Visibility of religious difference in Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Hamsa. Journal of Judaic and Islamic Studies

The goal of this volume is to show ways in which religion marked a perceptible difference in Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Considering visibility in the wider sense of the word -also including acoustic perception and other aspects that would differentiate them- religion made people either from their own will or under external coercion- visible within medieval societies. The tension between visibility through othering or self-labelling, and invisibility through cultural assimilation was a constant in the complex medieval cities and rural areas. It also carried on beyond the medieval period, sometimes reproducing previous problems, sometimes in the shape of new challenges. How did these dynamics play out? Can common patterns be found? What caused them to come into play? Where do we observe compliance or reluctance towards the aforementioned normative orders? Do we see spatial manifestations of these tensions? These (and other) questions may be addressed in case studies from different geographic areas and time periods.

During the Fourth Lateran Council, a canon was issued stating that Jews and Muslims should wear distinctively visible signs on their clothes so that they could not possibly be mistaken for Christians. This is only one of the many examples we have of religious difference being made perceptive under duress. In this case, Christians tried to control visibility through the imposition of a sign to be worn on the others’ clothes. This was an element foreign to the respective communities. At the same time, these groups saw the manifestations and use of their own visible symbols of identity, such as the building of mosques and synagogues, or the call for prayer in the case of Muslims, increasingly curtailed by the ruling powers. In the Mediterranean areas under Islamic rule, similar episodes took place.

Visibility, when imposed from the outside, was a very important tool for marginalising groups that were perceived as foreign and/or a possible threat. However, differentiated visibility could also be created from within. It allowed for a delicate balance between the visual particularities generated by one’s own religion and the assimilation of traits that were common to the rest of society. In this sense, people of different religions were subject to the same fashions as the society in which they lived. Therefore, they were bound to appear to the outside as a mixture of their own particular attributes and characteristics common to the whole of society.

The goal of this volume is to show ways in which religion marked a perceptible difference in Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Considering visibility in the wider sense of the word -also including acoustic perception and other aspects that would differentiate them- religion made people either from their own will or under external coercion- visible within medieval societies. The tension between visibility through othering or self-labelling, and invisibility through cultural assimilation was a constant in the complex medieval cities and rural areas. It also carried on beyond the medieval period, sometimes reproducing previous problems, sometimes in the shape of new challenges.

How did these dynamics play out? Can common patterns be found? What caused them to come into play? Where do we observe compliance or reluctance towards the aforementioned normative orders? Do we see spatial manifestations of these tensions? These (and other) questions may be addressed in case studies from different geographic areas and time periods.

In order to do so, a number of aspects can be taken into consideration, including (but not limited to) legislation that restricted access in regards to time, space and position within the whole society; creation of exclusive spaces and ways of expression; adaptation, adoption, and rejection of foreign traits.

Submission Guidelines

The papers should be sent to [email protected].

Deadline: July 30th, 2020

Further information: Please see form and preparation of manuscripts.


Tuesday 18 February 2020 - Monday 20 July 2020

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