At a glance

W1 Professor Dr. Verena Krebs

Biography

  • Verena Krebs is specialist for pre-modern African history, focussing especially on the medieval history of North-East Africa and the Horn. Trained as both a medievalist historian and art historian, her work is often of an interdisciplinary nature, incorporating material culture sources alongside written source material.
    In October 2017, she took up the W1 professorship for "Medieval Cultural Realms and their Entanglements" at Ruhr-University Bochum, where she pursues a research project on the gold and ivory trade between Africa and Europe in the Middle Ages.

    Transcultural history and the enanglements of geographically distant realms have always lain at the heart of her research. Her interdisciplinary PhD project, conducted in a co-tutelle between the University of Konstanz, Germany, and Mekelle University, Ethiopia, examined the diplomatic, commercial and artistic contacts between medieval Christian Ethiopia and Latin Europe. It especially focussed on the role of Western European religious material culture and artistic exchange in Ethiopia, and how foreign goods were utilized and intrumentalized by the Ethiopian late medieval court to further local goals and meet political demands within the North-East African highland kingdom. In 2016, it was awarded the the Förderpreis Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft award as best PhD thesis at University Konstanz. She is preparing two monographs that elaborate on subjects first studied as part of the PhD thesis - relating to Ethiopian kingship and diplomacy with Western Europe (to be published by Palgrave, 2020/21) and Solomonic Ethiopian patronage practices and collections of religious material culture (manuscript under review with the University of Pennsylvania Press) respectively.

    From 2014 to 2017, she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. From 2015 to 2018, she moreover joined "JewsEast - Jews and Christians in the East: Strategies of Interaction between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean" - a European Research Council project at the Center for Religious Studies, Ruhr University Bochum as an associate researcher. At JewsEast, she acted as resident material culture and digital humanities expert in addition to her expertise on medieval Ethiopian history, leading a first JewsEast fieldwork season investigating the material culture of the Ethiopian Jews to the Gondar area of Ethiopia in 2015.

  • Vita and Publications

  • Vita
    Positions and Research Fellowships

      since 2017 - W1 Professor at the Junior Professorship for "Medieval Cultural Realms and their Entanglements, Faculty of History, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

      2015-2018 - Associate Researcher, Research Fellow, Center for Religious Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

      2016-2017 - Truman Research Fellow, Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

      2014-2017 - Martin Buber Fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

      2012-2014 - Visiting researcher at the Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, Hamburg University; specialist for object and artwork description for the European Research Council research project "ETHIO-SPARE: Cultural Heritage of Christian Ethiopia: Salvation, Preservation, Research" (Dr. Denis Nosnitsin)

      2011-2012 - Visiting researcher at the Department of History and Cultural Studies, Mek'elle University, Ethiopia

      2011 - Visiting researcher at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

    • Education and Degrees

    • 2010-2014 - Dr. phil. / PhD, summa cum laude, University of Konstanz, Germany, and Mekelle University, Ethiopia (bi-national degree)

    • 2007-2010 - M.A. in History with distinction, University of Konstanz, Germany (of this 8 months at University of York, UK, in the MA program Medieval History)

    • 2004-2007 - B.A. in Literature, Art and Media Studies with distinction, University of Konstanz, Germany

    • Publications

      Monographs
      Medieval Ethiopian Kingship, Craft and Diplomacy with Latin Europe, manuscript under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, to be published 2020/21.
      Medieval Ethiopian Kingship examines the diplomatic encounters between two Christian realms in the late Middle Ages – Latin Christian Europe and the Christian empire of Solomonic Ethiopia, situated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa. The book provides a detailed examination of the development of contacts, focussing on Ethiopian interests in Western Europe: the acquisition of builders, painters, artisans as well as objects of religious material culture. It argues that Ethiopian outreach to these foreign Christian realms was a by-product of local developments within the highland realm, and was specifically connected to concurrent large-scale prestige projects such as the donation and building of royal churches and monasteries. Moreover, it shows how the Solomonic interest in procuring foreign craftsmen and objects is both connected to the dynasty’s foundational myth of the Kǝbrä nägäśt as well as a direct emulation of the activities of the Biblical king Solomon as narrated in 2 Chronicles. An appendix with select transcriptions and translations of archival sources from both the Latin West as well as Ethiopia – some of which are hitherto unpublished and/or not translated into English – complements the volume.

