The Empire and Interreligious Conflicts

Istituto Svizzero di Roma
Istituto Svizzero di Roma; in cooperation with the University of Bern; Organizers: Luca Di Blasi (University of Bern), Elad Lapidot (University of Bern)
08.06.2020 - 10.06.2020
Luca Di Blasi and Elad Lapidot

This conference is a part of a broader project on epistemology of interreligious conflicts. Its ongoing effort is to study such conflicts, both conceptually and historically, as inter-epistemic conflicts, namely as conflicts between radically different conceptions and performances of truth.
The present conference, which will take place in Rome, is dedicated to the political dimension of inter-religious conflicts, more specifically to the role of the Empire.
Rome is in fact a striking paradigm for the central and ambivalent role of the imperial power in the history of inter-religious conflicts as conflicts on truth. The Roman Empire was, first, as imperium, the commanding and oppressing power, a primary enemy of the monotheistic message on divine and true justice, championed by both early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. Monotheistic truth was spoken to Rome’s imperial power. Inter-religious conflict would be a conflict on how to best resist the Empire.
Nonetheless, Rome, enemy and competitor, was also an inspiration for the political vision of monotheism. The expansive, universal reach of the Emperor, a king of kings, was a living model for the glory of the Kingdom of God, Sovereign of the World. The monotheistic message, like all truth, has a universal scope and accordingly a global, imperial claim. The history of inter-religious conflict is thus also a history of diverging strategies of coping with the Empire. The Jewish-Christian conflict arises from different approaches to living with Rome. Islam, emerging beyond Rome, interacts with different Empires, whose inter-imperial competition with Rome will inform the Islamic-Christian conflict.
Finally, besides being an enemy and role model for monotheism’s universal message, the Roman Empire could be also imagined as the external, neutral space, precisely a space of non-truth, which enables the peaceful co-existence of multiple monotheisms, in conflict with each other as well as with other truths. The Empire puts an end to wars, or at least, to follow Carl Schmitt’s theo-political notion of katechon, “hedges” war by postponing the moment of truth.
Speakers are invited to reflect on these and other historical models, first, with respect to various configurations of Roman Empires, West and East, with their different political theologies and different wars, but also with respect to other imperial and religious constellations: like the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, the Sasanian, and the different Caliphates.
The inquiry is not only historical, but ultimately concerns the contemporary situation of inter-religious conflicts. Special attention will be given to the modern condition, which is closely linked to the disappearance of the Roman Empire, as well as, on the one hand, the rise of territorially limited, particular nation-states, and on the other hand, the rise of new forms of imperialism and globalization (capitalist, technological, informational etc.). Participants will be accordingly invited to reflect on inter-religious and other inter-epistemic conflicts in their relation to modern models and conceptions of empires (like the Iberians, the French, the British, The (Third) Reich, the Czarist, the USSR), as well as contemporary super-powers or regional powers (like the USA, China and Russia, or corporate global powers such as Walmart, Shell or Apple). These and other imperial constellations will be contemplated in their relations to contemporary cultures and conflicts of truth, such as the notions of “post-truth”, “return to religion” and “conflict of civilizations”.

Presentations will be strictly limited to 20 minutes, followed by discussion. Conference languages are English and Italian (with simultaneous interpretation). Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the organizing institutions.
This call is especially addressed to potential speakers on empires in antiquity and in the middle ages. Please submit abstracts of 200 words to Elad Lapidot ( and Luca Di Blasi (


Elad Lapidot

Universität Bern Institut für Systematische Theologie Länggassstrasse 51 3012 Bern

The Empire and Interreligious Conflicts, 08.06.2020 – 10.06.2020 Rom, in: H-Soz-Kult, 26.01.2020, <>.