trans. L. Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1974).
 
[17] On age-rounding, see M. Handley, Death, Society and Culture: Inscriptions and Epitaphs in Gaul and Spain, AD 300-750 (British Archaeological Reports (International Series) 1135; Oxford, 2003). Gregory’s age is usually calculated on the basis of a claim that he was born in 538/9.  See, for example, I.N. Wood, Gregory of Tours (Bangor, 1994), p.4.  This statement is based upon Gregory, Miracles of Martin 3.10, where he says that his mother, visiting him shortly after his election to the see of Tours in 573, had suffered from a pain in her shins ever since he was born and that, said Gregory meant she had been in pain for thirty-four years.  Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum 1.2 ed. B. Krusch & W. Levison (Hanover, 1969), p.185 English translation: R. Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, NJ, 1993), p.264.  If, however, Gregory meant ‘in the thirty-fifth year’ by this, then it may be that that estimate comes within normal Merovingian ‘age-rounding tendencies and should be given appropriate latitude.
 
[18] For biographies of Gregory see: A. Breukelaar, Historiography and Episcopal Authority in Sixth-Century Gaul.  The Histories of Gregory of Tours interpreted in their historical context (Göttingen, 1994); M. Heinzelmann (Eng. trans. C. Carroll), Gregory of Tours. History and Society in the Sixth Century (Cambridge, 2001), R. Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, NJ, 1993), ch.2; Wood, Gregory of Tours; id., ‘The individuality of Gregory of Tours’ in K. Mitchell, & I.N. Wood, (ed.) The World of Gregory of Tours (Leiden, 2002), pp.29-46.
 
[19] Gregory’s biography of Leudast can be found in Histories V.48.
 
[20] P. Bourdieu, Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique, précédé de trois études d'éthnologie kabyle (Paris, 2000)  [English translation R. Nice, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge, 1977)].  A. Giddens, Social Theory and Modern Sociology (Cambridge, 1987).
 
[21] J.Y. Okamura, ‘Situational ethnicity.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies 4.4 (1981): 452-65.
 
[22] J. Loxley, Performativity (London, 2007), pp.62-111.
 
[23] On Derrida’s philosophy, the following are very helpful: M. Dooley & L. Kavanagh, The philosophy of Derrida (Stocksfield 2007); S. Glendinning, Derrida: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011); C. Howells, Derrida: Deconstruction from phenomenology to ethics (Cambridge, 1998); B. Stocker, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook To Derrida on Deconstruction (London, 2006).
 
[24] E. Scott, Romano-British villas and the social construction of space’, in The Social Archaeology of Houses ed., R. Samson (Edinburgh, 1990), pp.149-72.
 
[25] Such strategies are well attested in the settlement archaeology of the period.  An excellent overview, with valuable bibliography up to c.2000, is H. Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements. The Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe 400-900 (Oxford, 2002).  See also C. Loveluck, Northwest Europe in the Early Middle Ages, c.AD 600-1150. A Comparative Archaeology  (Cambridge, 2013), pp.33-97.
 
[26] The presence or absence of Wohnstallhäuser on rural settlements is an indication of changes in this sort of thinking.  Hamerow, Early Medieval Settlements, pp.14-26.
 
[27] See, for example, E. Peytremann, Archéologie de l'habitat rural dans le nord de la France du IVe au XIIe siècle (2 vols) (St-Germain-en-Laye, 2003); La datation des structures et des objets du Haut Moyen Âge: Méthodes et Résultats (Actes des XVe Journées d'Archéologie Mérovingienne. Rouen, Musée des Antiquités de la Seine-Maritime 4-6 Février 1994) ed. X. Delestre & P. Périn (St-Germain-en-Laye, 1998); L’Habitat rural du haut moyen âge (France, Pays-Bas, Danemark et Grande Bretagne): Actes du XIVe Journées Internationales d’Archéologie Mérovingienne. Guiry-en-Vexin et Paris, 4-8 Février, 1993 ed. C. Lorren & P. Périn (Condé sur Noireau, 1995); L'Austrasie. Sociétés, Économies, Territoires, Christianisation (Actes des XXVIe Journées Internationales d'Archéologie Mérovingienne, Nancy 22-25 Septembre 2005, ed. J. Guillaume & E. Peytremann (Nancy 2008), pp.25-120.
 
