November 1-3, 2023 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “Cultural transfers between North and South” Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, ITALY

February 2-4, 2024, International Conference “Making the world “one postal territory” UPU / Bern Switzerland
21 September 2023
October 18-20, 2023 International scientific conference “Diplomacy and literature” Piraeus/GREECE
21 September 2023

November 1-3, 2023 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “Cultural transfers between North and South” Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, ITALY

International conference


Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, 1-3 November 2023


In the last decade, a number of studies in the history of literature, art and ideas have approached the mutual cultural transfers between Northern and Southern Europe. In so doing, these studies have also discussed established conceptualizations of “North” and “South” and proposed new ones. In approximately the same time period, several efforts in the field of religious studies have emphasized how selected works of art and/or literature have negotiated spiritual knowledge and at the same time emphasized specific national and/or regional cultural traits from North and South Europe respectively

What has been much less – if at all – studied, is how these two avenues of research intermingle, i.e., how cultural transfers between Northern and Southern Europe have contributed to negotiate, exchange, rework and elaborate esoteric and occult knowledge in the production of literature, painting, music, architecture, and the arts at large.

The osmosis between esoteric/occult and artistic discourse, which scholars have termed “occulture”, has mainly been studied from a national perspective and drawing upon case studies from the last 60 years. Such lack of comparative knowledge and studies is somewhat surprising if one takes into account the impact of esoteric and occult materials from a wider “South” (including not only Southern Europe, but also Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin) that has made its way in Northern Europe since at least the end of the 19th century, focusing, about the continuous forms of inspiration that Nordic alternative spirituality has had on artistic production in Southern Europe (e.g. with the proliferation of Nordic paganism in occultural discourse).

The proposed conference aims at filling this scholarly gap, open up avenues of research and discussing new ways of approaching and conceptualizing occultural phenomena with a North-South perspective as a starting point. We understand “North” and “South” as including, respectively, the Nordic, Baltic, German and English-speaking countries in Europe, and Southern European, Mediterranean, and African countries/areas.

The journey of the Finnish writer Joel Lehtonen in Tunisia in 1914

Poems of Baltic-Mediterranean Cultural Confluence.

Mohieddine Hadhri, Emeritus Professor / History -Tunis University

Finnish short story writer and novelist, a colorful personality, who arose from a poor background to a world traveler, Joel Lehtonen (1881-1934) was one of the most acclaimed Finnish authors of the 1910s and 1920s. Lehtonen's sojourns in Switzerland and Italy (1907-08), France (1911-12), and North Africa (1914).

This trip he made in 1914 in Tunisia produced a collection of poetry, Puolikuun alla, which was published five years later in Helsinki (1919). “Under the Crescent” is a poetic journey that follows the route taken by Lehtonen in 1914. Entitled "Under the crescent", symbol of an Arab Muslim civilization, this poetic work relates the experience of Lehtonen who visited several Tunisian cities: Tunis, Sfax as well as Gafsa and Tozeur, located in the southern oases of the Djérid and the Sahara.

It is to be noted that large extracts from this book have been translated in Tunisia during the year 2010, from Finnish, to Arabic and French. Furthermore, a TV program and a movie have been co- produced by Tunisia and Finland for commemorating the century Lehtonen visit of Tunisia. Today, more than a century has passed since Lehtonen's trip to Tunisia, this sublime incursion of Lehtonen in the South of the Mediterranean area motivated the proposal of this paper whose main objectives are to:

1) Bringing some insights on the pioneering role of Lehtonen in visiting a southern Mediterranean country, discovering through a Nordic lens the natural beauty of landscapes, cultures and inhabitants in this region.
2) Reflecting original ideas and expressions about the mutual cultural transfers between a Northern Baltic Sea country (Finland) and another Southern Mediterranean country (Tunisia).