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Jews and Christians between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean: Co-existence and Conflict 600-1800 CE
10-21 July 2017


About the Course

The course will introduce its students to the ways in which Jews and Christians interacted in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the period between 600-1800 CE. This is the topic of a research project aiming at establishing a new area of study – relations between Jews and Eastern Christian communities from the rise of Islam to the end of the eighteenth century, marking the colonial conquest of Mughal dominated India. Thus, Islam as a majority and as a minority religion constitutes the background against which the new picture on Jews and Christians is being painted. The study of inter-religious dynamics is anchored in the framework of medieval and modern cultural history concerning a vast geographical area that encompasses seemingly disparate lands from Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, through West Asia and the Caucasus, to South India, all connected through trade and travel.


The course has two aims:

1) to disseminate the results of the research project;

2) to introduce the interested researchers/students into the required skills and methods (linguistic, philological and historiographic) that are needed for the exploration of this new field.


It is open to researchers, doctoral and MA-level students of religion, history, and culture as well as to those of contemporary studies who would benefit from a deeper understanding and the reconceptualization of the history of present conflict zones.


Participating students will be invited to deconstruct various stereotypes, including the “civilizational model” and that of a “clash of civilizations”. Instead, it proposes to see the past as a global world avant la lettre. It will teach how complex identities and interreligious communities were formed in the past as well as they are being formed in the present.


There will be three different types of classes, namely

1) introductory informative classes

2) theoretical classes,

3) classes teaching particular skills and methods.


The level and the manner of interaction will vary between these three types.


The introductory classes will serve to orient and familiarize participants with the various regions, their histories, and the specifics of pre-modern Jewish-Christian relations in them, along with the source materials available for studying them.

Theoretical courses will be aimed at overarching, comparative issues for the study of pre-modern Jewish-Christian relations in the “East” and include but are not limited to: concepts of alterity; processes of cultural transfer; constructions and impositions of identity; material culture and the study of religious exchange and conflict.


Skills and methods courses will introduce students to basic manuscript skills including paleography in the various languages of the sources: Ge ‘ez, Malayalam and Garshuni Malayalam, Syriac, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew and Armenian; approaches to art historical and archaeological sources; problems of dealing with oral sources for pre-modern history.

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