[28] Peytremann, Archéologie de l'habitat rural, esp.pp345-6, 355-7
 
[29] See, for example: M.G. Colin, Christianisation et peuplement des campagnes entre Garonne et Pyrenées, IVe-Xe siècles (Archéologie du Midi Médiéval, Supplément 5) (Carcassonne, 2008), esp. pp.214-7; La Méditerranée et le monde mérovingien: témoins archéologiques (Actes du XXIIIe Journées Internationales d’Archéologie Mérovingienne. Arles, 11-13 Octobre 2002), ed. X. Delestre, P. Périn & M. Kazanski (Aix-en-Provence, 2005), esp. pp.129-76, 219-24  Les Campagnes de la France Méditerranéenne dans l’antiquité et le haut moyen âge: Études microrégionales, ed. F. Favory & J.-L. Fiches (Gap, 1994); Colloque: Gaule Mérovingienne et Monde Méditerranéen. Exposition “Les Derniers Romains en Spetimanie, IVe-VIIIe Siecles,ed. C. Landes, E. Dally & V. Kramérovskis (Lattes, 1988), esp. pp.125-41; Nouveaux regards sur les villae d’Aquitaine: bâtiments de vie et d’exploitation, domains et postérités médiévales (Archéologie des Pyrénées Occidentales et des Landes, Hors Série 2), ed. F. Réchin (Pau, 2006).  Some observations and descriptions in English can be found in Loveluck, Northwest Europe in the Early Middle Ages, pp.46-48.
 
[30] Eg. Histories, 5.48-49.
 
[31] A. Chavarría Arnau, ‘Interpreting the transformation of the late Roman villa: the case of Hispania’ in Landscapes of Change: Rural Evolutions in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. N. Christie (Aldershot, 2004), pp.67-102;  ead. 'Churches and aristocracies in seventh-century Spain: some thoughts on the debate on Visigothic churches.' Early Medieval Europe 18.2 (2010):160-74; A. Chavarría Arnau & T. Lewit, ‘Archaeological research on the late antique countryside: a bibliographic essay’, in Recent Research on the Late Antique Countryside ed. W. Bowden, L. Lavan & C. Machado (Leiden, 2004), pp.3-51; )G. Ripoll and J. Arce, ‘The Transformation and End of Roman villae in the West (Fourth–Seventh Centuries): Problems and Perspectives’, in Towns and their Territories between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. G. P. Brogiolo, N. Christie and N. Gauthier (Leiden, 2000), pp.63–114; T. Lewit, ‘“Vanishing villas”: What happened to élite rural habitation in the West in the 5th-6th century?’ Journal of Roman Archaeology 16 (2003):260-74; ead. 'Pigs, presses and pastoralism: farming in the fifth to sixth centuries AD.'  Early Medieval Europe 17.1 (2009):77-91.
 
[32] Early Frankish lawcodes, unlike the Lombard, seem to contain no specific legislation about conduct in the royal palace or the king’s presence.  Perhaps this was deemed to be covered as an extension of the legislation about courts of law.
 
[33] Pactus Legis Salicae 20.1-4; 104.  Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Legum, Section 1, Vol.4, Pt 1, Pactus Legis Salicae ed. K.-A. Eckhardt (Hanover, 1962); The Laws of the Salian Franks, trans. K. Fischer Drew (Philadelphia 1991). Halsall, Cemeteries and Society in Merovingian Gaul, pp.349-54.
 
[34] Halsall, Cemeteries and Society in Merovingian Gaul, pp.351-3.
 
[35] G. Halsall, ‘Classical gender in deconstruction’, presented to the VI Congresso della Società Italiana delle Storiche, Padova February 2013.  The text is available on-line at http://600transformer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/classical-gender-in-deconstruction.html (accessed 08/11/2014).
 
