IKGF Panel at the 17th symposium of the German Medievalist's Society

IKGF Panel at the 17th symposium of the German Medievalist's Society "The Secret and the Hidden in the Middle Ages"

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At the University of Bonn
March, 19-22, 2017

Convenor: Prof. Dr. Stephan Conermann (Institute for Islamic Studies, University of Bonn)
Panel Organisation: Dr. Matthias Heiduk


Under the title "Knowledge of the Future as Elite Secrets – Intercultural Phenomena of Prognostication at Medieval Courts in China, Yemen, and Sicily between the 11th and the 13th century," the IKGF has organized a panel at the 17th symposium of the German Medievalist's Society in Bonn, which took place March 19-22. The conference-organizers had chosen the topic "The Secret and the Hidden in the Middle Ages". Klaus Herbers provided a brief introduction to the panel and chaired it. Former fellow Petra Schmidl spoke on an astrological manual written by a ruler in Medieval Yemen. Matthias Heiduk discussed the figure of Michael Scotus at the court of Frederick II , and Martin Kroher's paper was on the interpretation of catastrophes and celestial phenomena by the elites of 11th century China. All three studies dealt with cases where a member of an elite or a group of such members would adopt an ambiguous role with regard to the secret knowledge of the future. In the Yemeni case it was a ruler who in his own astrological work also took the stance of a scholar discussing astrological methods and practice. In the case of Michael Scotus, posterity, and in particular the history of science, interpreted his work at the court of Frederick II as a turn away from the dark middle ages and towards science, and accordingly highlighted his role in the transfer of knowledge and the discussion of new types of knowledge. They ignored the fact that he also was an astrologer and was connected to forbidden forms of knowledge, and thus that the development of scientific thinking was much more closely related to the mantic arts, and thus much more ambiguous, than we want to believe these days. In 11th century China, officials discussing natural phenomena adopted both the stance of loyal subjects of the emperor, which heeded the imperial injunctions against possessing and distributing astronomical knowledge, and that of critical officials who used the knowledge the legitimately possessed, namely history and the classics, to criticize government policy. All of this seems to show that ambiguity is an important part of the universal practice of prediction across times and cultures.

Contributions in the IKGF-Panel "Knowledge of the Future as Elite Secrets – Intercultural Phenomena of Prognostication at Medieval Courts in China, Yemen, and Sicily between the 11th and the 13th century":

  • Klaus Herbers (IKGF, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg):
    Einführung
  • Martin Kroher (IKGF, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg):
    "Dann könnt Ihr den Himmel beeinflussen" – Die Interpretation von Katastrophen und anderen Himmelszeichen im China des 11. Jahrhunderts
  • Petra Schmidl (University of Frankfurt, Cluster of Excellence "Normative Orders"):
    Zukunftswissen am rasulidischen Hof: al-Ashraf ʽUmar und sein "Kitāb al Tabṣira fī ʽilm l-nujūm"
  • Matthias Heiduk (IKGF, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg):
    Das geheime Wissen des Michael Scotus: Eine Imaginationsgeschichte der Prognostik am Hof Kaiser Friedrichs II.


For the full conference program and further information please refer to the German Medievalist's Society webseite: