Visions of Community: Ethnicity, Religion and Power in the Early Medieval West, Byzantium and the Islamic World

Visions of Community: Ethnicity, Religion and Power in the Early Medieval West, Byzantium and the Islamic World

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Institut für Mittelalterforschung; Princeton University, History Department; Princeton University, Group for the Study of Late Antiquity
Theatersaal der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sonnenfelsgasse 19, 1010 Wien
Vom - Bis
17.06.2009 - 20.06.2009
Clemens Gantner

The international conference “Visions of Community: Ethnicity, Religion and Power in the Early Medieval West, Byzantium and the Islamic World” is addressing the issue of ethnic identity in three cultural areas in the period of 400 to 1100 AD.

In the Latin West, the Roman Empire was replaced by a plurality of Christian kingdoms with ethnic denomination: the Franks, the Anglo-Saxons, the Lombards and others. Byzantium remained Roman, but in the course of time, orthodox ethnic states rose in its periphery. In the Islamic World, ethnicity played a different role. Ethnic affiliations certainly existed on several levels, from ancient imperial traditions (Iran), ‘Micro-Christendoms’ and Jewish communities to the tribes of Arabia and the Prophet’s kin. But political power seems to have rested on different foundations. Thus, the imperial heritage of the Roman Mediterranean gave way to distinct political cultures, with strong implications for the later development of modern nations and states. Or were these differences not as fundamental as it seems?

So far, there is a lack of in-depth comparative studies on the political role of ethnicity and religion in the post-Roman Mediterranean. Systematic comparison should pave the way for a more differentiated view of the various ‘visions of community’ that lay behind political integration. The conference will address the topic within a fairly precise chronological frame, from the 5th to the 11th centuries AD, but taking long-time perspectives and diachronic comparison into account. Among others, it will raise the issues of formation and disintegration of ethnic communities, conditions for their success or failure, narratives of identification, perception of the other, hegemonial and minoritarian identities, political legitimation and ideology, religious foundations of ethnic or political affiliation, strategies of distinction in religion, language, law, costume, signs and symbols, the impact of imperial policies on regional communities, and its limits, institutional and symbolic integration and multiple identities.


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 9:00 - 19:00

Welcome Address by Secretary General, Austrian Academy, Prof. Dr. Herwig Friesinger

Walter Pohl, Introduction: Ethnicity, religion and empire

Section 1: What difference does ethnicity make?

Section 1A: Tribe and state: social anthropological approaches

Andre Gingrich / Guntram Hazod, Agrarian theocracies: Anthropological models of ethnicity and the state in medieval Western and Central Asia

Johann Heiss, A trace in the dust: South Arabians in the 10th century

Section 1B: Identity and difference in the Roman World

Fritz Mitthof, Ethnic and regional identity in the Roman Empire (1st–6th century AD)

Jan Retsö, The Nabataeans – problems of identifying ethnicity in the ancient world

Bernhard Palme, Political identity versus religious distinction? The case of Egypt in the Later Roman Empire

Section 1C: Early Islamic identities

Michael Cook, What difference does Islam make?

Michael Morony, Religious communities in the Early Islamic World

Walter Kaegi, Seventh-century identities: A reassessment

Petra Sijpestijn, Becoming Egyptian: Culture and ethnicity in Early Islamic Egypt

Hugh Kennedy, Why is Iran not an Arab country? How Iranian ethnic and cultural identity survived through the Arab conquests, even though Zoroastrian religious identity did not

THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 9:00 - 18:30

Section 1D: Christian identities in the Middle East

Bas ter Haar Romeny, The Syriac, Coptic and Byzantine orthodox communities in Late Antiquity: Did the clergy act as ‘Traditionskern’?

Richard Payne, The uses of the label ‘Assyrian’: Religion and ethnicity among the East Syrians

Lynn Jones, The visual expression of medieval Armenian rulership

Hartmut Leppin, Roman identities in crisis. The case of Evagrius Scholasticus

Panel I: What difference does ethnicity make?

Section 2: Political identities and the integration of communities

Section 2A: Allegiance and political integration

Kate Cooper, Religion, dynasty, ethnicity and allegiance: the Theodosians

Andrew Marsham, Religion, dynasty, ethnicity and allegiance: the early Abbasids

Stefan Esders, Treue, Glaube und Eid als Grundlage politischer Vergesellschaftung in nachrömischen politischen Ordnungen

Section 2B: Province and Empire

Mischa Meier, Anastasios und die Geschichte der Isaurier

Robert Hoyland, Tribal groups in the Middle East between Byzantium and Iran in Late Antiquity

FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 9:00 - 19:00

Yves Modéran, Réalités et destin d’une identité provinciale: les Africains dans l’Empire byzantin

Ralph Johannes Lilie, Die Politik der byzantinischen Zentralregierung gegenüber ethnischen und religiösen Minderheiten

Section 2C: The challenge of difference: Early medieval Christian Europe

Helmut Reimitz, Frankendoms: Transformations of ethnic identity in Merovingian and Carolingian kingdoms

Steffen Patzold, „Einheit“ versus „Fraktionierung“: Zur symbolischen und institutionellen Integration des Frankenreichs (8./9. Jh.)

Wolfram Drews, Ethnicity, religion and power: Diaspora Jewish communities in Early Medieval Europe

Angela Gleason, What Gall? Naming foreigners in Early Medieval Ireland

Conrad Leyser, Waiting for the Bulgarians: conversion, identity, and betrayal in the ninth century

Clemens Gantner, The papacy and the Saracens in the ninth century

Section 3: Visions of community, perceptions of the Other

Section 3A: Islamic views

Daniel König, Arab-islamic historiographers on the emergence of Latin-Christian Europe

Ann Christys, The Vikings in the South through Arab eyes

Przemysław Urbańczyk, Northern Slavs in Early Medieval Islamic sources

SATURDAY, JUNE 20, 9:00 - 17:00

Section 3B: Byzantine views

Wolfram Brandes, Die eschatologische Ethnographie der Byzantiner (6.-10. Jh.)

Alexander Beihammer, Strategies of identification and distinction in the Byzantine discourse on the Seljuk Turks

Section 3C: Western views

Richard Corradini, Chronographie in lateinischen patristischen Texten

John Tolan, “A wild man, whose hand will be against all”: Saracens and Ishmaelites in Latin ethnographical traditions, from Jerome to Bede

Ian Wood, Where the wild things are

Herwig Wolfram, How many peoples are in a people?

Panel II: Visions of community: Conclusions
Leslie Brubaker, John Haldon, Chris Wickham, Walter Pohl


Clemens Gantner

Institut für Mittelalterforschung
Wohllebengasse 12-14, 1040 Wien