Renegades, Turncoats, and Converts in the Pre- and Early Modern Mediterranean

AHA Session 139
Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Grant Park Parlor (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Sharon Kinoshita, University of California, Santa Cruz
Brian A. Catlos, University of Colorado Boulder

Session Abstract

Scholars of the pre-Modern West have long regarded categories of religious identity as fundamental to Islamic, Christian and Jewish societies in Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Recent scholarship has shown, however, that such identities were fungible and often ambiguous, and that individuals sometimes either “commuted” between ethno-religious affiliations or manifested two or more of such identities simultaneously. This panel, featuring two literary scholars and two historians, examines individuals who transgressed communal boundaries, either openly or deceptively, from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. What were their motives? How were they perceived of by their new communities and by their old communities? What was the cost of transgressing boundaries of identity?

Anthony Mimmena looks at the Muslim “kings” of Christian-ruled Murcia in the 1200s, untangling their collaborative relationships with Christian noblemen. Elizabeth Terry-Roisin, turns to the frontier world of the late-fifteenth century Nasrid sultanate of Granada as it collapsed under military pressure from Castile, and specifically to two individuals who “commuted” back and forth between Christianity and Islam as they sought to survive the disintegration of this last Muslim kingdom. Toby Wikstrom moves to seventeenth-century Provence and the perception of converts to Islam, and the tension between chauvinistic, ideologically-driven representations of them and a much more flexible social reality. Finally, Filippo Screpanti delves into the corsair era of the seventeenth-century western Mediterranean, specifically how narratives of captivity and redemption were presented in drama and fiction.

Together these four papers will form the basis of a discussion on perceptions of religious loyalty and communal identity in the art and life of the ancien régime western Mediterranean, led by Brian A. Catlos, and with the participation of the audience.

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