Art and Ideology in the Twelfth-Century Western Mediterranean
a Symposium at Bard Graduate Center, New York City, October 14, 2016
Supported by the Trehan Fund for Islamic Art and Material Culture
co-sponsored by the Spain-North Africa Project
Call for Papers
In the twelfth century, new powers emerged throughout the Western Mediterranean, from the Almohads of North Africa to the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. In the Iberian Peninsula, upstart rulers with broad ambitions emerged in both Muslim and Christian territories. New city-states (ṭā’ifa pl. ṭawā’if) appeared with the dissolution of the Almoravid Empire in al-Andalus, and older kingdoms, including Castile-León and Aragon, began massive expansions under rulers who claimed imperial titles. “Art and Ideology in the Twelfth-Century Mediterranean” explores how the rulers of this region deployed art (conceived in the broadest sense) to legitimate new claims, how they asserted their authority through the construction of palatial and liturgical spaces, and what kinds of objects their kingdoms produced, traded, or coveted. We will investigate how these rulers looked to imperial and caliphal precedents and rivals for models, how they elaborated on these models, and which communities of artisans and workmen they drew on.
The aim of the symposium is to consider art and ideology in the Western Mediterranean as an integrated region where culture and religio-political ideologies cut across the geographic, ethnic, and religious lines that are so often used to divide it. Art and material culture provide a powerful lens for considering and clarifying the sometimes-hidden connections in this region, since the movement of objects and craftsmen rarely ceased at the edges of the cultural zones and traditions later fostered and imposed by nation-state institutions and modern scholars. We will explore how examining the broader region affects our understanding of its component kingdoms, and, following recent scholarship, seek to establish a theoretical framework for understanding the imbricated world of the medieval Western Mediterranean.
The symposium will feature several keynote lectures by scholars who work on Sicily, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula from Christian and Islamic perspectives, followed by a panel of shorter papers by junior scholars. We welcome proposals of 20-minute papers for this panel from PhD students and those within three years of the PhD, considering these topics from any disciplinary perspective.
Potential topics for presentation include (but are not limited to) questions such as the following:
How were art and architecture deployed by rulers and aspiring rulers and their courts?
How are articulations of politico-religious power visible in architectural construction and decoration?
What artisanal communities participated in the production of new spaces and what was the nature of their relationship to political power and patronage?
How were legitimating strategies mirrored across cultural and political boundaries and how is this visible in material culture and its circulation?
How were old patterns adopted and transformed by those engaged in new political endeavors and projects?
How did groups not clearly associated with the dominant religious identities and evolving orthodoxies (e.g. Jews, Mozarabs, and Kharijites) participate, and how was their cultural production affected by the political and demographic transformations of the twelfth century?
How did people who were traditionally marginalized, including slaves and women, participate in programs of cultural production?
How were new ideas of crusading/jihad manifested in material culture?
Please submit your 300-word proposals via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, July 29.
Final drafts for pre-circulation are due October 1.