Identity Abroad in Europe and the Mediterranean, 11th-15th Centuries

7 January 2022 - 8 January 2022

SG1, Alison Richard Building

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Teresa Barucci (University of Cambridge)
Susannah Bain (University of Oxford)



Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University, London)

Roser Salicrú i Lluch (Institució Milà i Fontanals, Consell Superior d’Investigacions Científiques, Institut d’Estudis Catalans)

Teresa Shawcross (Princeton University)


Life in the central and late Middle Ages was characterised by high levels of mobility and migration. In Europe and the Mediterranean region, shifts in political, socio-economic, cultural and religious life encouraged and sometimes forced individuals and groups to move ‘abroad’ temporarily or permanently. Young men travelled from as far as Constantinople and Turku to study theology at the University of Paris, while in 1240 twenty thousand Sicilian Muslims were relocated to Lucera by Emperor Frederick II. These people, who often spoke different languages and had different political allegiances, socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, and faiths, found themselves in contact with other ‘foreigners’ as well as with local residents and institutions. 

Medievalists have studied ‘foreigners’ from many perspectives. Their impact on the movement of ideas and artistic practices and their role in urban conflict have been particularly popular topics of discussion. Most recently, Miri Rubin’s Cities of Strangers, based on the 2017 Wiles lectures, considered the relationship between ‘strangers’ and urban institutions, showing how the latter became progressively less tolerant starting from the mid-fourteenth century. 

What is less well explored, however, is how these individuals and groups understood and (re)presented themselves. How did they construct their identities? Did the factors they considered important change with circumstances and over time, and why? What means were used for identity expression? How was their self-identification and presentation received by other ‘foreigners’ and locals living alongside them? Lastly, how do ongoing debates around the concept of ‘identity’ speak to this kind of historical research? Although these questions are often addressed as part of broader discussions, they are rarely dealt with in their own right. 

Identity Abroad in Europe and the Mediterranean, 11th-15th centuries aims at exploring the construction, expression, and practical significance of various forms of ‘identity’ among those people who chose or were forced to live ‘abroad’ at least temporarily in Europe and the Mediterranean in the period between the eleventh and the fifteenth century. 

Looking at ‘identity’ from within the lens of any single discipline is reductive: the theme is an inherently interdisciplinary one. By including contributions which utilise a diverse range of sources, approaches, and methodologies, and which relate to a wide geographical area and chronological span, the conference seeks to offer a multiplicity of perspectives on its theme as well as to foster discussions and working relationships among its speakers and attendees. 


Supported by:
CRASSH Grey Logo    Haskins Society Logo    Oxford Centre for Global History Logo 

    The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement Logo

Twitter logo in a blue circle @identityabroad

If you have any specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Conference assistance:

All times are in GMT

Friday 7 January

8.45 - 9.00


9.00 - 9.15

Welcome and Opening

9.15 - 10.30

Keynote Lecture 1

Teresa Shawcross (Princeton University)
Title TBC

10.30 - 11.00


11.00 - 12.30

Session 1

Carolina Obradors-Suazo (École des hautes études Hispaniques et Ibériques, Madrid)
Identities witnessed and performed: The language of foreigness in 15th-century Barcelona [online]

Helen Flatley (University of Oxford)
Christian otherness on the Iberian frontier: The making of Mozarabic identity in post-conquest Toledo

Leo Donnarumma (Université Grenoble Alpes/Università degli studi di Napoli “Federico II”)
We band of brothers: The origin of the Arbëreshë communities in the Kingdom of Naples at the end of the 15th-century

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 14.30

Session 2

Gabrielle Russo (University of Cambridge)
Projecting and (Re)crafting Turkic identity at the ʿAbbāsid Court: al-Fatḥ ibn Khāqān and the merits of the Turks

Simona Puca (Université Grenoble Alpes)
The Christianitas Cismarina in front of the others. Investigations on the letter of the Latins in the State of Jerusalem to Charles of Anjou [online]

14.30 - 15.00


15.00 - 16.00

Session 3

Blanche Lagrange (CESCM, Université de Poitiers)
An English artist in Flanders: Visual identity and artistic creation in Flemish Scriptoria in the early 11th-century

Gayane Babayan (Independent Scholar)
Armenians, ‘foreigners’ in the 14th-century South-Eastern Crimea: Images as means of shaping and sustaining the ‘Identity Abroad’ [online]

16.00 - 16.15


16.00-16.15: Break

16.15 - 17.30

Keynote Lecture 2

Roser Salicrú i Lluch (Institució Milà i Fontanals, CSIC, Barcelona)
Title TBC

Saturday 8 January

9.00 - 9.15


9.15 - 10.30

Keynote Lecture 3

Miri Rubin, (QMUL)
How strange were the strangers of medieval cities? [online]

10.30 - 11.00


11.00 - 12.30

Session 4

Etleva Lala (Eötvös Loránd University)
The Albanian identity of the Albanians in the Ragusan Republic

Ester Zoomer (University of Amsterdam)
Those residing in the Steelyard: The perception and regulation of a Hanseatic mercantile identity in 15th-century London

Richard Ibarra (UCLA)
What’s in a name? Attesting and contesting Genoese nobility in 16th-century Seville [online]

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

Session 5

Victòria A. Burguera-Puigserver (University of the Balearic Islands)
Where voluntary and forced migrations intersect: Merchants and slaves between Christian and Islamic lands in 15th-century Crown of Aragon

Ariana Myers (Princeton University)
What’s in a name? Slavery, conversion, and patronage in 13th-century Majorca [online]

Sanja Miljan (Central European University)
Franciscans abroad: Case study from the Province of Dalmatia until the beginning of the 15th century

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 16.30

Session 6

Paulo Catarino-Lopes (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa)
Constructing the self: Self-identification and presentation to other ‘foreigners’ and locals in travel accounts to the east in the late middle ages

Eleonora Tioli (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa)
Christian missionaries in the Mongol empire

16.30 - 17.00

Concluding discussion

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from graduate and early career researchers working across all relevant disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. By bringing together a variety of different perspectives, the conference not only aims to consider how ‘identity abroad’ functioned in specific contexts, but also to emphasise developments, patterns, and divergences. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to: 

  • Individuals and groups living ‘abroad’, such as merchants, artisans, pilgrims, scholars, diplomats, soldiers, exiles, ethnic and religious minorities, and captives and enslaved people
  • Voluntary or forced, temporary or permanent migration
  • Importance of political allegiance, language, cultural heritage, and faith in identity construction
  • Means of identity expression, such as written production and material culture
  • Relations between different ‘foreign’ individuals and groups
  • Interaction and assimilation/resistance to assimilation with ‘local’ populations, institutions, and rulers 
  • Impact of gender, socio-economic background, and other types of differences 
  • Theoretical treatments of the concepts of ‘identity’, ‘foreignness’, and ‘abroad’ in the Middle Ages


Abstracts of 250 words and a short biographical note should be sent to by 12 September 2021.

For more information, visit and follow @identityabroad on Twitter.                       


*The conference is currently planned as an in-person event; this may change according to developments in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.