When Mark Meyerson published his two monographs reconstructing the long history of the Jewish community of the Valencian town of Morvedre in 2004, he presented a dramatically new vision of Jewish-Christian relations over the course of the high and late Middle Ages. With this work, Meyerson joined a chorus of other revisionists, notably David Nirenberg with his now classic Communities of Violence, to challenge the traditional lachrymose vision of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, which had long envisioned an unrelenting decline of tolerance punctuated by episodes of popular violence and forced conversion culminating in the elimination of multi-confessionalism through forced conversion or expulsion. Among other adjustments, this revisionist work questioned whether there was a clear, universal trajectory of escalating violence encouraged by growing systemic discourse of intolerance, what R.I. Moore once termed the “rise of a persecuting society.” Instead, they have promoted a more complex, localized model of coexistence that is deeply perceptive of the individuated circumstances of distinct communities and the workings of “co-production” among these “neighboring faiths.” Scholars have since labored diligently to explore the long-developed rhythms of interaction within diverse, face-to-face microcosms. Reconstructing the workings of such smaller-scale settings, which were defined by distinct legal, jurisdictional economic, cultural, and demographic trends, permits us to reevaluate the extent to which individual communities were active participants in or passive victims of emergent intolerant discourses and waves of cataclysmic, conversionary violence that swept across the land.

The goal of this conference is to bring together a diverse group of scholars to evaluate the state of research regarding the evolving inter-relationships of Christians, Jews, and Muslims within premodern Iberia and explore the lasting influence of this paradigm shift. The intended emphasis is on the intersection of quotidian mechanisms and longer-term (statutory, theological, sociological) trajectories. By what means did ethno-religious groups coexist in either Christian or Muslim-ruled contexts, what factors caused those sustaining systems to break down, and how did subsequent generations process the history of pluralism? The conference thus addresses questions of diversity, inclusion, and exclusion that were central to the premodern Mediterranean as they are to our world today.

Participants will also reflect on the methodologies integral to their research on these topics and consider how we might enhance the sophistication of our work in the future. What opportunities or challenges are afforded by different genres of evidence (e.g., treatises, polemical literature, ecclesiastical regulations, secular legal sources, prescriptive vs. descriptive diplomatics)? How do we integrate materials from different types of institutional archives (notarial, municipal, baronial, royal, ecclesiastical) that transmit such distinct perspectives on the mechanisms and trajectories of coexistence and have survived to such varying degrees? What roles can Arabic and Hebrew sources, for example, play in reconstructing these patterns and experiences? What sorts of broader spatial frameworks do we need to adopt in order to capture the fully complexity of these interfaith mechanisms and trajectories? How did networks between neighboring Christian and non-Christian-ruled territories condition patterns of coexistence, for example? And to what extent does our work remain informed by anachronistic, often “nationalist” paradigms? How might we address and correct for these ingrained patterns of study?

Above image: a 13th-century illustration from the Libro de los juegos depicting Jews playing chess.

Sponsored by:
UCLA CMRS Center for Early Global Studies
UCLA Department of History
UCLA Division of Humanities
UCLA Division of Social Sciences
UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies
UCLA Islamic Studies