Difficult middles, hybridity and ambivalence of a medieval frontier: the cultural landscape of Lolland and Falster (Denmark)

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This article focuses on the cultural and political landscape of the Danish islands of Lolland and Falster in the Middle Ages. The close economic and dynastic relationships between medieval Denmark and the Slavic area south of the Baltic Sea, as well
  This article was downloaded by: [Magdalena Naum]On: 02 September 2012, At: 23:31Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Journal of Medieval History Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmed20 Difficult middles, hybridity andambivalence of a medieval frontier:the cultural landscape of Lolland andFalster (Denmark) Magdalena Naum aa  McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UKVersion of record first published: 09 Feb 2012 To cite this article:  Magdalena Naum (2012): Difficult middles, hybridity and ambivalence of amedieval frontier: the cultural landscape of Lolland and Falster (Denmark), Journal of MedievalHistory, 38:1, 56-75 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13044184.2011.644755 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.  Difficult middles, hybridity and ambivalence of a medieval frontier:the cultural landscape of Lolland and Falster (Denmark) Magdalena Naum*  McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, CambridgeCB2 3ER, UK  (  Received 2 May 2011; final version received 22 September 2011 )This article focuses on the cultural and political landscape of the Danish islands of Lolland andFalster in the Middle Ages. The close economic and dynastic relationships between medievalDenmark and the Slavic area south of the Baltic Sea, as well as Slavic settlement on the islands,contributed to the emergence of complex realities and attitudes, as well as a particular   ‘ in- betweenness ’  of the islanders. By analysing archaeological and historical sources as well as borrowing concepts from postcolonial scholarship, the processes that developed in this borderland geography are explored. The paper highlights hybridity in material culture, paysattention to the ambivalence towards  ‘ national ’  projects and underlines the complex andmulti-positional identities of the islanders. Keywords:  frontier; migration; hybridity; Obodrites; Denmark; Slavs; Helmold of Bosau;Saxo Grammaticus; Adam of Bremen In describing the topographical and political landscapes of Scandinavia, medieval chroniclerssuch as Adam of Bremen and Saxo Grammaticus introduced neat geographical and ethnic cat-egories. In these narratives, to the north of the Baltic Sea lay territories ruled by kings of Denmark and Sweden; to the south, landscapes and peoples under the sovereignty of Slavicdukes and German kings. People living in each of these clear-cut geographies spoke the samelanguage, shared common sets of laws and were ruled by dynasties with ancient roots. 1 Suchthinking in categories of difference and segregation, division between  ‘ us ’  and  ‘ them ’ , was acommon topos in ancient and medieval writing. 2 It was a useful, if simplistic, way of categorising ISSN 0304-4181 print/ISSN 1873-1279 online© 2012 Taylor & Francishttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13044184.2011.644755http://www.tandfonline.com *E-mail: mn375@cam.ac.uk 1 Adam of Bremen,  History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen , ed. F.J. Tschan (New York, 1959),Book 4; for Saxo Grammaticus, the following editions are used hereafter in this paper: Saxo Grammaticus, The Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus , Publications of the Folklore Society 33,ed. O. Elton (London: Nutt, 1894) and Saxo Grammaticus,  Danorum regum heroumque historia. Books x  –   xvi , British Archaeological Reports, international series 84, 118, ed. E. Christiansen, 3 vols. (Oxford:1980  –  1): Saxo Grammaticus,  Nine Books , Book 1. 2 E. Gruen,  Rethinking the Other in Antiquity  (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); J.J. Cohen  , Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: Of Difficult Middles  (New York: PalgraveMacmillan, 2006); F. Curta,  ‘ Introduction ’ , in  Borders, Barriers, and Ethnogenesis. Frontiers in Late Anti-quity and the Middle Ages , ed. F. Curta (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), 2  –  6; D. Wallace,  Premodern Places:Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn  (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004); D. Abulafia,  ‘ Introduction:Seven Types of Ambiguity  c .1100  –  c .1500 ’ , in  Medieval Frontiers: Concepts and Practices ,ed. D. Abulafia and N. Berend (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), 11; R. Bartlett,  ‘ Medieval and Modern Concepts  Journal of Medieval History Vol. 38, No. 1, March 2012, 56  –  75    