Cultural Hybridities:

Christians, Muslims & Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean

NEH Summer Institute for College and University Professors

July 4–July 31, 2010 • Barcelona (Spain)




Overview Program Facilities Faculty & Staff Group Page Projects

Faculty & Local Scholars' Presentations

“What is the Mediterranean? Where is Hybridity?”

“Intertwined Cultural Practices of Romance-Arabic Translation
in the Crown of Aragon and Western Islam: Diplomatic Contacts”

“Hybridity: Heredity, Seeds, Grafting, and Mules”

“Glimpses of Intercultural Contacts in Medieval Islamic Sermons”

“Religious Diversity and the Translation Project in 12th-Century Toledo”

“An Elusive Hybridity: Medieval Iberian Musical Interactions and Myths”

“Rethinking the Dynamics of Late Medieval Jewish-Christian Polemics: From Friar Paul to Alfonso de Valladolid”

“Text Networks: The Alexander Romance”

“Beyond Hybridity: “Mudéjar” Ceramics and “Linear Gothic” Painting”

“The Case for Medieval Mediterranean Literature”

“Diversity & Identity in the Medieval Mediterrnanean: A Model”



Week 1: People and Spaces

Tuesday, July 6 - 17h
“What is the Mediterranean? Where is Hybridity?”
Peregrine Horden

Professor of Medieval History,

Royal Holloway, University of London




This opening presentation is intended to introduce the Summer Institute in two ways. First it will review definitions and ideas of the Mediterranean from its “invention” as a region to its current ubiquitous deployment in book and journal titles, web sites and conference proceedings. Is “the Mediterranean” now anything more than an attractive, because cliché-laden, geographical expression? One answer revives in a new way the old anthropological concept of the “culture area.” It invokes this region as one of particularly intense interfaith interaction and cultural hybridity. Rather than ask what this hybridity might consist in, we shall, in the second half of the presentation, question where it has been found in the medieval Mediterranean. Have historians generalised too hastily from actually unrepresentative examples? Have they looked at the right subjects, in particular allowing enough space for the gendering of interfaith relations?




Abulafia, David. “Introduction: What is the Mediterranean?” In The Mediterranean in History, edited by David Abulafia, 11–30. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003.

Brummett, Palmira. “Visions of the Mediterranean: A Classification.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37.1 (2007): 9–55.

Horden, Peregrine. “Mediterranean Excuses: Historical Writing on the Mediterranean since Braudel.” History and Anthropology 16 (2005): 25–30.

Horden, Peregrine, and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, pp. 9–30.

Herzfeld, Michael. “Practical Mediterraneanism: Excuses for Everything, from Epistemology to Eating.” In Rethinking the Mediterranean, edited by W. V. Harris, 45–63. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Green, Monica. “Conversing with the Minority: Relations with Christian, Jewish and Muslim Women in the High Middle Ages.” Journal of Medieval History 34 (2008): 105–18.







Thursday, July 8 - 13h
"Intertwined Cultural Practices of Romance-Arabic Translation in the Crown of Aragon and Western Islam: Diplomatic Contacts"

Roser Salicrú i Lluch

Senior Researcher

Institució Milą i Fontanals (CSIC)





The close diplomatic contacts maintained between the Crown of Aragon and the Western Islamic powers during the Late Middle Ages are a fertile field for inquiry regarding cultural hybridities. Focusing on the practice and possibilities of intercultural translation and communication, both written and oral, and on the learning of Arabic by Christians and of Romance languages by Muslims, this lecture will concentrate on the analysis of some practical examples of intertwined translations and on the characterisation and possible identification of interpreters and translators.







Thursday, July 8 - 17h
“Hybridity: Heredity, Seeds, Grafting, and Mules”

Steven Epstein

Ahmanson-Murphy Distinguished Professor of Medieval History

University of Kansas




Hybridity is a status, so it makes sense to ask how people acquired their status in the medieval Mediterranean. A classic textbook feature of medieval Mediterranean society is that people inherited their status from their parents, in a society of ranks and orders where children were expected to follow their parents into their place or status in society. Nobilities and notables in Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures were intensely interested in questions of hereditary status. People were able to rise and fall in this hierarchy on the basis of individual merit or misfortune, but most remained where hereditary status placed them. Historians of science have taken up relevant themes like race, Jewish blood, and hereditary diseases and healers to illuminate contemporary attitudes about what was fixed in human nature and what was not. Emerging market economies in the medieval Mediterranean have given economic historians the chance to explore how trade and work enabled some people to claim higher status traditionally a reward of good birth. Wealth was an acquired characteristic that could be passed down the generations. Some people made money producing better dogs and horses for the nobility. Animal and plant breeding posed some questions relevant to those activities as well as human reproduction. This talk will explore human hybridity in the medieval Mediterranean by seeking what it has in common with the surrounding context of the diversity of life.




