Institutionalization, Innovation, and Conflict in 13th-Century Judaism: A Comparative View



Institutionalization, Innovation, and Conflict in 13th-Century Judaism: A Comparative View

This fellowship year brought together scholars of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic social and intellectual history. The aim of this interdisciplinary enterprise was to develop a more fully integrated account of Europe and the Mediterranean basin in the 13th century. Major attention was paid to the way that material and social changes contributed to the creation of new kinds of political and religious institutions and also to the formation of new intellectual horizons and religious concepts. We also considered the era's intellectual ferment and criticism of established norms, both within the framework of traditional religious boundaries and beyond. Diverse phenomena such as the appearance of Kabbalah and the institutionalization of Sufi brotherhoods, the creation of new philosophic and scientific cultures, the rise of universities, the establishment of new mendicant orders, the evolution of medieval Halakhah, and the creation of the Inquisition were considered, not only as isolated phenomena but in their mutual interrelations.

During the course of the year, fellows addressed such questions as:

  • What can be learned from a comparative study of the development of institutions of learning—the university, yeshiva, and madrasa—both of their curricula and of their social environment?
  • What can we learn about the cultural intersection of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in this period by charting the physical migrations of merchants, intellectuals, preachers, and others?
  • How might one explain dynamic trends in European Jewish culture such as the Maimonidean controversy and the public emergence of Kabbalah against the backdrop of Jewish political decline, public assaults on the Tal-mud, blood libels and other forms of Christian aggressiveness against Jews and other minorities?
  • What does the study of financial institutions and markets contribute to our understanding of Christian attitudes to the Jewish presence in the Christian world as well as to changing notions of Christian identity?
  • How does urbanization relate to new forms of religiosity, in the East and the West?
  • What were various strategies of resistance—to hegemony, heresy, and counter traditions? Under what circumstances do diverse groups ally? Diverge?



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