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   M  a  g   d  a   l  e  n  a   N  a  u  m   ]  a   t   2   3  :   3   1   0   2   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2  and connecting peoples with places and kingdoms, making sense of the known and mythicalworlds. These divisions and descriptions were often categorical: one could have been a Daneor a Slav, but hardly both. One was a subject of a certain king or bishop, and thus it wasinconceivable to serve another without prior approval. For medieval authors a middle categoryof borderland, with overlapping traditions, multiple identities and characteristic ambivalencewas hard to understand and articulate. As pointed out by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen,  ‘  because, for the most part, medieval historiography stressed the timeless separation of peoples, generic andlinguistic constraints ensured that hybridity was not easy to express ’ . 3 The neat cartographies of medieval scribes, often sketched with political and ideologicalundertones, did not always correspond with the realities on the ground. These inconsistenciesare the subject of a growing and interdisciplinary body of scholarship. 4 To describe these contra-dictions and to trace their roots many scholars, especially those studying medieval colonial poli-tics and interactions in the frontier zones, employ concepts developed in postcolonial writing. 5 There are similarities between early-modern and modern instances of colonial ideologymeeting with  ‘ the other  ’  and medieval cases of expansion, conquest and co-existence in frontier zones. Furthermore, postcolonial theories have shown the value of recognising multiple narrativesrecounted by multiple voices, helping one to attune to messages from the subaltern zone. Theyhave helped to problematise the binary oppositions and differences claimed to exist by those in power (and those that produced  ‘ official ’ , historical narratives) and unmasked the mechanismof colonial narratives and propaganda. As critical engagement with these issues emerges inMedieval Studies, concepts and approaches developed in postcolonial scholarship may facilitatenew ways of thinking about medieval societies. Some of these concepts are employed in this paper to interrogate the picture of   ‘ national ’  unity and difference between Denmark and theterritories south of the Baltic Sea presented by Saxo Grammaticus in his  Gesta Danorum . 6 They are used to illuminate the ambivalence of the inhabitants of the Danish islands of Lolland and Falster that resulted from Slavic immigration to these islands as well as close inter-actions with the territories south of the Baltic Sea.Saxo Grammaticus composed his monumental  Gesta Danorum , the first comprehensivehistory of Denmark, in the last decades of the twelfth century and in the early thirteenthcentury. The work was commissioned by Bishop Absalon, one of the architects of the WendishCrusade (initiated in 1159) and a close ally of King Valdemar I (1157  –  82). The chronicle has been repeatedly discussed by medieval historians, who have pointed out that its text is richly of Race and Ethnicity ’ ,  Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies  31 (2002): 39  –  56; S. Jakobsson, ‘ Defining a Nation: Popular and Public Identity in the Middle Ages ’ ,  Scandinavian Journal of History  24(2000): 91  –  101; W. Pohl,  ‘ Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies ’ , in  Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings , ed. L.K. Little and B.H. Rosenwein (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998), 13  –  24;W. Pohl,  ‘ Introduction: Strategies of Distinction ’ , in  Strategies of Distinction: the Construction of EthnicCommunities, 300  –  800 , ed. W. Pohl and H. Reimitz (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 1  –  15; W. Pohl,  ‘ Telling theDifference: Signs of Ethnic Identity ’ , in  Strategies of Distinction , ed. Pohl and Reimitz, 17  –  70. 3 Cohen,  Hybridity , 2 4 For example, Curta, ed.,  Borders, Barriers, and Ethnogenesis ; Wallace,  Premodern Places ; studies inJ.J. Cohen, ed.,  Postcolonial Middle Ages  (New York: Palgrave, 2000). 5 M. Naum,  ‘ Re-emerging Frontiers: Postcolonial Theory and Historical Archaeology of the Borderlands ’ ,  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory  17 (2010): 101  –  31; Cohen,  Hybridity ; Wallace,  Premodern Places ; B. Hollsinger,  ‘ Medieval Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and the Genealogies of Critique ’ ,  Speculum 77 (2002): 1203  –  5; Cohen, ed.,  Postcolonial Middle Ages ; M.R. Warren,  History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain, 1100  –  1300  (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000). 6 Saxo Grammaticus,  Nine Books , ed. Elton; Saxo Grammaticus,  Danorum regum  …  historia. Books x  –   xvi ,ed. Christiansen.  