Being Pagan, Being Christian in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS), University of Helsinki 3.-4-11.2015

The humanities over the past decades have seen an enormous surge in studies on the construction and representation of identities, adopting theories and approaches from a wide range of disciplines. In particular, scholars working on historical periods of transition have addressed this topic and focused on the ways collective and individual identities were negotiated amid processes of change. One prime example is the period from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, in which Christianity spread from the Mediterranean to other regions of Europe and profoundly transformed the religious landscape. Although the definition and construction of Christian identities, as well as their interaction with other religious self-definitions, have attracted much interest, the scholarly discussion has often suffered from artificial boundaries, those between Classical and Medieval Studies and those between archaeological, literary, and historical approaches. This symposium intends to overcome these boundaries by investigating religious identities and their interplay with other identities from the fourth to tenth century AD, in order to understand more accurately both the recurring patterns and the changes in the emergence, negotiation and representation of images of selves and others over this period.

The conference, which will bring together researchers from various fields, including archaeology, history, classical studies, and theology, will deal with, among others, the following topics and questions:

  • What does it mean to identify oneself as pagan or Christian in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages? In what ways do religious self-definitions of the educated elite differ from those of the common people? Who is the other who is not a pagan/Christian against which the ingroup can be demarcated?
  • How are religious identities constructed, negotiated and represented in oral and written discourse? How is this identity performed in rituals or how it is visible in the material remains? What happens to identities at the event of conversion? It is important that we acknowledge the constructivist nature of identities, instead of taking an essentialist approach.
  • Multiple identities and the fuzzy boundaries between ‘pagan’ and ‘Christian’ (and among various types of Christianity).
  • The intersection of religious constructions of selves and others with other types of identities (ethnic, cultural, social, political); in particular, the mutual influence of religious and gender identities needs to be considered, because Christianity promoted new forms of female and male lives.
  • To what extent can modern theories of individual and collective identities be applied to Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages? In what ways do they further our understanding of religious identities in these centuries.

Venue: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Fabianinkatu 24 A, Seminar Room 136, Ground Floor.

OrganisersKatja RitariWilliam van Andringa, Jan Stenger & Maijastina Kahlos

Registration: The symposium is open for all, but there is a limited number of seat. Registration is free but required. The deadline to register is October 26.

Please register online here.

Programme (see more):

Thursday 3.11.2016

09:00 Registration and coffee

09:30 Opening of the symposium

09:45 Session 1 Chair:

William Van Andringa (HCAS): Material Culture and Religious Identity in Fourth Century Gaul: Time of Invisibility

Eric Rebillard (Cornell University): Archaeology and Identity: Being Christian, 250-450 CE

11:15 Coffee/Tea

11:30 Session 2 Chair: Jesse Keskiaho

Rosamond McKitterick (University of Cambridge): The Liber pontificalis and the Transformation of Rome from Pagan to Christian City in the Early Middle Ages

Stefanie Dick (Bonn University): Christianity and the Development of Frankish Kingship: the Baptism of Clovis

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Session 3 Chair:

Elva Johnston (University College Dublin): Converting to Christianity in Fourth and Fifth Century Ireland: A Frontier Phenomenon?

Katja Ritari (HCAS): Christian Identities and the Memory of the Conversion in Early Medieval Ireland

15:30 Coffee/Tea

16:00 Session 4 Chair:

Raimo Hakola (University of Helsinki): Identities Renegotiated and Contested: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity

Hervé Inglebert (l’Université Paris Ouest Nanterre-La Défense): Vanishing Identity: the Impossible Definition of Pagans and Paganism in the West (4th-6th Centuries)

Maijastina Kahlos (University of Helsinki): Being Pagan and Everyday Nuisances. The Dynamics of Patronage in Late Antiquity

18:15 Reception

Friday 4.11.2016

10:00 Session 5 Chair:

Jan Stenger (University of Glasgow): Paradise Lost/Regained: Healing the Ascetic Body in the Monastery of Dorotheus of Gaza

Ine Jacobs (University of Oxford): Christianity and the Secular… and Other Explanatory Theories

Ilkka Lindstedt (HCAS): The Spread of Monotheism in Late Antique Arabia

12:15 Lunch

13:15 Session 6 Chair:

Mark Humphries (Swansea University): Martyrs, Memories, and Identities in Christian Late Antiquity

Elizabeth DePalma Digeser (University of California, Santa Barbara): Heretics and Collaborators: The Effect of Persecution on Multiple Identities

14:45 Coffee/Tea

15:15 Session 7 Chair:

Antti Lampinen (University of St Andrews): Christianity and Ethnography: ‘Barbarian Sages’ in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Frédérique Blaizot (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives):
Funerary Practices and Construction of Religious and Social Identities in the South- East of Gaul from the 4th to 10th Centuries

16:45 Ending of the symposium

19:00 Dinner

pagan_kuva

Martyrdom of saints Cassius and Castus, cathedral of Monreale, Sicily (image by S. Brodbeck)

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