Josephine van den Bent
PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. Research project: The Mongols in Mamluk Eyes: Image- and Identity Formation in the Medieval Middle East. Supervisors: Prof. dr. G. Geltner and Dr. M.L.M. van Berkel.
The major military and political conflict during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the region we now call the Middle East, was that between the Mamluks, a non-Arab dynasty of former slaves ruling Egypt and Syria from 1250 onwards, and the Mongols, who were rapidly conquering major parts of Asia. This protracted struggle coincided with the establishment of Mamluk rule in Syria and Egypt, and as such was an essential period in Mamluk identity formation and legitimisation.
Historians, anthropologists and sociologists of diverse periods and regions have demonstrated the central role that the mechanism of ‘othering’, including the use of ethnic stereotypes, plays and has played in identity formation processes. The Mongols were a key other for the Mamluks’ sense of self, but at the same time the two enemy polities shared a cultural and ethnic background, making othering processes in this case more complicated and thus fascinating at the same time.
By looking into the construction of images and stereotypes of Mongols in a great array of contemporary Mamluk sources for different audiences, including formal texts as well as popular epic, I intend to investigate Mamluk representation of Mongols and its employment in Mamluk identity formation and legitimisation strategies. With this research I will contribute, firstly, to debates among Mamluk historians on the legitimisation of this new dynasty, and, secondly, in a more general sense to our understanding of stereotype-supported identity formation.
The research is funded by www.nwo.nl.