IS-LE includes three panels that share common research and common discussion questions regarding both chronology and subject matter. There are no stand-alone departments; rather, the cross-cutting nature of the WGs and the general methodological idea of the common questions will generate knowledge flows, a fact that will enrich the Action’s final results.
In the first place, the Action will address the old historiographical problem of otherness (WG1), bringing together perspectives from the fields of anthropology, history and literature that are starting to consider this problem as having been overcome, and more-recent approaches that address the topic from the vantage point of material culture, visual culture and art history.
Although the use of these visual materials is not new, it is indeed innovative the creation of discussion forums combining the traditional skills of the history of art and the anthropological approach to answer questions oriented from social and cultural history. This perspective would be particularly enriching for the methodological formation of the doctoral students in the Training Schools.
Additionally, collaboration between researchers on the late medieval and early modern periods will improve our understanding of how the problem of otherness has evolved over time; and, critically, communication between researchers who work on different geographical areas will allow important problems about the characterization of otherness to be broached, such as the others within, self-perception, hybridity, the dissemination over Europe of images consciously generated from the Islamic world and the reception in the Islamic world of the European image, factors that add important nuances to the more traditional view of alterity.
Finally, by integrating into the network scholars who have researched the view of Europe and Christianity in the Muslim world we will be able to offer a more finely tuned interpretation of the variety within Islam in its relationship with Europe, as opposed to the monolithic view that has frequently been put forward.
Second, the Action will tackle the research problem of migration as it relates to identity (WG2). In this field, the connection between disciplines and different regional traditions will provide a wider consideration of the subject, including migrations both from South to North and from North to South, as well as the Mediterranean-to-Atlantic and Atlantic-to-Mediterranean connections.
The communication between different disciplines will produce a needful joint study of the processes of acculturation experienced by different kinds of migrants: soldiers, traders, diplomats, renegades, converts and religious exiles.
In addition, one of the most interesting consequences of creating the network of researchers will be that the migration of people can be studied in conjunction with the migration of ideas through the analysis of the movement and reception of Islamic books in Europe.
This sharing of work on disparate geographical areas will, through a mapping of regional variations, go a long way toward a better understanding of the processes by which identity is constructed (mutations, survival, etc.) and which are experienced by migrant populations and by the communities that receive them.
Thirdly, the Action will deal with the research problem of borders (WG3). In this field, the vast breadth of the border between Christianity and Islam, both in the Mediterranean and on the continent, as well as its variability over time, make the implementation of the Action especially necessary.
The overcoming of regional studies will lead to more attention being paid to interesting facts, such as the circumstance that borders moved in different directions depending on the territory in question, and will encourage a comparison between the Christian and Islamic perspectives on this situation and the study of the borders’ permeability.
The confluence of disciplines in the study of borders will bring a more complete understanding of the concept of “borders” by combining legal, literary and visual sources.