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By Steven A. Epstein

Purity misplaced investigates the porous nature of social, political, and spiritual limitations ordinary within the japanese Mediterranean—from the Black Sea to Egypt—during the center a while. during this exciting examine, Steven A. Epstein unearths that individuals continually defied, ignored, or transcended regulations designed to maintain racial and cultural purity on the way to identify relationships with these diversified from themselves. those combined relationships—among those who didn't percentage language, creed, or dermis color—undermined the pervasive claims of purity. They pressured humans to mirror on their lonesome identities and the bonds—whether social, political, non secular, or racial—that outlined their lives. Drawing on examples from lifestyle and interstate politics, Epstein takes a detailed examine the renegades and rule-breakers of this period. He explores race, master/slave relationships, diplomatic family members among Christian Italians and Muslim Turks, non secular conversions from Christian to Muslim and vice versa, and non secular barriers of the human and the angelic. Epstein unearths the trendy view of cultural, ethnic, and non secular purity within the early glossy Mediterranean as a mirage, and he deals new insights into how present-day conceptions approximately creed, colour, ethnicity, and language originated. (2008)

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Extra info for Purity Lost: Transgressing Boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1000--1400 (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science)

Example text

A terrestrial paradise, India The Perception of Di√erence 35 had no winter or fleas. Second, India was a realm of many peoples and languages, with a few Jews and Christians, many Muslims, but above all a great mass of people (Hindu and Buddhist) who predictably struck John as idolaters. John remarked that these people were not black but olive-skinned, and thus John located himself at the beginning of a long tradition of characterizing peoples in East Asia by color. For centuries skin color had become an important issue in the Mediterranean world.

Yet they were already prepared by their cultural contexts to explore these themes, and so we have some access to contemporary attitudes toward color, long before the conventional, modern ‘‘discovery’’ of these issues. Whether or not this is ‘‘racism before race’’ is another question to explore. In the fourth letter of his correspondence with Héloise, Abelard finally responds to the personal issues and distress she has expressed in her previous letters. Coming to the unhappy memory of how Héloise entered religious life after their disastrous marriage, Abelard thinks of his ex-wife in the black robes of a Benedictine nun.

This comment suggests just how little William understood about the Mongol value of religious pluralism. ∫∏ William’s account has rightly served as a marvelous and perceptive record of Mongol culture. One aspect of this gendered ethnography deserves notice because of William’s sensitivity to the special circumstances of Tartar women. After he described the clothing of men and women, he, like John, carefully recounted the gender division of labor among the Mongols. William had a sense that the di√erences between peoples largely concern the things they can change—their clothing, the ways the work, even the styles for shaving parts of their heads.

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