Beyond convivencia: critical reflections on the historiography of interfaith relations in Christian Spain

Beyond convivencia: critical reflections on the historiography of interfaith relations in Christian Spain

Beyond convivencia: critical reflections on the historiography of interfaith relations in Christian Spain
Maya Soifer 

Abstract
While Américo Castro’s convivencia remains an influential concept in medieval Iberian studies, its sway over the field has been lessening in recent years. Despite scholars’ best efforts to rethink and redefine the concept, it has resisted all attempts to transform it into a workable analytical tool. The article explores the malaise affecting convivencia, and suggests that the idea has become more of an impediment than a help to medieval Iberian studies. It argues that convivencia retains some of its former influence because scholars insist on understanding it as a distinctly Ibero‐Islamic phenomenon. However, this article suggests that the evidence for Islamic influence on interfaith coexistence in Christian Spain is scarce. Instead of continuing to embrace the nationalist myth of Spain’s unique status in medieval Europe, scholars need to acknowledge the basic similarities in the Christian treatment of religious minorities north and south of the Pyrenees. The article also explores other aspects of convivencia’s problematic legacy: polarization of the field between “tolerance” and “persecution,” and the inattention to the nuances of social and political power relations that affected Jewish–Christian–Muslim coexistence in Christian Iberia.
Information: Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies
Volume 1, 2009 – Issue 1

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