[P6312] Confessional Frontiers in the Islamicate Mediterranean

Created by Brian Catlos
Tuesday, 11/30/21 2:00 pm


Traditional historiography divides the pre-modern Mediterranean into three clearly delineated religio-political spheres: Dar al-Islam, Byzantine Christendom, and Latin Christendom. Scholarship in recent decades has done much to call that into question, demonstrating that – religious hostility notwithstanding – people and polities on opposite sides of these confessional divides engaged in a broad range of collaborative ventures, including military alliances, commercial partnerships, and cultural enterprises. Dynamics including slave-taking, service as mercenaries, diplomacy, migrations and immigration further undermined these supposed frontiers, as did the presence of significant out-group minority communities in each of these regions. Code-switching, cultural commuting and inter-confessional marriage introduced further ambiguities.
Our four papers approach these themes from various perspectives. The work of the Muslim chronicler Mujīr al-Dīn al-‘Ulaymī on Jerusalem in the late 9th/15th century reveals his deep knowledge of the history and practice of Christianity. However, the work also polices the acceptable limits of Muslim-Christian interaction, notably Muslims’ involvement in Christian ritual. Shared rituals and pilgrimages represented a common or middle ground for members of both faiths, but also sparked anxieties among both communities. Our next paper turns to Christian-Muslim interaction in 11th-15th-century Anatolia, where Christians and Muslims rubbed shoulders, communal boundaries became ambiguous, and religious commuting was not uncommon. Here we see how familiarity can breed contempt, as the noise of churches and outward manifestations of Christian observance fed accusations of Christian idolatry. Yet, these reveal as much about the accuser as the accused, and often reflect polemicists’ anxieties about their own origins and practices. Next we turn to relations across the religio-political divide: our third paper draws on archival material from Christian Spain to examine how the Hafsid rulers of fourteenth-century Ifriqiya pressed Christian merchants into diplomatic service in their efforts to resist Aragonese pressure. Ultimately, Christians and Muslims here shared larger goals – namely the continuing viability and profitability of trade between North Africa and Europe. In our final paper we see a collision between a Muslim movement to recognize victims of the plague as martyrs, and the propensity of their Christian and Jewish neighbors to imagine pandemic as divine punishment. Confronted with these two interpretations, Muslim thinkers had to navigate a middle ground: recognizing the non-Muslim perspective, while privileging and validating the experience of Believers. Together these four papers examine the question of what it meant to be Muslim in the multi-confessional medieval Mediterranean and tensions that arose out of ambiguities of identity in this diverse environment.


The Mediterranean Seminar


Organized under the auspices of the Mediterranean Seminar


Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist




Brian Catlos

(University of Colorado Boulder)
Brian A. Catlos (PhD: University of Toronto, Medieval Studies, 2000) is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and Research Associate in Humanities at the University of California Santa Cruz. His work centers on Muslim-Christian-Jewish...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;

Zeynep Aydogan

(Institute for Mediterranean Studies, FORTH)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Travis Bruce

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Fadi Ragheb

(University of Toronto)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Joel Pattison

(University of California, Los Angeles)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

David Gyllenhaal

(Princeton University)
PhD student at Princeton University.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;