Emma Snowden: Reviving Al-Andalus in Almohad Chronicles (Podcast)

This episode was recorded at the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (MACECE) in Rabat on September 18, 2019.

In this podcast, Emma Snowden, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota, discusses how medieval Almohad chronicles understood the role of the caliphate in the Iberian Peninsula. The swift takeover of North Africa and al-Andalus by the Almohads in the twelfth century has been referred to as a “revolution” by some scholars, a view that is often reflected in medieval texts from the caliphate. The Almohads sought to distinguish themselves from the preceding Almoravid dynasty in every respect, waging holy war against all those who opposed them, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

In this podcast, Emma suggests that chroniclers like Ibn Ṣāḥib al-Ṣalāt employed a kind of logic of resurrection, framing the Almohad conquest of al-Andalus as a sequence of corruption, destruction, and ultimate revival. A similar logic of resurrection can be identified in earlier Christian Iberian chronicles that dealt with the role of Maghribis and Muslims in Iberia. Emma considers the two historiographical traditions together, exploring the extent to which they suggest a shared literary-historical imagination in which the mutual ideological problem of competing Muslim and Christian claims to power over the same territory was conceptually resolved by presenting that space as a slate to be wiped clean by individual dynasties.

Emma is currently at work on her dissertation, “Bridging the Strait: The Shared History of Iberia and North Africa in Medieval Muslim and Christian Chronicles,” which explores how medieval writers narrated moments when North Africans controlled people and territory in Iberia, and vice versa. She was able to conduct research in Rabat and Tangier with the generous support of a short-term research grant from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). Emma recently published an article titled “Islam as the Source of All Wonders: Arab and Islamic Identity in al-Saraqusṭī’s Maqāmāt al-luzūmiyya” in the spring 2019 issue of La corónica: A Journal of Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Her article can be found at: muse.jhu.edu/article/729894 .

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———. The Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.
Buresi, Pascal, and Hicham El Aallaoui. Governing the Empire: Provincial Administration in the Almohad Caliphate (1224-1269). Critical Edition, Translation, and Study of Manuscript 4752 of the Hasaniyya Library in Rabat Containing 77 Taqadim (“appointments”). Translated by Travis Bruce. Boston: Brill, 2013.
Fierro, Maribel. “Alfonso X ‘The Wise’: The Last Almohad Caliph?” Medieval Encounters 15, no. 2-4 (2009): 175–98.
Fromherz, Allen. “North Africa and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance: Christian Europe and the Almohad Islamic Empire.” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 20, no. 1 (2009): 43–59.
———. The Almohads: The Rise of an Islamic Empire. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2010.
Jones, Linda G. “The Preaching of the Almohads: Loyalty and Resistance across the Strait of Gibraltar.” Medieval Encounters 19, no. 1–2 (2013): 71–101.
Wolf, Kenneth Baxter, trans. Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain. 2nd ed. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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