Northeastern University London historian Lars Kjær has been awarded a major research grant by the Swedish Research Council together with an international team of researchers in Sweden, Wojtek Jezierski (Gothenburg University) and Germany, Tim Geelhaar (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main). The team has been awarded a grant of 4 million SEK (£360,000) to explore medieval hospitality over the next three years.
The project is titled Ambiguities of Hospitality: Intercultural Integration and Conflict in Host-Guest Relations on the European Borderlands, c. 1000-1350. It will explore the role of hospitality and feasting in the areas where Western European Christians came into contact with other religious and cultural groups. The project focuses on both the possibilities of integration and conflict that hospitality involved. Besides employing traditional historical methodology, the project will also be using digital tools to investigate the evolving semantics of hospitality across medieval Europe. It thus aligns with Northeastern University London and Northeastern University’s research ambitions of bringing together the humanities and digital approaches.
Lars Kjær’s sub-project focuses on the role of hospitality – and its dangers – in the Eastern Mediterranean in the period of the crusades, between 1096 and 1296. Lars will be exploring how Western Europeans, local Christians and Muslims used hospitality in their encounters and interactions.
The relations between western Christians, the Christian and Muslim population within conquered territories and neighbouring Muslim merchants and rulers varied considerably across the period, ranging from genocidal warfare to cordial alliances. This project explores the opportunities and challenges that hospitality presented in this context, focusing on the ways in which agents negotiated political alliances and enmities, economic relationships and differing dietary customs and regulations, religious as well as cultural.
Lars explains: “I’ve been teaching a third-year special subject on the crusades and cultural encounters in the Middle East for the last four years at Northeastern University London. It’s been one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve taught and one of the things that has been particularly inspiring is working with students to explore the meetings between Western European Christians and Muslims in the period. These were much more multi-faceted than we sometimes think. It will be really exciting to have the time and opportunity to explore this in real depth while also placing it within the context of a wider comparative scope.”