Forms and Borders of Medieval Law

October 25, 2023 (Wednesday)

Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and College Hall

Forms and Borders of Medieval Law

2023 ASLH Pre-Conference Symposium

This symposium on “Forms and Borders of Medieval Law” brings together scholars of medieval legal cultures to discuss innovative work happening across disciplines, regions, and languages that might not otherwise appear in conjunction. Through this conversation, we hope to highlight a medieval law that—rather than being simply traditionalist or inward looking—was deeply pluralist, variegated, expansive, and innovative.

Full event details:

 *** Morning Location: Van Pelt Library (Penn), Class of 1978 Pavilion (6th Floor)***

8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.: Welcome remarks from Jennifer Jahner and Ada Kuskowski

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Image
Moderator: Rita Copeland (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Joanna Fronska (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), “Illuminating Gratian in Toulouse and the Case of Bernard of Castanet”
  • Susan L’Engle (Saint Louis University), “Overlooked and Unrecorded: Textbook Study Aids by Medieval Law Students”
  • Benjamin Saltzman (University of Chicago), “Possibilities and Precursive Forms of Blind Justice”

Commentator: Julie Stone Peters (Columbia)


10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.: Coffee break

10:45 a.m. –12:00 p.m.: Material
Moderator: Karl Shoemaker (University of Wisconsin Madison, History & Law)

  • Brigitte Bedos-Rezak (NYU), “The Body of Evidence: A Living Matter?”
  • Tamer el-Leithy (IAS and American University Cairo), “Material Community in Medieval Cairo: Documentary Practices of Coptic Christians at Islamic Courts”

Commentator: Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia)


12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Lunch Break

***Afternoon Location: History Department (Penn), College Hall, Room 209***

1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.: Text
Moderator: William Ewald (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Arnaud Fossier (Université de Bourgogne), “Dispensation: Forms and Borders of Exception in Canon Law”
  • Pinchas Roth (Bar-Ilan University), “Moving in the Margins: Medieval Jewish Legal Texts across Bibliographic and Geographic Borders”
  • Samantha Katz Seal (University of New Hampshire), “The Makings of a Flemish ‘Race’ in Late Medieval English Law”

Commentator: Jesús R. Velasco (Yale)


2:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Coffee break

2:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Law Across Borders
Moderator: Reyhan Dumarz (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Mahel Hamroun (University of California, Berkeley), “‘If He Should Ask’: Bound Community in Medieval Icelandic Law”
  • Jocelyn Hendrickson (University of Alberta), “Storytelling and Islamic Law”
  • Rodrigo García-Velasco (University College London), “Converting the Land: Property and Religious Difference in the Iberian fueros”

Commentator: Emanuele Conte (University of Roma Tre)


4:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Coffee break

4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Lightning Round – Speaking Law of Law Across Cultures
Moderator: Sara McDougall (John Jay College, History/ CUNY Graduate Center/ NY Public Library Fellow)

  • Joseph Lowry (University of Pennsylvania), “Who Does the Qur’an Think Will Enforce Its Laws?”
  • Talya Fishman (University of Pennsylvania), “Medieval Ashkenazic and Sephardic Approaches to Jewish Law”
  • Carissa Harris (Temple University), “Ancilla”
  • Esther Liberman Cuenca (University of Houston-Victoria), “Centers and Peripheries: Thinking about Coloniality in Medieval Urban Customary Law”
  • Julia Verkholantsev (University of Pennsylvania), “The Etymology of Ruling and Lawgiving in Origines Gentium”

Commentator: Alice Taylor (King’s College London)


6:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.: Reception