Biller, Peter. “Proto-racial thought in medieval science.” In The Origins of Racism in the West. Edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac and Joseph Ziegler, 157-80. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Groebner, Valentin. “The carnal knowing of a colored body: sleeping with Arabs and blacks in the European imagination, 1300-1500.” In The Origins of Racism in the West. Edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac and Joseph Ziegler, 217-31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Miramon, Charles de. “Noble dogs, noble blood: the invention of the concept of race in the late Middle Ages.” In The Origins of Racism in the West, 200-16.

Nirenberg, David. “Was there race before modernity? The example of ‘Jewish’ blood in late medieval Spain.” In The Origins of Racism in the West, 232-64.

Ziegler, Joseph. “Physiognomy, science, and proto-racism 1250-1500,” In The Origins of Racism in the West, 181-99.





Week 2. Religion and Culture

Monday, July 12 - 12h
“Glimpses of Intercultural Contacts in Medieval Islamic Sermons”

Linda Gail Jones
Post-doctoral Fellow
Institució Milą i Fontanals (CSIC)





Medieval preaching, whether in Islam or in Christianity, is fundamentally a discursive and ritual practice which creates borders between religious communities. Nevertheless, preaching offers some examples for reflecting upon the concepts of cultural interaction and contact and the negotiation of identities. The case of mendicant friars preaching to captive audiences of Jews and Muslims as part of what Burns called the "13th-century dream of conversion" is perhaps the best known example of the role of preaching in cultural interaction. I propose to approach the topic from a different angle by analyzing Maliki juridical discussions criticizing certain practices affecting the performance of the Muslim liturgical sermon (khutba) in the medieval western Mediterranean. First, I will analyze various cases of religious innovations (bida`) which had crept into the khutba ritual and were attributed to the imitation of Christian or Jewish practices. My sources include the treatises on innovations by the Andalusi jurists Ibn Waddah and al-Turtushi, the juridical responsa (fatawa) compiled by the Maghrebi jurist al-Wansharisi, and the compendium of Maliki Law composed by the Egyptian jurist Ibn al-Hajj. I will then focus on a particular case preserved in Ibn al-Hajj’s text denouncing an innovation that had become "fashionable" in his day, whereby an “infidel” who recently converted to Islam attends the Friday communal prayer and interrupts the preacher as he is delivering his sermon in order to "make a show" of his conversion. In my analysis of Ibn al-Hajj’s argument, I demonstrate that his censure of the lack of humility on the part of the convert and the preacher is linked to a preceding case in which the Maliki jurist condemned various innovations in the khutba ritual as ostentatious, giving him reason to suspect the authenticity and sincerity of the Muslim preacher. In sum, the analysis of the juridical arguments against innovations in the Islamic sermon reveal glimpses of how certain ritual gestures, attitudes, or acts come to be defined as "non-Muslim" or not "authentically" Muslim, and thus form part of the process in which preaching transmits and negotiates religious identity.








Monday, July 12 - 13h
"Religious Diversity and the Translation Project in 12th-Century Toledo"
Alexander Fidora

Professor of Medieval Philosophy

Institut Catalą de Recerca/ Universitat Autėnoma de Barcelona





Toledo, reconquered in 1085 by Alphonse VI from Muslim domination, has become an icon of the social and political integration of the three monotheistic religions during the Middle Ages. My own concern in this paper, however, will not be with this form of tolerance or toleration, but rather with its intellectual counterpart within the Toledan community of learning: The question is, what role religious diversity played within the intellectual milieu of Toledo. Even though we have no evidence of an explicit dialogue between the religions in 12th-Century Toledo, I will show that such a dialogue existed, namely as a dialogue which was mediated by philosophy or better: by the philosophical translations produced in Toledo by Abraham Ibn DauÝd and Dominicus Gundissalinus who are both associated with the so-called Toledan School of Translators. I shall first discuss what could be called the premises of a dialogue between the religions in Abraham Ibn DauÝd’s and Dominicus Gundissalinus’ own works (II). Then I will try to show how such a dialogue actually developed through their joint translation of Avicenna’s philosophical works, especially his treatise De anima (III). Finally, I shall point to the continuity of this very same dialogue a hundred years later within the French and Italian Jewish communities of learning (IV).









