Natalie Zemon Davis, historian of the marginalized, dies at 94 | ET REALITY


Professor Davis published two books in 2000. “The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France” is an anthropological look at how gift and reciprocal obligation helped structure society, and “Slaves on Screen” examined the representation of slavery and resistance to it. in five films, from “Spartacus” (1960), set in ancient Rome, to “Beloved” (1980), an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel based in the American South. Professor Davis said history films offered “thought experiments” about the past, but she criticized the use of fiction that misled viewers.

Professor Davis’s 1995 book presented the lives of three 17th-century women of different faiths (Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism) who came from different regions: Germany, Canada, and Suriname.Credit…Harvard University Press

After 2001, Professor Davis turned her attention to researching a 16th-century diplomat for the Sultan of Fez, al-Hasan al-Wazzan al-Gharnati al-Fasi, who was kidnapped by Christian pirates in 1518 and taken to Rome. . He converted to Christianity and lived there for nine years, writing books for Europeans in Italian and Latin about North Africa and Islam, more colloquially under the name Leo Africanus. He was best known as the author of the first geography of Africa published in Europe, in 1550.

His resulting book, “Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds,” was published in 2006.

Africanus, Professor Davis said, had a “double identity and vision: a Muslim curious about Christianity, a North African interested in exploring the world of Rome and Italy.” But concrete documentation about him was scarce; To figure it out, he said, he had to develop “a plausible life story from contemporary materials.” As he had done in the case of Martin Guerre, he speculated about Africanus’s behavior based on the practices of the world from which he came.

Natalie Zemon was born in Detroit on November 8, 1928, the daughter of Julian and Helen (Lamport) Zemon, both American-born children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her father worked in the textile business and her mother was a housewife. Natalie was one of the few Jews at Cranbrook Kingswood, an all-girls school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Although she was popular and successful there, she felt like an outsider, according to herself.

Leave a Comment