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date: 07 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

For many historians, western Christendom between 1100 and 1500 can be characterized by the defining of Christian identity and the forging of Christian unity against an abstracted, caricatured non-Christian ‘Other’. This chapter argues that there are, however, greater complexities to how Christianity represented Jews, Muslims, and pagans; and that the nature of the ‘otherness’ they embodied was not straightforwardly negative or unknown. Although Jews, Muslims, and pagans were all identified as ‘infidels’ and denied hope of salvation, medieval Christian attitudes toward these groups were neither monolithic nor static. Depictions of Jews, Muslims, and pagans—and the policies applied to them—arose out of a complex interplay of symbol, discourse, and very real material circumstances. Moreover, the ‘otherness’ of the ‘Other’ repeatedly breaks down upon close examination: Christians, Jew, Muslims, and pagans were often considerably less different from each other than polemic and rhetoric seem to suggest.

Keywords: alterity, medieval anti-semitism, medieval Islam, crusades, race

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