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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of History
Hysell, Jesse J

Jesse J.  Hysell  ABD  

Field of Study

Medieval and early modern Mediterranean; Renaissance Italy


Dennis Romano

Dissertation Title

The Function of Gifts, Extortions, and Exchanges in Veneto-Egyptian Relations on the Eve of the Ottoman Conquest (1480-1517)

Dissertation Description

My current work focuses on Venice’s interactions with the Islamic sultanate of Mamluk Egypt at the turn of the sixteenth century. Venetian-Mamluk relations have often been seen as fraught with conflict and corruption. I reexamine that issue by concentrating on the indistinct boundaries between gift giving, bribery, and extortion in order to reappraise these acts as forms of communication. I show that material exchanges of all kinds constituted an unwritten and often mutually beneficial diplomatic-commercial protocol that was open to multiple interpretations.

The project explores the metaphorical significance of the objects that were exchanged, together with the ways in which these exchanges constituted ambivalent communicative acts. Although it did not always succeed, this set of practices provided Venetians and Mamluks with vital forms of cross-cultural communication and allowed for a degree of stability in their unlikely partnership. My research adds to sociological and anthropological scholarship on gift giving and intercultural communication, moreover, by applying the theoretical contributions of Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski, Marshall Sahlins, and Erving Goffman to concrete historical examples of cross-cultural exchanges between Christians and Muslims. Through this work, I offer a new and highly nuanced means of approaching the topic of cultural encounters in the early modern period. Understanding these transactions as belonging to a lexicon of material exchange provides a compelling, innovative way to study the paradox of combative coexistence at work in the eastern Mediterranean in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Awards and Honors  

Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Research Grant for the Study of Venice and the Veneto  

Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace in the Study of Critical Languages  

Alan K. Smith Prize for Best Graduate Paper, History Department, Syracuse University  

Syracuse University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award  

William Hotchkiss Award, History Department, Syracuse University  

Alan K. Smith Prize for Best Graduate Paper, History Department, Syracuse University  

Distinction in Comprehensive Field Exams

Robert Russel Writing Award


M.Phil., Syracuse University 

M.A., Medieval European History, Western Michigan University

B.A., History, Ohio Wesleyan University

Curriculum Vitae

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