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Trans-Cultural Communication: Encounter and Imagination among Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle Ages

Perception and contact involving Christians, Muslims and Jews in European society of the Middle Ages is a complex history of exchange, benefit, prejudice, and rejection.  In some areas, contact was a reality or possibility, as among Christians and Jews in European urban areas, and among Christians and Muslims in the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula.  Often, instead of contact, the link was indirect, as with the transmission of Arabic scientific texts, hearsay, or descriptions of Jews and Muslims in religious texts. In such cases imagination was a critical component of perception.  In both contexts, real contact and perception through imagination, we see a tense history of contrasts, such as repeated efforts to effect conversions to Christianity and deep interest (not uncritical) in outstanding intellectual contribution.  Prejudice, rejection, appreciation and admiration:  these views and feelings were sometimes strong, and manifested themselves in various ways, from expulsion of Jews to absorption of Arabic philosophy into European scientific thinking.  Yet what kinds of communication were taking place? To what degree were communication and contact, whether actual or imaginary (e.g., literary and religious), based on understanding or misunderstanding?  On what terms were Jewish and Muslim voices heard in Christian society?  What kinds and means of discourse were involved, and what kind of ideas were projected, and to what end?  This multi-disciplinary conference considers the range of types of lived contact and ideas and perceptions which Christians had regarding Jews and Muslims, both in shared society and looking abroad. 

The conference will take place in on 10 June 2016 at the Rome study centre of the University of California, at Piazza dell’Orologio 7, 00186 Rome, Italy.

Proposals to present are sought from all historical disciplines, including history of religion, law, politics, art, literature, philosophy, science and magic, as well as philology.  Proposals from postgraduates are welcome.

Proposals of approximately 300 words, accompanied by an abridged CV, should be sent by 29 February 2016, to: romeconf2016@outlook.com.

Conference organisers:

Dr Ann Giletti (University of California, Rome Study Centre, Italy)

Dr Anke Holdenried (Department of History (Historical Studies) University of Bristol, UK)