IMC 2017: Sessions

Session 1214: Visions of Community, III: Living on the Edge - Authority and Otherness in a Comparative Perspective

Wednesday 5 July 2017, 14.15-15.45

Sponsor:Sonderforschungsbereiche Project 'Visions of Community' (FWF Austrian Science Fund F42), Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften / Universität Wien
Organiser:Rutger Kramer, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Moderator/Chair:Rutger Kramer, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Paper 1214-aThe Infidel Saracen: The Construction of Self and Other in the Vita of John of Gorze
(Language: English)
Katharina Gahbler, Abteilung für Mittelalterliche Geschichte, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Index terms: Hagiography, Political Thought, Politics and Diplomacy, Religious Life
Paper 1214-bRulership in 9th-Century Breton Hagiography
(Language: English)
Kelly Gibson, Department of History, University of Dallas, Texas
Index terms: Hagiography, Local History, Monasticism, Political Thought
Paper 1214-cDeconstructing the Rasulid Court
(Language: English)
Daniel Mahoney, Institut für Sozialanthropologie, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Index terms: Anthropology, Hagiography, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Political Thought
Abstract

Among the most important source material available to historians of the Middle Ages feature the descriptions of lives of exceptional individuals, composed in order to edify the intended audience and thereby strengthen feelings of belonging to the community represented by the protagonist. An almost inevitable part of such processes of identification, however is also the creation of ‘others’ who act as a foil for the main actors, and serve to delineate and even define the communities in question. This becomes even more pronounced when the individuals described lived in volatile frontier areas, where political, religious, or dynastic tensions were strong driving forces behind social change and shifting modes of self-perception. This session aims to cast such life stories – and their authors – in a comparative light. By looking at three different types of biographical sources, each of which takes a different approach to social change felt by author and audience alike, it will show how members of different communities expressed their awareness of these situations, and how they felt those in power may have affected these dynamics. First, Katharina Gahbler will present the 10th-century Life of John of Gorze, analysing the modes of identification in the description of John’s embassy in the name of Otto I, to the Saracen ruler Abd ar-Rahman III in Córdoba. Focusing on ethnic identifications as well as the causae scribendi behind the text, Gahbler shows how descriptions of the Other may be adapted to the author’s specfic agenda. Next, Kelly Gibson will take us to the Breton March in the Carolingian Era, showing how Breton depictions of local, Carolingian, and Merovingian rulers and offer insight into hagiographers’ ideas about rulership, the relation between secular and religious authority, and the scope of governmental power – both in the times depicted and at the moment of composition. Finally, Daniel Mahoney will look more closely at the wide variety of individuals behind the maintenance of the Rasulid dynasty’s authority in Late Medieval Yemen. Based on entries from the 14th and 15th century biographical collections of al-Janadi and al-Khazraji, this paper will examine how their life stories narrate their diverse roles for not only promoting the power of the Rasulid court, but also integrating it into the contested region of South Arabia.