The concept of the Crusades still has considerable political and cultural potential to rouse people as shown by contemporary debates about a ‘war against international terrorism’ or the rhetoric of religious battle between Islam and Christianity used by fundamentalist religious groups. The topos of the Crusades to this day remains a central point of reference in people’s perceptions of the ‘Christian Occident’ and the ‘Islamic Orient'. The military and cultural disputes associated with the concept of the Crusades have marked, each in its specific way, memories of interconnections in the Mediterranean area, of the multiple cultural relations, and of the friction which arise as a result.
The Crusades therefore appear to be a paradigmatic event which has influenced perceptions (focusing largely on conflict) of the encounter between Christians and Muslims, between ‘Europe’ and ‘the others.’ On the one hand, the Crusades are ‘read’ from a clearly European perspective. They have often been understood as the embodiment of Western European heroism and as the starting point of political and cultural cooperation in that area. Thus they are effectively one of the icons of common European tradition and history to which people have been referring either positively or negatively. On the other hand, during the nineteenth century the same topos also became a significant component of nation-building and thereby of the dissociation from other European neighbours. The fact that this discursive tension has hitherto received little attention from researchers suggests that it is worthwhile to define the status ascribed to crusader narratives and myths in the construction, description and mediation of interconnected national and European identities and to enquire into the connection between crusader narratives as well as ideas about Islam as the ‘other’ of Europe.
It is for this reason that the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research is planning a workshop in Braunschweig on 16 and 17 February 2011, which will serve to stimulate discussion about the reception of the Crusades from a comparative European perspective. France and Germany will be at the centre of the discussion since French and German historical writings have had a significant impact on European memories of the Crusades. The focus will be on the nineteenth century, for this period marked an important phase and in part a caesura in the emergence and change of European patterns of memories of the Crusades, fostering at the same time the interconnectedness of the European or national discourses of superiority and of colonial interests. The workshop aims to reflect upon the preliminary findings of the research group ‘Myths of the Crusades’ at the Georg Eckert Institute and experts of the historiography of the Crusades, European history and nationalism.
The workshop is going to focus on media which serve to construct historical narratives and images such as school textbooks, historiographical works or works of literature. Discussion should explore the extent to which French and German representations of the Crusades differ, and whether and how they are interconnected. Interconnection is conceived here as multidimensional: between the two countries, on a European level and between different historically effective medial arenas (the influence of historical research on textbook narratives, for example). We will enquire into the conclusions to be drawn from the comparison of narratives of the Crusades with regard to contingencies, shifts or the consistency of their validity for the formation of national, European, Christian or secular identities. What do narratives about the Crusades tell us about historical interpretations and images of the enemy? Which social factors had a decisive influence on the reception of the Crusades in the nineteenth century and on what sources is cultural knowledge about the Crusades based?
The workshop and the research groups have been generously supported by Lower Saxony’s funding programme “Pro*Niedersachsen.”
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
15.30 – 16.10 Introduction
Simone Lässig, Director of the Georg Eckert Institute and Project Supervisor
Susanne Kröhnert-Othman, Chair of the Research Area ‘Images of Self and Other’
Matthias Schwerendt, Project Research Fellow
16.15 – 17.45 Block I: European Perspectives
The Crusades as a Master Narrative of the European Memory Culture
Commentary: Stefan Berger, Professor of Modern German and Comparative European History (University of Manchester)
Chair: Simone Lässig
18.30 Public Lecture
Jonathan Phillips, Professor of Crusading History (Royal Holloway London)
The Reputation of Saladin – from the Medieval Age to the Twenty-first Century
Chair: Inga Niehaus, Research Coordinator
Thursday, 17 February 2011
10.00 – 11.30 Block II: German-French Perspectives
Myths of the Crusades in Germany and France in Comparison
Ines Guhe, Project Research Fellow
Commentary: Stefan Berger
Chair: Romain Faure, Research Fellow
11.45 – 14.00 Block III: The Representation of ‘the Other’ in Crusade Historiography
Describing the Enemy. Images of Islam in Narratives of the Crusades
Ines Guhe & Matthias Schwerendt
The Other at Home? About the Entanglement of Mediaevalism, Orientalism and Occidentalism in Modern Crusade Historiography
Kristin Skottki, Research Fellow in Church History (University of Rostock)
Commentary: Jonathan Phillips
Chair: Kerstin Schwedes, Research Fellow
14.45 – 15.30 Final Discussion, Open Questions and Perspectives
Chair: Susanne Kröhnert-Othman
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