Communities of Violence Essay

Words: 1675
Pages: 7

In David Nirenberg’s narrative monograph, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages Nirenberg examines the meaning and function of violence in fourteenth century southern France and in the Crown of Aragon. Nirenberg’s thesis is that violence towards minorities (Jews, Muslims, and lepers) was neither irrational nor a result of intolerance, instead violence towards minorities was contextual and part of the everyday function of society. Nirenberg argues that there is a difference between “systematic violence” and its function and “cataclysmic violence.” Nirenberg focuses on how those of the time maintained a society by using everyday violence to enforce boundaries and propel negotiations among minorities. …show more content…
For one it preserved religious boundaries between the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Religious boundaries and “institutionalized violence” made other interactions less violent and more tolerant. Jews were reminded through the “ritual violence” that occurred during Holy Week that “they were to be tolerated.” Nirenberg argues that “ritual violence” was used to ease the friction between the religious groups. One aspect that stands out the most which Nirenberg keeps coming back to is the topic of the “economy of accusation.” In the chapter titled “Sex and Violence between Majority and Minority,” Nirenberg states that sexual boundaries, if crossed, were the cause for the most violence between the three faiths. Nirenberg argues that sexual boundaries allowed the community to live in relative tolerance and peace with one another because these boundaries prevented violent conflicts. Many times “miscegenation” did not occur but was used as “accusational violence” and “judicial violence.” “Accusational violence” and “judicial violence were used to persuade, convert, maintain power, seek revenge, and “to support or to challenge male control of women,” and to extort. This relates to Nirenberg’s thesis that violence had a “strategic value” and was a “stabilizing force.” Because minorities were able to use “accusational violence” and “judicial violence,” the result was that “cataclysmic violence” was avoided because boundaries were