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Symposium April 4-5 to examine cultural interchange in the medieval Mediterranean

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor
(217) 333-5491;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Centuries of encounter and cultural interchange in the Mediterranean may reveal lessons that remain relevant for today’s observers of that region, according to organizers of a symposium planned for April 4-5 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Encounters with Islam: The Medieval Mediterranean Experience – Art, Material Culture and Cultural Interchange" will bring together scholars from Illinois and beyond "to examine points of intersection between East and West, between the religiously, ethnically and linguistically diverse societies of the Middle Ages," said architecture professor Robert Ousterhout. The free, public symposium will be held in the Plym Auditorium, Temple Buell Hall, 611 Taft Drive, Champaign. The daylong sessions begin each day at 9:30 a.m.

Ousterhout, who is co-organizing the symposium with Illinois landscape architecture professor D. Fairchild Ruggles, said speakers will address "the complexities of ideological discourse as reflected in the language of visual expression."

"In an age of pluralism and multiculturalism, historical interactions can be enormously instructive, particularly between peoples of different religions and ethnicities," Ousterhout said. "Current discussions of cultural and religious identity may be illuminated by past encounters. For example," he said, "the rhetoric used in discussions of recent terrorist acts, not to mention the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, reflects longstanding historical prejudices and embedded attitudes."

The symposium is sponsored by the School of Architecture, department of landscape architecture, and the Medieval Studies Program. A program, with speakers, session dates and times, is available on the Web.