jueves, 27 de septiembre de 2012

Middle ages costumes: community, separation and identity

A jew
As the European continent fell under the influence of various political/cultural influences during the middle ages, costume would be manipulated to reflect a person’s cultural associations.  In the history of costume and culture this is not unusual, as distinctions of status have always been manifest in costume to some extent.  However, during the middle ages, as consolidated centers of power and influence developed and larger groups of diverse populations had to coexist, costume came to be a mechanism of enforcing societal norms in a way different from before.
Europe entered the middle ages, roughly 700- 1400 C.E., transformed by the establishment of new boundaries and the rise of new identities.  The era of Charlemagne and the reinvestment of the papacy as a political contender in the West, the evolving regionalisms and vernacular traditions on the continent, the crusades into the Middle East, and the eminence of the unified religious movements of Christianity and Islam created consolidating and competing identities that needed to distinguish themselves from one another.  In an example of this, religious affiliation was marked by variations in costume under Islam and Christianity.

Beginning in the 9th century in southern Europe, (and prior to this in the Middle East and northern Africa), as Islam established itself in political power, Jewish and Christian populations within their jurisdiction were  distinguished from their Muslim neighbors by restrictions in clothing.  Christian and Jewish populations were ordered to wear signs or markings on their headwear or variably told to wear head-coverings that marked them apart.  Later, in the Arab kingdoms of the 14th century, Jews were designated to wear yellow clothing, Christians blue, and Samaritans red.
In the Christian-dominated European middle ages, Jewish populations would be ordered to distinguish themselves by wearing badges and certain headpieces.  The badges would vary by region or by time period but were typically circular and yellow. In the history of costume, though, distinctions in certain appearance have their origins both in a community’s need self-identification as much a community’s need to impose identification upon others.  The  funnel-shaped hat worn by Jews in the middle ages is an example of how a costume choice made by a community was subsequently appropriated by the edicts of the dominant religion:  the Council of Vienna in 1267 determined that Jewish communities had to wear these identifying hats, whereas it had been the headwear of choice for the Jewish communities for a long time prior.

The line between what a community chooses for itself and what is imposed upon it, therefore, can be sometimes narrow as it is just as important for a community to maintain its identity, and set itself apart, as it is for it to integrate with a surrounding population. The impositions on Jewish and Christian identity under Islam, or on Muslim and Jewish identity under Christianity were manifestations of the societal need to enforce boundaries– something humans find themselves compelled to do to varying degrees of benefit, exclusion, and inclusion.
*The Jewish poet Süßkind von Trimberg wearing a Jewish hat (Codex Manesse, 14-15th century)
*Costume of German Jews of the Thirteenth Century. Source:   (From Herrad von Landsperg, “Luftgarten.”)

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario