Islamic Crosspollinations

Interactions in the Medieval Middle East

James Montgomery, Anna Akasoy, Peter Pormann

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Case studies highlighting the plurality of encounters between Islam and other cultures

Islam as a cultural, intellectual, and religious venture appears in the popular imagination as a monolithic entity. Orientalists of the traditional ilk have tended to describe it in essentialist terms, whilst many fundamentalist Muslims themselves promote their construction of a pure and unadulterated Islamic past, to which they strive to return by purging foreign or unauthentic elements from their religion. Next to these attempts, another more traditional view sees the influence between the Western and the Islamic world in linear and teleological terms. Knowledge was transmitted, so to speak, from Alexandria to Baghdad, and hence to Toledo and Paris. The present volume challenges both these concepts regarding the development of Islamic cultures. To do justice to the complexity of structures within which the Muslim Middle Ages unfolded, it approaches the questions of interaction and influence through a novel conceptual framework, that of crosspollination. Instead of telling the story of the transmission of Western works from Greece via Islam into the Latin world, a number of case studies highlight the plurality of encounters between Islam and other adjacent cultures.

James E. Montgomery is The Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic at Fellow of Trinity Hall, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge.

Peter E. Pormann is a Wellcome Trust Lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He studied in Paris (Sorbonne), Hamburg, Tübingen, and Leiden, and received a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 2002. He won The Hellenic Foundation’s 2003 Award for the best doctoral thesis in the United Kingdom, in the Byzantine/Medieval History category, and is the author of The Oriental Tradition of Paul of Aegina’s ‘Pragmateia’ (2004).

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