Stories of the Mediterranean in the Long Middle Ages, Part I: Lives

AHA Session 69
Medieval Academy of America 2
Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Balcony N (New Orleans Marriott)
Brian A. Catlos, University of Colorado Boulder
Pull or Push? Andalusi Emigrants in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Maribel Fierro, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales–Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Embroidered Stories, Embroidered Lives
Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga, Papyrus Museum at the Austrian National Library
Anatomy of a Trans-Mediterranean Rumor
Gillian L. Weiss, Case Western Reserve University
Andrew Devereux, Loyola Marymount University

Session Abstract

The first panel of the “Stories of the Mediterranean in the Long Middle Ages” workshop looks at individuals whose personal trajectories traversed the Mediterranean or crossed the communal boundaries that defined it, whether physically or culturally.  Maribel Fierro examines the emigration from al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) to Islamic North Africa as a consequence of Christian military advances in the twelfth century. Focussing on sunni religious elites who were forced to conform to a radical and foreign Almohad pietism, her paper shows how religious community and consensus did not always conform to religious identity writ large. Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga’s paper examines the travels of a member of the highest Islamic political elite, the eighth-century emir ‘Abd al-Rahman I – not however, in his physical form, but as an iconographic representation and as an object, manifested in a richly decorated silk brocade that made its way from eleventh-century al-Andalus to Christian Castile in the north of the Peninsula. Finally, Gillian Lee Weiss’s “Anatomy of a Trans-Mediterranean Rumor” turns to the lowest strata in Mediterranean society – slaves – and to the very tail end of the long Middle Ages. This highly original paper casts light on the role of captives and prisoners as conduits for information and intelligence between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe, illuminating a dynamic that must have characterized the experience of slaves over the course of the previous seven hundred years. In each of these papers the figures of individuals show us how travel in the Mediterranean was necessarily transgressive, and how this fed the ambiguities and tensions that characterized society and culture here, thereby encouraging us to re-examine our presuppositions regarding historical categories and paradigms of nation, religion and culture that we tend to take for granted.


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