Journal of Medieval History  57    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   M  a  g   d  a   l  e  n  a   N  a  u  m   ]  a   t   2   3  :   3   1   0   2   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2  laced with propaganda justifying the war against the Slavs, glorifying Valdemar and his bloodline,and praising the Hvide family, from which Absalon came. 7 In constructing his work, Saxofollowed convention. He described the borders of Denmark, taking the geographical limits of the realm as self-evident. He constructed a mythical srcin for the ruling dynasty, which hederived from one Dan; and throughout the work he made claims about the cultural unity and particularity of the country and its people. In a manner typical of the time, he drew a distinction between the inhabitants of Valdemar  ’ s realm and their neighbours, and equipped them withcontrasting qualities. The Danes were portrayed as pious Christians, long suffering from thetreachery of the pagan and wild Slavs, as well as the neighbouring and untrustworthy Saxons.The impression created by this picture is one of distance and difference that could not easily be elided.However, if Saxo ’ s twelfth-century characterisation of the western realms of the Baltic Seawas one of difference, distance and hostility, the reality of the region was much more complex.Although there were conflicts and hostilities in the region, the opposite coasts of the BalticSea shared episodes of common dynastic history. They were connected by reciprocal economicinterests and developed common forms of material culture. 8 Occasionally, in the wake of trans-formative political events, those inhabiting frontier zones exhibited ambivalence that ran contraryto the narratives of national unity presented by Saxo and other medieval writers. This multivocal-ity, fluidity and hybridity of identities and material culture could be described as an example of what Jeffrey Jerome Cohen calls  ‘ difficult middles ’  or as a materialisation of Homi Bhabha ’ s ideaof   ‘ third space ’ . 9 Both terms problematise geographical and conceptual borderlands as spaces of constant dialogue and remaking, as liminal geographies that question the binary oppositions andsystems created by an official narrative. Cohen locates their   ‘ difficulty ’  in the notion that theywere hard to articulate and difficult to inhabit. And yet, he observes, these in-between spaceswere everywhere.  ‘ Hybrid geographies burgeoned in the wake of migration, conquest and 7 For example, J. Lind, C. Selch Jensen, K. Villads Jensen and A.L. Bysted, eds.,  Danske korstog   –   krig og mission i Østersøen  (Copenhagen: Høst, 2004); P. Grinder-Hansen,  ‘ Historie, arkæologi og venderne  –   hvadkilderne ikke siger om Svantevits tempel i Arkona och om venderne i Danmark ’ , in  Venner og fjender. Dansk-vendiske forbindelser i vikingetid og tidlig middelalder   (Næstved: Næstved Museum, 2002), 5  –  16;P. Grinder-Hansen,  ‘ Die Slawen bei Saxo Grammaticus  –   Bemerkungen zu den Gesta Danorum ’ , in Zwischen Reric und Bornhöved. Die Beziehungen zwischen den Dänen und ihren slawischen Nachbarnvom 9. bis ins 13. Jahrhundert. Beiträge einer internationalen Konferenz, Leipzig, 4.  –  6. Dezember 1997  ,ed. O. Harck and C. Lübke (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 2001), 179  –  86; K. Villads Jensen,  ‘ The Blue BalticBorder of Denmark in the High Middle Ages: Danes, Wends and Saxo Grammaticus ’ , in  Medieval Frontiers ,ed. Abulafia and Berend, 173, 184  –  6; J. Lind,  ‘ Var Valdemarstidens Venderkorstog  “ topmålet af hylkeri ” ? ’ in  Venderne og Danmark  , ed. C. Selch Jensen, K. Villads Jensen and J. Lind (Odense: Center for Middelal-derstudier, Syddansk Universitet, 2000), 87  –  94; K. Villads Jensen,  ‘ Saxos grænser. Dehumanisering af vederne ’ , in  Venderne og Danmark  , ed. Selch Jensen, Villads Jensen and Lind, 4  –  10; T. Damgaard-Sørensen,  ‘ Danes and Wends: a Study of the Danish Attitude Towards the Wends ’ , in  People and Placesin Northern Europe 500  –  1600. Essays in honour of Peter Hayes Sawyer  , ed. I. Wood and N. Lund (Wood- bridge: Boydell Press, 1991), 171  –  86. 8 Slavic-Danish medieval history has attracted some attention in the recent years. The 1997 conference inLeipzig and subsequent volume, Harck and Lübke, eds.,  Zwischen Reric und Bornhöved  , cross-disciplinaryand international projects, such as  ‘ Venderne og Danmark ’  organised in 1999 at Syddansk Universitet,Odense, and  ‘ De dansk-vendiske forbindelser i vikingetid og tidlig middelalder  ’ , http://www.aabne-samlinger.dk/venderprojekt/index.htm [Accessed September 2011], run in 2000  –  1 by museums inStorstrøms Amt in Denmark, and a project and exhibition,  ‘ Mare Balticum ’  at the Nationalmuseet in Copen-hagen (2002  –  3), helped to revise a picture of hostility and limited scale of interaction across the Baltic Seathat dominated earlier research. 