Stefan Heidemann will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Monday, November 18, at 12:15 pm. His talk is entitled, “Romanization and Islamication in Late Antiquity: Transcultural Processes on the Iberian Peninsula and in North Africa.”

Since the early 2000s, comparative empire research has become a surging field. One of the most intriguing questions is, how do empires transform the culture of a peripheral region, including religion, economy, and society? At Universität Hamburg, ancient history (Prof. Sabine Panzram) and Islamic Studies joined forces to compare transcultural assimilation processes in the historical region of the western Mediterranean with a focus on the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa during the first millennium CE, or the so-called “Long Late Antiquity”, including the Early Islamic Period. The economically significant Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb were peripheral regions both in the pagan–later Christianized–Roman Empire and the Islamic Empire. At the beginning of the millennium both regions were characterized by cultures, Celt-Iberian and Berber, that were influenced by Hellenistic civilization, but maintained their own distinct characteristics. Both the Roman and the Islamic empires shaped the formation of societies, cities, landscapes, and material culture. Both introduced a salvation religion, originating from the Middle East, as the state religion, but took a different approach to their social implementation (forced religious homogenization / religious albeit not equal plurality). After the end of each of the two empires, the Roman culture flourished under the Germanic leaders, as did the Islamic culture under the autonomous Umayyads and Aghlabids. While in the Iberian Peninsula the Roman-Christian element remained in evidence for centuries, despite Islamication, the previously Roman-Christian culture of North Africa (Augustine) disappeared almost entirely two to three centuries after the Arab conquest. Here, the cultural Islamication merged with a religious Islamization. This historical situation permits the construction of theoretical models of transcultural adaptation processes in a space that, although geographically distant from the imperial centers, nonetheless continued to be of importance.

Stefan Heidemann is Professor of Islamic Studies at Universität Hamburg (since 2011), principle investigator of the ERC Advanced Grant Project “The Early Islamic Empire at Work – The View from the Regions Toward the Center”, and editor-in-chief of the Journal Der Islam. Formerly he served as Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum and Professor of Islamic History and Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center.