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Magdalene College History Society talk by Amira Bennison

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies | News and Events | DMES Events


Lohrasp enthroned (c.1540).   © The Fitzwilliam Museum
Lohrasp enthroned (c.1540). © The Fitzwilliam Museum
Tribal Identities and the Formation of a 12th Century Moroccan Elite: The Salutory Tale of Ibn 'Atiyya

Magdalene College History Society talk
Wednesday, 26th January, 2011 at 6.30pm in Benson Hall, Mgdelene College

Magdalene College History Society is delighted to invite you all to our first event of the New Year - a talk by Dr Amira Bennison, senior lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. This talk promises to be a fascinating account of Dr. Bennison's latest research, and of great interest to anyone with a curiosity about early Islam and the Middle East. Refreshments will be provided.

This talk presents some preliminary thoughts on the complicated religious, ethnic and political factors at play in the transition from the Almoravid to Almohad eras and the creation of the new Almohad ruling élite in twelfth century Morocco, a story told by the famous Maghribi historian, Ibn Khaldun, among others. Using the rather dramatic biography of Ibn 'Atiyya as a case study, it suggests possible motives for the inclusion and exclusion of individuals and groups, the limits of acceptance, and what constituted a transgression meriting expulsion from that élite. The history of medieval Morocco and neighbouring Islamic Iberia are often discussed in terms of conflicts and struggles between 'Arabs' and 'Berbers' but, as we shall see, Ibn 'Atiyya's story indicates the importance of avoiding binary characterisations of Maghribi society as consisting of Arabs and Berbers in favour of a more complex interpretation recognising the differences between the varied Berber peoples of the region as well as incoming Arabic speakers, and Arabised Iberians. Ibn 'Atiyya was of Iberian Arab background but his father migrated to Marrakesh soon after the Almoravids (Sanhaja Berbers) founded it as their capital in the 1070s. The young Ibn 'Atiyya also entered Almoravid service but a few years after the revolutionary Almohad movement supported by the Masmuda Berbers of the Hight Atlas mountains overthrew the Almoravids. The career of Ibn 'Atiyya and men like him seemed over, but the Almohad leadership proved able to accommodate a wide range of individuals and groups using a variety of mechanisms. This talk explores how Ibn 'Atiyya made his way back into the ruling élite and what caused his ultimate, dramatic downfall after a decade of successful Almohad service as a window onto the murky waters of regime change in medieval Morocco.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Best wishes for the new term,
Magdalene College History Society

For further information, contact:

Maddie Lee, President
Magdalene College History Society