Monday, July 12 - 17h
“An Elusive Hybridity: Medieval Iberian Musical Interactions and Myths”
Judith Cohen

Ethnomusicologist & Performer

York University




Medieval music is at once an especially appealing and an especially frustrating topic. More than in the case of visual art forms and literature, any modern experience of medieval music is necessarily a construct, filtered through the choices of modern musicians. Even when musical notation exists (and two of the three main religious communities of the Mediterranean for the most part did not use musical notation), its interpretation is open to many possibilities, often conflicting, and one can only speculate about the sounds. The lack of medieval Jewish and Muslim music notation, as well as the lack of notated medieval popular music, has facilitated the creation and perpetuation of myths. Among the most prevalent are “medieval Sephardic music,” “medieval Arabic music”, “medieval flamenco,” their mutual influence and modern survival. In the time available, this presentation will provide an overview, with some examples of what is known and some suggestions for further investigation. The focus will be on the musical world of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities of Barcelona and Gerona.


Cohen, Judith R. 2000. “New Life for Old Songs: the Ethnomusicologist as Applied Contrafactotum”. Jerusalem. Hispania Judaica 2: 35-42.

-----. 2001. "'Ca no soe joglaresa': Women Musicians in Medieval Iberia's Three Cultures." Pages 66-80 in Medieval Women’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Edited by A. Klinck and A. Rasmussen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

-----. 2009. “Redeeming Self and Portraying Other: Music and the ‘Three Cultures’ Festivals in Spain”. Pages 101-112 in Performance, Identity. Edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Marcello Sorce Keller, with Loris Azzaroni. Bologna: CLUEB, 2009.

Gallego, María-Angeles. 2009. “Approaches to the Study of Muslim and Jewish Women in Medieval Iberian Peninsula: The Poetess Qasmuna Bat Isma`Il.Miscelánea de Estudios Árabes y Hebreos 48: 63-75.

Gutwirth, Eleazer. 2004. “A Song and Dance: Transcultural Practices of Daily Life in Medieval Spain.” In Harvey J. Hames, ed., Jews, Muslims and Christians In and Around the Crown of Aragon: Essays in Honour of Professor Elena Lourie: 207-227

Katz, Israel J. 1992. "The Music of Sephardic Spain: An Exploratory View." In Carol E. Robertson, ed. Musical Repercussions of 1492: Encounters in Text and Performance. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institute Press: 101-128.

Reynolds, Dwight. 2000. “Musical ‘Membrances of Medieval Spain.” In Stacey Beckwith, ed. Charting Memory: Recalling Medieval Spain. New York, Garland: 229-262.



Brann, Ross, The Compunctious Poet, Cultural Ambiguity and Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain, Baltimore, John Hopkins, 1991.

Cohen, Judith R. 1990. “Musical Bridges: the Contrafact Tradition in Judeo-Spanish Song”, in Cultural Marginality in the Western Mediterranean, Toronto, New Aurora, 121-128.

Cole, Peter. 2007. Princeton University Press.

Cortés García, Manuela. 1996. “La mujer y la música en la sociedad arabo-musulmana y su proyección en la cristiana medieval.” Música Oral del Sur 2: 193-206.

Ferreira, Manuel Pedro. 2004. “Rondeau and Virelai: the Music of Andalus and the Cantigas de Santa Maria.” Plainsong and Medieval Music 13 / 2: 117-140.

Garulo, T. 1986. Diwan de las poetisas de al-Andalus. Madrid.

Monroe, James T. 1972. “The Arabic and the Romance ‘Hargas’”. Viator 8: 95-125.

Nichols, James.1981. “The Arabic Verses of Qasmuna bint Isma’il ibn Bagdalah” International Journal of Middle East Studies 13/2:189-201

Reynolds, Dwight. 2004. Interview, conducted by Banning Eyre. Afropop, Madrid 2004.

Seroussi, Edwin. “Music in Medieval Ibero-Jewish Society.” Hispania Judaica 5 (2007): 5-67.

Shannon, Jonathan. 2007. “Performing Al-Andalus, Remembering Al-Andalus: Mediterranean Soundings from Mashriq to Maghrib.” Journal of American Folklore 120/477: 308-334.

Snow, Joseph.1990. “Alfonso as Troubadour: the Fact and the Fiction”. In Robert Burns,ed. Emperor of Culture: Alfonso X the Learned of Castile and His Thirteenth-Century Renaissance. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press. LIBRO Library of Iberian Resources Online.









