JEWSEAST: Jews and Christians in the East: Strategies of Interaction between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean
This project is carried out in cooperation between Ruhr University, Bochum as senior partner and CEU as junior partner. It analyzes Jews in Eastern Christian communities and Eastern Christian sources, beyond the Byzantine context, namely, relations between Jews and Christian communities in the Middle East Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ethiopia, and South India. In order to obtain a truly accurate understanding of the dynamics of Jewish-Christian relations in the non-Latin world during the Middle Ages, these various regions and traditions must be studied together because they were all profoundly interconnected through the exchange and translation of texts, artistic motifs and techniques, and other goods, via long-distance trade along the “silk road”, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean, which, of course, also entailed the movement and encounter of peoples, Jews and Christians among them. The research team endeavors to answer four intertwined questions: 1) what we can know about actual “real-life” interactions between Jews and a variety of Eastern Christian communities; 2) what were the meanings and functions of invented or rhetorical Jewish identities; 3) what is the significance of Jewish-Christian polemics, both written and visual, in lands or among communities where: a) there were supposedly few to no Jews, or Jewish identity was “invented”; b) there were Jewish and Christian communities who had the opportunity to be in regular contact with one another; 4) how were Christian stories, laws, biblical interpretations, or motifs in which Jews featured prominently, or Jewish tales and motifs about Christians transformed as they were transported from one cultural milieu to another? Because scholars have examined Jewish relations with Christians, and even Muslims primarily in the context of uneven power relationships; namely Jewish-Christian relations in Western Europe or Byzantium, or Jewish-Muslim relations in the Islamic one leaving Jewish-Christian relations untouched apart from shared communal structures, this project opens a new field.