Xavier Ballestín

Xavier Ballestín teaches Medieval History, Byzantium and Islam, and Al-Andalus at University of Barcelona in History and Archaeology Department. He holds a Doctorate in History (1998) and the Advanced Arabic Teaching Certificate (2000) from the State Languages School of Barcelona. His training in Arabic includes a scholarship in the Arabic Syrian Republic at the Arabic Teaching Institute for Foreigners, University of Damascus, where he lived for two years (1988-1990), and two summer courses in the Institut Bourguiba pour les Langues Vivantes (1985-1986). He worked in Yemen during two short archaeological fieldwork campaigns (1998) (1999) as a team research member in charge of Arabic sources and translation in the field. His doctoral thesis - Mafakhir al-barbar. Estudi i traducció – is the translation and study of a late medieval anonymous text (c. 1314), a - maǧmūʿa - dealing with Berber history. His research interests are the intellectual culture and written production of Islamic scholars in the Iberian Northeast – Catalonia -, the understanding of the relationship between legitimacy, power exercise and state structures in al-Andalus and the Magrib and the network of tribal settlements, Arabic and Berber, in the Western Mediterranean during the High Middle Ages.

 

The Umayyads of al-Andalus and al-Mansur ibn Abi ‘Amir – Almanzor -: The fabrics of adab, legitimacy, authority and rule

Adab’s knowledge and the development of the skills for practicing it have been usually associated to scholars and cultured people who, on the one hand, had an outstanding ability in writing, prose or verse, on the other, they used to show their proficiency in courtly milieus, where rulers rewarded them or punished them according to criteria that lie beyond the scope of literature aesthetics and court fashion, as these criteria were directly related to dynasty policies, power struggles and partisan jealousy amongst courtiers and officials. The best framework to understand the development of adab practice as a weapon of political struggle and policymaking is a thorough comparison of literary production and high culture between two ages, which will provide the reader with a comprehensive view about how adab, understood as a channel of high culture and court policy, changed. The area to be studied is al-Andalus in the Xth century, and the two ages to be compared are, first, the high tide of the Umayyad caliphate with ‘Abd ar-Rahman an-Nasir (929-961) and his son, al-Hakam al-Mustansir bi-Llah (961-976), where authority, rule and leadership remained in the hands of male and adult members of the Umayyad clan; second, the age of Abu ‘Amir Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi ‘Amir al-Mansur (976-1002), known as Almanzor/Almansor, a man who, in spite of being neither Umayyad nor Qurayshite, exerted full authority on behalf of caliphal legitimacy, in this case, in the name of the incumbent Andalusian Umayyad caliph, Hisham al-Mu’ayyad bi-Llah (976-1009).