Thursday, July 15 - 17h

“Rethinking the Dynamics of Late Medieval Jewish-Christian Polemics: From Friar Paul to Alfonso de Valladolid”

Harvey Hames
Professor of History

Ben Gurion University of the Negev




Scholarship over the past few decades has described a steady worsening of relations between Christians and Jews from the 12th century onwards, and with the foundation of the mendicant orders in the thirteenth century, a concerted effort to convert both Jews and Muslims began. A mainstay of this conversionary activity was the public disputations, starting in Paris in 1240, followed by Barcelona in 1263 and continuing with the Tortosa disputation in the early fifteenth century. Another mainstay was the increase of treatises devoted to inter-religious polemic such as Thomas Aquinas’ Summa contra gentiles and Ramon Marti’s Pugio fidei, and Jewish responses such as that of Solomon ibn Adret. But was conversion the main purpose of these disputations and treatises or are there other reasons and underlying causes that can help explain this increase in polemical activity? We will try to answer this question by situating this polemic in a broader context that includes Islamic criticism of both Judaism and Christianity and the problem of the transfer and translation of knowledge from one religion to another. Two converts from Judaism to Christianity will provide interesting examples of how inter-religious polemics can provide a window into questions of identity and religious uncertainty. While Friar Paul (Saul of Montpellier) provides a new method for substantiating Christian truths, Alfonso de Valladolid (Abner of Burgos) can be viewed as one of the first missionaries to pose a real challenge for his Jewish contemporaries.



Baer, Yitzhak. A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 2 vols (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1992) vol.1, pp. 327-54.

Chazan, Robert. Barcelona and Beyond: The Disputation of 1263 and Its Aftermath. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, pp. 17-79. [Part 1] [Part 2]

Cohen, Jeremy. The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 103-28.








Week 3. Text and Image

Monday, July 19 - 17h
“Text Networks: The Alexander Romance”

Dan Selden

Professor of Literature

University of California Santa Cruz




The Alexander Romance—the collective name for an as yet untotaled corpus of related Late Antique and Medieval texts—was the single most popular book in the Old World for roughly a millennium and a half, from the third century BCE through the fifteenth century CE. Attested in over eighty languages, from Mongolia to Spain and Ethiopia to Iceland, this was the work—and not the Bible, the Aeneid, or the Qur’aÝn—that successfully united readers across the whole of the Eurasian and North African land mass. While the Greek and Roman historians of Alexander the Great give us the facts of the man’s career, the Alexander Romance retells his life in legend. What did pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim readers all find so compelling in this story—for which no two manuscripts are quite the same—and why did it disappear so abruptly from view in the Early Modern era? Drawing on select versions of the Romance from around the Mediterranean, and Iberia in particular, the seminar will attempt to explain both “how the Alexander Romance works”, and why it is of renewed interest today.




Kratz, Dennis M. trans. The Romances of Alexander. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1991.


Selden, Daniel. "Text Networks," Ancient Narrative 8 (2009), 1-23







Wednesday, July 21 - 17h
“Beyond Hybridity: “Mudéjar” Ceramics and “Linear Gothic” Painting in the Chapel of St. Jerome at La Concepción Francisca in Toledo (14th–15th c. A.D.)”
Cynthia Robinson

Art History and Near Eastern Studies

Cornell University




Through a reading of the funerary chapel of St. Jerome at the convent of La Concepción Francisca in Toledo, Spain, this presentation questions the limitations of the interpretive model of “hybridity.” Completed in 1422, “in the service of God, the Holy Virgin Mary and Saint Christopher” (as stated in an inscription circling the dome), the chapel conjoins a badly damaged image of the “Mass of Saint Gregory” that most historians of art would categorize as “Late Gothic” and an ornate dome, that many have labeled “Islamic” or “Islamicizing:” adorned with delicate and stylized vegetal motifs, monograms of Christ's name (IHS), so-called “Hands of FaÝtima,” and phylactery- or amulet-like plaques (known in Arabic as ta`wiÝz) bearing pseudo-kufic inscriptions, it glitters with pieces of “Mudéjar” luster-glazed ceramic from Valencia. Currently accepted models of interpretation would read the chapel of Saint Jerome as a “hybrid” combination of “Islamic” and “Christian” elements. My reading questions the underlying essentialisms presupposed in such interpretations. Rather, I will argue that each of the individual elements that make up the chapel’s ornamental program is the result of complex cultural contingencies whose elucidation requires far greater subtlety than that currently offered by medievalists’ adaptation of “hybridity.”




