Thursday, January 24, 2019

Memory, Genealogy and Power in Twelfth-Century al-Andalus
Abigail Balbale, NYU
Feb 1, 2019
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 4406
The twelfth-century ruler known in Arabic as Muḥammad ibn Sa'd Ibn Mardanīsh and in Latin as Rex Lupus fought the Almohad dynasty in the name of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad and with the support of Christian Castile. He appears in contemporary Christian chronicles as a loyal vassal to Castilian kings and defender of Christians in his realm, and in Arabic sources as either a hero of the Andalusīs or dangerous enemy of the Almohads. But his treatment in later sources shifts, as Christians claimed more and more territory and recounting the history of al-Andalus became an opportunity to teach moral lessons. Later scholars sought to explain Ibn Mardanīsh’s alliances with Christians against fellow Muslims through reference to his genealogy, suggesting that his Christian roots determined his loyalties. But Ibn Mardanīsh’s own cultural production demonstrates his eastward orientation, as he imported motifs and architectural techniques from Abbasid territories and minted coins in the caliph in Baghdad's name. This talk will trace these two, opposing trajectories: material culture that linked Islamic west to east and historiography that separated al-Andalus from the rest of the Islamic world. Like al-Andalus itself, Ibn Mardanīsh's story was recast in the years after the Christian conquest to make it fit into narratives of an emergent Europe.