      Africa collecting Europe: patronage, foreign religious material culture and the assertion of local power in Ethiopia, 1470-1530, manuscript under review with the University of Pennsylvania Press.
      This monograph expands on the topics first explored in Medieval Ethiopian Kingship by investigating a wide body of material culture sources from Ethiopia – it investigates how, in the latter half of the 15th and early 16th century, Ethiopian elites fundamentally changed Ethiopian art by favouring a ‘new’ and hybrid style of painting that combined foreign iconographic and stylistic elements with Ethiopian visual traditions. It also demonstrates how members of the royal court were involved in the direct import of foreign religious material culture, acquiring both post-Byzantine icons from the Eastern Mediterranean as well as panel paintings that originated as far away late-medieval Flanders and Germany. Lastly, it shows how by the early 16th century, individual Solomonic royals engaged in the commissioning of prestige objects in Latin Europe, primarily painted enamels with Gǝʿǝz writing from Limoges in France. The book is thus first to show the active involvement of a medieval African court within the same network of collecting and artistic exchanges long attested-to for Europe and parts of Asia.

      Edited Volumes
      (forthcoming) Krebs, V. and Gnisci, J.: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the History of Art and Architecture in Ethiopia, Vienna, 2-6 September 2013, as a Special Issue of ITYOP̣IS – Northeast African Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (forthcoming)

      Journal Articles and Contributions (peer reviewed)
      • Krebs, V. and Kribus, B. ‘Betä Ǝsra’el (Ethiopian Jewish) Monastic Sites North of Lake Ṭana: Preliminary Results of an Exploratory Field Trip to Ethiopia in December 2015’, Entangled Religions. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Religious Contact and Transfer. Special issue “Historical Engagements and Interreligious Encounters - Jews and Christians in Premodern and Early Modern Asia and Africa”, 6 (2018), 309-344. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13154/er.v6.2018.309-344.

      • Krebs, V. ‘Crusading threats? Ethiopian-Egyptian relations in the 1440s’, Crusading in Africa, ed. Benjamin Weber, Toulouse: Presses Univesitaires du Midi 2019, 245-274.

      • Krebs, V. ‘Re-examining Foresti’s Supplementum Chronicarum and the ‘Ethiopian’ embassy to Europe of 1306’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 82/3 (2019), 493–515. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X19000697.

      • Krebs, V. ‘Royal Ethiopian patronage and hybrid ‘färänğ’ styles: A new approach to art in Ethiopia, 1460-1530’, ITYOP̣IS – Northeast African Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (accepted for publication June 2016, in print).

      • Krebs, V. ‘Fancy Names and Fake News. Notes on the Conflation of Solomonic Ethiopian Rulership with the Myth of Prester John in the late Medieval Latin Christian diplomatic Correspondence’, Orbis Aethiopicus XVII, 2020 (in print).

      • Krebs, V. ‘A preliminary catalogue of post-Byzantine Icons in late medieval Solomonic Ethiopia’, Orbis Aethiopicus XVIIem>, 2020 (in print).

      Academic Book Reviews
      • Krebs, V. ‚Rezension zu: Fauvelle, François-Xavier: Das goldene Rhinozeros. Afrika im Mittelalter. München 2017‘ , in H-Soz-Kult, 14.12.2018, www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-28270.

      Journal articles (not peer reviewed)
      • ‘Äthiopien und Europa: Mittelalterliche Kontakte und ihr Einfluss auf die Äthiopische Kunst’, in: Kirche und Schule in Äthiopien 63 (2010).