Icons of Military Saints in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean: Image and Community in the 9th–13th Centuries
The project that I undertook as a Dumbarton Oaks junior fellow was the completion of my dissertation, Image and Community, which I will defend in June 2011. In this project, I explore points of visual contact between Egyptian, Levantine, and Byzantine icons of military saints to write an account of the images—their emergence and characteristics—as a frontier phenomenon during the era of the Crusades. By focusing on icons that incorporate diverse visual vocabularies, I consider the ways in which images could remap cultural and religious geographies through their mobility, creating communal ties through the migration of saints' images. At the same time, as I show, militarized iconographies were deployed to consolidate Christian sentiment against religious others, thereby defining and enforcing communal boundaries, both between the monotheistic faiths and the sects within them. Ultimately, I seek to shed light on the complex interactions that took place among various constituencies in the eastern Mediterranean: image-makers and hagiographers, Christians and Muslims, and eastern Christians and Byzantines.
This year, I drew on the unparalleled resources at Dumbarton Oaks to draft three chapters of my dissertation (focusing on historiography, miracle accounts, and cult formation) and to revise the whole for submission. Over the course of the year, my work benefitted not simply from the excellent library at Dumbarton Oaks, but from cross-disciplinary exchanges with fellows, readers, and visiting scholars. I also benefitted from the engagement and support of the wonderful librarians and museum curators who made the collections accessible, as well as a pleasure to use. The generosity of the extended Dumbarton Oaks community, in making suggestions and sharing material, improved the dissertation in countless ways, for which I am grateful.