Joan-Pau Rubiés

Joan-Pau Rubiés

Robert Lehman Visiting Professor
Rethinking the Global Renaissance
2023-2024 (September - December)
Joan Pau Rubies


Joan-Pau Rubiés was educated in Barcelona and a has doctorate from King's College, Cambridge. Currently he is ICREA Research Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, and previously taught at the Universities of Cambridge, Reading and the London School of Economics. Past publications include Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European Eyes, 1250-1625 and Travelers and Cosmographers. Studies in the History of Early Modern Travel and Ethnology. More recently, he edited a volume on Cosmopolitanism and the Enlightenment with Cambridge University Press. He is currently writing a monograph titled Europe's New Worlds: Travel Writing and the Origins of the Enlightenment, 1550-1750, and a volume on missionary ethnographies in the early modern world. He is also working on re-thinking the Global Renaissance.

Project Summary

The Renaissance is in fact a multi-layered historiographical construction, with roots in sixteenth century Italy, Romantic elaborations that continue to cast their shadow, such as Jacob Burckhardt’s portrait of an age of discoveries, and more recent scholarly iterations. Against the weight of this culturally specific legacy, there have been attempts to re-conceptualize these categories from a less Eurocentric and more plural perspective. This has taken two forms. The first one is to consider the extent to which the Renaissance in Italy and elsewhere was interwoven with the experience of colonial Encounters and interactions with non-European societies. The second avenue is to consider whether we can meaningfully talk about many Renaissances, for example in Islamic Societies, China and India, as proposed by Jack Goody. This pluralistic use of the concept can be associated with the current practice of studying the early modern centuries as the first global age, an approach usually built around connections and comparisons. My work seeks to interrogate critically these efforts, focusing on the notion of a global Renaissance. In particular, is the fact that European culture had global dimensions and involved interactions with non-European cultural traditions sufficient to relativize the Eurocentric legacy of the concept, or do we also need to re-consider the manner in which the Renaissance in Italy and elsewhere in Europe involved a particular relationship with the legacy of a classical past? To answer this question, we need to do two different things: to assess critically the weight of actual connections and cross-cultural interactions in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (the Renaissance of discoveries and encounters); and to re-consider the European relationship with its past of art and learning by comparison with potential parallels in China and the Islamic World (the Renaissance of antiquities).