Polyphonic Communities: Ways of Belonging in the Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World

In 1520, ordinary people in towns and cities across Spain revolted against the royal government of Charles I, and formed local militia to defend themselves. The rebels were demanding recognition of the rights and privileges of their communities, and drawing on deeply held conceptions of their identity as a community. 500 years on from the so-called Guerra de las Comunidades, ideas of belonging and community are just as contested, exemplified by conflicts over national, regional and ethnic identities today as they were in the late medieval Mediterranean.

The notion of community has been fundamental for scholars seeking to understand the Iberian past, from questioning the trope of multi-faith convivencia in medieval Spain to analysing the richly complex and diverse global empires of early modernity. In 1996, David Nirenberg emphasised the role of violence in forming communities, initiating a scholarly conversation about community construction in the Iberian world. Since then, the academic discussion has moved beyond violence to consider the importance of recovering multiple perspectives on the meaning of community, including those of subaltern groups like converted minorities, indigenous people, and slaves.

This scholarly debate provides an opportunity for a hitherto under-utilised interdisciplinary approach by establishing connections between disciplines and including a wider range of source material. In particular, it is essential to foster dialogue and debate between scholars of the medieval period and later centuries, in search of continuities and divergences in the history of community. 

By bringing together scholars from a range of disciplines, this conference offers an integrated interdisciplinary approach to challenge the way we think about community in the Iberian world. Our aim is not only to rethink the different meanings of belonging in the medieval Mediterranean and beyond, but also how scholars reconstruct and identify communities in the past. The conference will consist of panels of 2-3 papers of 20 minutes, followed by questions from the audience. The conference will open and close with keynote addresses from leading scholars of the Iberian world.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, a limited number of small bursaries to assist with travel and accommodation costs will be available. Please contact the convenors by email at iberian@history.ox.ac.uk for more information.

The Call for Papers can be downloaded here. The deadline for submissions is 31st March 2020 (12:00 GMT). The conference will be held at Exeter College's Cohen Quad, Walton Street, Oxford, OX1 2HE. 


***Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference has been postponed to January 2021. To allow for the disruption caused to academic life, the submission deadline for paper proposals will also be extended. Please check back here or contact the convenors at iberian@history.ox.ac.uk for more information.***


Convenors: Anna Espínola Lynn, George Klaeren, Laurence McKellar and Annabel Rowntree.