Joshua Colin Birk

Joshua Colin Birk

Millicent Mercer Johnsen Post-Doctoral Rome Prize
September 1, 2012–July 31, 2013
Profession
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Smith College
Project title
Baptized Sultans: The Norman Kings of Sicily and the Birth of the Anti-Islamic Critique
Project description

Despite the recent increase in attention to the medieval Sicily, scholars have failed to incorporate Sicily into the wider context of Muslim/Christian relations across medieval Europe. My research will fill this void. It establishes that the Norman rulers incorporated a number of Islamic cultural elements in the formation of their own royal identity, and depended on their Muslim personnel to articulate and project their political power. It illustrates that the Islamic influence within the Sicilian court drew no criticism from contemporaries throughout Latin Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, an absence which challenges contemporary scholarly views on Muslim/Christian relations in the High Middle Ages. Finally, it explores the emergence of popular violence against Muslims in Sicily and the evolution of a wide discourse of anti-Islamic sentiment throughout Latin Europe, which increasingly castigated Christian Sicilian rulers for their associations with their Muslim subjects.