9 Cohen,  Hybridity , 2; H. Bhabha,  The Location of Culture  (London: Routledge, 1994), 53  –  6. See also Naum,  ‘ Re-emerging Frontiers ’ . 58  M. Naum    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   M  a  g   d  a   l  e  n  a   N  a  u  m   ]  a   t   2   3  :   3   1   0   2   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2  colonisation. They proliferated at interstices, in border zones, along margins. They could alsothrive within seemingly homogeneous centers. ’ 10 For Homi Bhabha, third space is an area of translation and construction of a political object that is new, neither one nor the other. It is arealm that opens up discourse beyond simple antagonisms and collapses dichotomies betweenothers and ourselves. 11 This article focuses on one example of an ambivalent locality in the Baltic. It deals withhybridity and the lack of conformity exhibited by the inhabitants of the two southernmost Danish islands, Lolland and Falster, in the context of the campaigns of King Valdemar I andBishop Absalon against the Rugians, Lutizi and Pomeranians (1159  –  82), as well as in thecentury preceding these wars. It is argued that this ambiguity and  ‘ difficult middle ’  developedfrom the mixed ethnic composition of the islands, a result of Slavic migration to Lolland andFalster and close ties with the territories south of the Baltic Sea. Geopolitics of the south-western Baltic Sea The proximity of the southern Danish islands to the southern coast of the Baltic Sea was an impor-tant factor in the repeated and long-lasting political alliances and economic connections betweenDanish and Slavic rulers and merchants (Figure 1). It was possible to cover the distance betweenthe southern shores of Lolland and Falster and the seaports of the Obodrites, Veleti/Lutizi andRani in a few hours of sailing, during which land would rarely have been out of sight. Politicalconnections can be traced back to the early ninth century and Charlemagne ’ s Saxon wars, in thewake of which the Frankish ruler allied with the Obodrites. 12 To counterbalance this, Godfried,whose authority was recognised in southern Jutland (and perhaps further north and east), formedties with the neighbours of the Obodrites, the Veleti. This connection had disastrous effects for theObodrites. The Royal Frankish Annals report that in 808 Rerik, their major trading centre, wasdestroyed and Drazko, their leader, was killed  –   and that Godfried was responsible. 13 By 817,the politics of the region had changed and henceforward the Obodrites sought allies among therulers of Denmark. 14 There is evidence that friendship between the two courts and political col-laboration was sustained. About 970, the Nakonides, the ruling dynasty of the Obodrites, werelinked to Denmark through the marriage of the Obodrite Princess Tofa (Tove) and the Danishking Harald Bluetooth. There was a further link through marriage, in the early eleventhcentury, between the Obodrite Prince Uto and an unknown Danish princess. The son of this mar-riage, Gottschalk, married Sigrid, daughter of the Danish king Sven Estridsen, and became dukeof the Obodrites in 1043. As a result of political turmoil, however, Gottschalk was forced to takerefuge, first at the court of Canute the Great, and then with his own father-in-law, Sven Estridsen. 10 Cohen,  Hybridity , 2. 11 Bhabha,  Location , 55  –  6. 12 Onhistory of theObodrites, including their political alliances, see,for example, J.Strzelczyk,  Zapomnianenarody Europy  (Wroc ł aw: Zak ł adNarodowy im. Ossoli ń skich-Wydawnictwo, 2006);A. Turasiewicz,  Dzieje polityczne Obodrzyców od IX wieku do utraty niepodleg  ł  o  ś ci w latach 1160  –  1164  (Krakow: Zak ł ad Wydaw-niczy  ‘  Nomos ’ , 2004); F. Lotter,  ‘ The Crusading Idea and the Conquest of the Region East of the Elbe ’ , in  Medieval Frontier Societies , ed. R. Bartlett and A. Mackay (Oxford, 1989), 267  –  306; J. Strzelczyk, ed., S  ł  owia ń  szczyzna Po ł  abska mi ę dzy Niemcami a Polsk  ą  (Pozna ń : Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetuim. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, 1981); Helmold of Bosau,  Chronicle of the Slavs , ed. F.J. Tschan(New York: Octogan Books, 1966). 13 P.D. King, ed.,  Charlemagne: Translated Sources  (Kendal: P.D. King, 1987), entries under AD 808  –  10. 14 For example, the Royal Frankish Annals, s.a. 817, 821: Bernhard Walter Scholz and Barbara Rogers, eds., Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard  ’   s Histories  (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1970).  Journal of Medieval History  59    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   M  a  g   d  a   l  e  n  a   N  a  u  m   ]  a   t   2   3  :   3   1   0   2   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   2
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