[36] M. Blanchot, L'espace littéraire (Paris, 1955) [Eng. Trans.: A. Smock, The Space of Literature (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982).
 
[37] For discussion, see, e.g., S. Airlie, ‘The aristocracy in the service of the state in the Carolingian period’ in Staat im frühen Mittelalter (Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 11), ed. S. Airlie, W. Pohl & H. Reimitz (Vienna, 2006), pp.93-111, at pp.93-95.
 
[38] Lacan on the point de capiton. Lacan, Écrits vol.2, pp.285-6 [Eng. Trans. Sheridan, Écrits: A Selection, pp.335-6]; Eidelstein, The Graph of Desire, pp.75-77; S. Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, pp.95, 109, 111-6. 
 
[39] G. Halsall, ‘‘Two worlds become one: a ‘counter-intuitive’ view of the Roman Empire and ‘Germanic’ Migration’. German History 32 (2014), pp.515-32, esp. pp.521-8.
 
[40] G. Halsall, ‘Gender and the end of empire’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 34.1 (Winter, 2004), pp.17-39.; id. Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-567 (Cambridge 2007), pp.96-99.
 
[41] Halsall, Barbarian Migrations, pp.470-1.
 
[42] Halsall, Barbarian Migrations, pp.109-110.
 
[43] Such as the Visigothic kingdom’s abandonment of Arianism at the III Council of Toledo in 589.  The conversion of the Anglo-Saxon kings to Christianity from their ancestral paganism should perhaps be seen in this context, as a removal of an earlier religious ‘sign of distinction’.  G. Halsall, Worlds of Arthur. Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages (Oxford, 2013), p.280.
 
[44] E.g. Lex Ribvaria 61.10-11; 61.19; 68.2-3; 69.2: Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Legum, Sect.1, Vol.3, ed. F. Beyerle & R. Buchner (Hanover, 1951); Engl. Trans. T.J. Rivers, The Laws of the Ripuarian Franks (New York, 1987).  G. Halsall, ‘Transformations of Romanness’ in Transformations of Romanness, ed. W. Pohl (Vienna, forthcoming, 2015)
 
[45] G. Halsall, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 (London, 2003), pp.53-57.
 
[46] Lex Ribvaria, 35.3
 
[47] This can be suggested from study of the cemetery evidence.  E.g. G. Halsall, Settlement and Social Organisation, pp.264-5.
 
[48] Some aspects of the typical sixth-century male career-path may have become restricted to the aristocracy: Halsall, Cemeteries and Society, pp.408-9.
 
[49] See, provisionally, Halsall, ‘Classical gender in deconstruction’ (above, n.35).
 
[50] Nancy, J. (1990) La communauté désoeuvrée (2nd edn.; Paris, 1990) [Eng. trans. P. Connor, L. Garbus, M. Holland & S. Sawhney, The Inoperative Community. Minneapolis, 1991]; id., La communauté affrontée (Paris, 2001) ; id. La Communauté désavouée. (Paris, 2014) ; J. Nancy & J.-C. Bailly, La comparution (Paris, 1991).
 
[51] I hope to deal with this issue in a separate paper.
 
[52] Above, n.50
 
[53] See, for example, P. Fouracre, The Age of Charles Martel (Harlow, 2000); R.A. Gerberding, The Rise of the Carolingians and the "Liber Historiae Francorum" (Oxford, 1987); H. Reimitz, ‘The art of truth. Historiography and identity in the Frankish world’, in texts and Identities in the Early Middle Ages (Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 12) ed. R. Corradini, R. Meens, C. Pössel & P. Shaw (Vienna, 2006), pp.87-103.
 
[54] See also A. Badiou (Engl. trans. A. Toscano), The Century (Cambridge, 2007), esp. pp.111-30.
 
[55] E.g. PLS Capitulary 2, preamble; 106; Capitulary 6, preamble.
 
[56] Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Diplomata Regum Francorum e Stirpe Merovingica, ed. T. Kölzer (Hanover, 2001), no.143 (Compiègne, 23 Dec., 694)