Dodds, Jerrilynn D., Maria Rosa Menocal and Abigail Krasner Balbale. “Palos.” In The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian
. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, pp. 1-7.

---. “Brothers.” In The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture, pp. 241-263.

---. “Mudéjar.” In The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture, pp. 309-13.

---. “Arts and Architecture.” In The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture, pp. 321-29.

Feliciano, María J., and Leyla Rouhi. “Introduction.” Interrogating Iberian Frontiers, Special issue, Medieval Encounters 12.3 (2006): 317-328.

Robinson, Cynthia. “Trees of Love, Trees of Knowledge: Toward the Definition of a Cross-Confessional Current in Late-Medieval Iberian Spirituality.” Medieval Encounters 12.3 (2006): 388-435.

Ruiz Souza, Juan Carlos. “Architectural Languages, Functions and Spaces: The Crown of Castile and al-Andalus.” Medieval Encounters 12.3 (2006): 360-387


Kapchan, Deborah A.and Pauline Turner Strong, “I - The Metaphor of Hybridity - Introduction - Theorizing the Hybrid,” Journal of American folklore 112, no. 445, (1999): 239-53 (read through p. 243 only)

Robinson, Cynthia. “Mudéjar Revisited: A Prologomena to the Reconstruction of Perception, Devotion and Experience at the Mudéjar Convent of Clarisas, Tordesillas, Spain (14th century A.D.),” RES 43 (2003): 51-77





Week 4. Medieval Mediterraneans
Monday, July 26- 16.30h
“The Case for Medieval Mediterranean Literature”
Sharon Kinoshita

Professor of World Literature

University of California Santa Cruz





Where “Mediterranean Studies” is a going—and growing—concern among historians of the Middle Ages, it has to date found much less purchase among scholars of medieval literature. Following on Dan Selden’s presentation in Week 3, my talk will survey some of the different things “Medieval Mediterranean Literature” might suggest as a category of analysis.




Kinoshita, Sharon. “Almería Silk and the French Feudal Imaginary: Towards a ‘Material’ History of the Medieval Mediterranean.” In Medieval Fabrications: Dress, Textiles, Clothwork, and Other Cultural Imaginings. Ed. E. Jane Burns. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Pp. 165-76.


-----. “Medieval Mediterranean Literature.” Forum on Theories and Methodologies in Medieval Literary Studies. PMLA 124:2 (2009). 600-08.


-----, and Jason Jacobs. “Ports of Call: Boccaccio’s Alatiel in the Medieval Mediterranean.” In “Mapping the Mediterranean.” Ed. Valeria Finucci. Special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37:1 (Winter). 163-95.




-----. “Chrétien de Troyes’s Cligés in the Medieval Mediterranean.” Special issue Essays on Chrétien’s Cligés. Ed. Norris J. Lacy. Arthuriana 18.3 (2008): 48-61.




Tuesday, July 27 - 16.30h
“Diversity & Identity in the Medieval Mediterrnanean: Patterns & Models”
Brian A. Catlos

Associate Professor of History

University of California Santa Cruz

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

University of Colorado at Boulder




The medieval Mediterraean comprised not only a common geography, but a common socio-political environment in the central Middle Ages, a fact that is brought dramatically light by the development and sharing of similar political institutions and strategems in both Muslim and Christian lands. Examining the cases of three members of ethno-religious minorities who rose to and fell from the pinnacles of power in the Islamic and Christian Mediterranean of the eleventh and twelfth centuries provides a departure for considering patterns which shaped minority-majority relations on the political plane and beyond, and offers suggestions for models by which to describe and understand the paradoxes of ethno-cultural interaction.




Wasserstein, David. “Samuel Ibn Naghrila Ha-Nagid and Islamic Historiography in Al-Andalus.” Al-Qantara 14 (1993): 109-26.


Birk, Joshua. “From Borderlands to Borderlines: Narrating the Past of Twelfth-Century Sicily.” In Multicultural Europe and Cultural Exchange in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, edited by James Peter Helfers. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005.


Catlos, Brian A. “To Catch a Spy: The Case of Zayn Al-DĒn and Ibn DukhČn.” Medieval Encounters 2 (1996): 99-114.







Organized by: Funded by: Sponsored & Supported by:      
The Mediterranean Seminar National Endowment  for the Humanities Ministerio de Cultura (EspaĖa) University of California Santa Cruz Universitat Pompeu Fabra Real Academia de Bones Lletres