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Equilibrium – Violence – Entanglement: Interaction between Minority and Majority Religious Communities in the Middle Ages

A116
Panel Chair: Dorothea Weltecke | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Religious affiliation and identity has to be repeatedly negotiated, defined, and chosen. The external borders of religions are repeatedly re-determined and penetrated. Frequently, quantitative relationships between religious groups are incongruent with prevailing power relationships. Followers of dominant religions continue to quite often be numerically inferior so that non-dominant religious communities have had to take on subordinate positions.. This process has direct consequences for, on the one hand, social, economic, and cultural developments and, on the other hand, the development of religious doctrines and convictions themselves. Not rarely, and across a broad societal spectrum, religious minorities have seen themselves subjected to persecution, violence, or exclusion. Models explaining religious violence need theoretical and methodological refinement. This panel will deal with these aspects of interaction between majority and minority religious communities, by selecting case studies from diverse cultural milieus ranging from medieval Anatolia to South Asia.

Istvan Perczel

"Abrahamic Hindu Castes in South India?"

There are separate unblendable "world religions" and that these religions define "civilisations". The phenomenon to be presented is that of the Mappila communities of South-West India: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Mappilas, who constituted high castes of the local Hindu society, whose traditional occupations were agriculture, trade and warfare. In India, these castes have never been considered "foreigners" but Mappilas. Until the twentieth century they were also called Bauddhas, that is, Buddhists, indicating that they are practicing a kind of heterodox Indian cult. Their religious institutions and practices are designed by a vocabulary derived from that of Buddhism. Thus, the Mappilas are as much a Hindu community as any other Hindu caste and as much belonging to their respective religious community as any other Jew, Christian or Muslim, while their religious "otherness" is understood in terms of the erstwhile Buddhism that had become extinct in South India.

Sergio La Porta

Just a Matter of Faith? Reframing Violence between Chrsitians and Muslims in 11th to 12th C. Anatolia

In the course of the late eleventh to the twelfth centuries, the demographics of Eastern Anatolia underwent significant changes that created tensions between the diverse ethno-religious communities that inhabited the area. This paper will look at accounts of critical encounters between Muslims and Christians in Eastern Anatolia at this time that reveal some of the triggers for communal violence as well as some of the ways violence was successfully avoided. In doing so, it will question whether scholars are correct in framing these conflicts as part of a struggle between Christians and Muslims or between Christianity and Islam. By contrast, this paper will argue that while the religious identity of the actors in these conflicts cannot be ignored, reducing the motivations for violence to that identity is misleading and obscures other, more determinative, factors.

Dorothea Weltecke

On religious violence in the Late Middle Ages

Religious violence is very present in today's public debates. In the humanities, violence has been studied intensively, but in different disciplines. In religious studies mega theories on religion and violence were developed which clearly assume religions as a cause of violence. On the contrary, in sociological and political studies on violence religion is onely rarely mentioned, and its function as a cause of violence is by no means given. Thirdly, historians studied individual traditions of violence and individual acts, identified agents, strategies and ideologies, but not usually refer to sociological theories of violence. Surprisingly, therefore, there is no history of religious violence proper. Could there be and what could be a genuine historical contribution to the debate on religious violence? As a first attempt to answer this question three emblematic aspects of late medieval religious violence (the crusades, the inquisition, the persecution of Jews in the German lands) shall be discussed in the light of the theories.

Alexandra Cuffel

Commentary

The commentary will address the degree to which the above case studies parallel instances of equilibrium or violence in Jewish and Christian minorities' interactions with the Muslim majority in the Middle East from the eleventh-sixteenth centuries.

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