Medieval Compasses: Perspectives on Nomadic Histories in Africa and Eurasia
Meets with HISTORY 698-004 (home department)
The movement of peoples and of goods, as well as epidemics, distinguished the first half of the second millennium CE. Yet discussions of these mobilities rarely consider nomadic societies as prominent players in these dynamics, marginalizing the regions in which they lived. In this seminar, we aim to re-orient our conceptual compasses to point in all directions—north, south, east, and west—for a more robust understanding of the medieval world. We will engage models of mobility and globalization to reassess conventional perspectives on the roles played by nomadic societies, and, in doing so, resitutate nomadic peoples in historical narratives. Using case studies of nomads in Africa and Eurasia during the 13th to 15th centuries, we will consider a wide range of sources: poetry and epics, travellers' accounts, and historical writings; illustrated manuscripts, maps, and art depicting nomads; and archaeological remains of the landscapes and art of nomadic societies. By weaving together these diverse sources and the perspectives we bring to them, we may see nomads in a new light—as contributors to the cross-fertilization of cultures and as agents of dynamic change in the medieval world.