I was born in Rome, Italy, and grew up there, except from some childhood years spent in Alexandria as a latecomer to the Italian diaspora in Egypt.
After surviving the bureaucratic nightmare that is Italian university, I moved onto Oxford, UK, where I obtained a master’s in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies. I arrived in Princeton in 2013, not really knowing what to expect from American academia, but firmly resolved to write a dissertation on Arab-Byzantine relations in the Central Mediterranean.
Things turned out differently. During my first year in Princeton, I had the chance to learn how to read Judaeo-Arabic from Mark Cohen, and discovered the wonders of the Cairo Geniza. I immediately realized that I had finally found the sources for the sort of history I had always wanted to write, and started ruminating over the implications of this serendipitous encounter. The following year, the stars aligned as Princeton hired two first-class Geniza specialists, and I shifted my research focus to start working on Fatimid Egypt.
I have since been moving between Geniza documents and Excel spreadsheets to bring to completion my dissertation, recently christened Peasants, Merchants, and Caliphs: the Political Economy of Fatimid Egypt. Drawing from the extensive Egyptian documentary evidence afforded by the Cairo Geniza and the papyrological record, as well as from frustratingly arcane works such as Egyptian fiscal manuals, I propose to offer an analysis of the main social relations of production and distribution in medieval Egypt.
My ultimate goal is to shed light on the complex interplay of two symbiotic, and yet antagonistic, modes of value circulation: state-extracted tax and merchant-accumulated capital. I thus aim to show how a specifically capitalist logic could operate in the context of a non-capitalist society such as Egypt in the Fatimid era, and what the implications of this inherent contradiction are not just for the history of medieval Egypt, but also for that of capitalism at large.
“From the Frontier Cities to the City, and Back? Reinterpreting Southern Italy in the De administrando imperio” in Nicholas S.M. Matheou, Theofili Kampianaki, and Lorenzo M. Bondioli (eds.), From Constantinople to the Frontier: The City and the Cities (Leiden & Boston: Brill 2016), pp. 365-84
“Islamic Bari between the Aghlabids and the Two Empires”, in Glaire D. Anderson, Corisande Fenwick, and Mariam Rosser-Owen (eds.), The Aghlabids and their Neighbors. Art and Material Culture in Ninth-Century North Africa, (Leiden & Boston: Brill 2017), pp. 470-90.