Thursday, 29 June 2017

A conference is taking place on “Democracy and Anti-Democracy in Early Modern England 1603–1689”

A historiographical consensus asserts that in the early modern period democracy was reputed to be the worst form of government. However, this scholarly trend leaves a few major questions unanswered: why was this so? How was criticism of popular government articulated? In what ways did different authors and genres depict the people and their power? Which political concerns and social prejudices informed this anti-democratic paradigm? What is the legacy of such a mindset? Were there any “democrats” avant la lettre back then? In order to address these points our project explores how democracy was conceived, viewed and criticised in political, theological and philosophical discourse between the start of King James VI and I’s reign (1603) and the Glorious Revolution (1688–9).
We claim that democracy represented a major challenge at a plurality of levels in English public life
throughout the ca. eighty years our project takes into account. Democracy per se might not have been a European reality (apart from some Swiss cantons), but it was constantly discussed, interpreted, elaborated in various arenas. It was certainly seen as a pervasive and persistent menace to all order (not just political and ecclesiastical, but also divine, natural and metaphysical). Besides these social and intellectual considerations, our analysis tackles issues of gender, perceptions of national character, historical interpretations of the past (classical and non-classical) associated with discourses about and of democracy and anti-democracy. Above all, we give unprecedented space to religion, so as to cast new light on its role in the long process of the modernisation of politics and its values. The time span selected enables us to chronicle the types of transformations that occurred within the paradigm(s) of democracy and anti-democracy through decisive historical phases which saw major events shape life and thought in England, in the British Isles and in Europe. We hope thus to clarify
sundry aspects of what it means to reflect on and theorise about democracy in historical perspective, so as to avoid some of the current anachronistic and often confused accounts of it put forward in contemporary political theory, journalism and public opinion.
For further information:

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Julia Seeberger presents a working paper on ''The Order of the Friars Minor in Vienna and the visions of their virgin'

My dissertation project is based on the source “Life and Revelations” of a woman, called Agnes Blannbekin, who lived in Vienna in the late 13th century. Her confessor, an unknown brother, who belongs to the Order of the Friars Minor in Vienna, wrote down her life and revelations. In short articles in encyclopaedias for Christian female mysticism Agnes Blannbekin is described as a representative of the typical Later Middle Ages piety, which focuses on Jesus Christ and the longing for Jesus. Further Agnes Blannbekin is known as the only Beguine in the Austrian area.
In contrast to my former papers this paper does not focus on the outstanding position of odoratus in the visions or within the context of the piety. I previously focused on the usage of olfactory vocabulary for personal descriptions of clerics in the “Life and Revelations”.
In this paper, I analyse the relationship between the female protagonist and the community of the Order of the Friars Minor. In a first step, I analyse the common narrative of the founding of this community in Vienna. In the following, I discuss how the protagonist and the community are related and how is the performance of the Friars Minors in this book.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Roman Madzia gives a working paper on 'Care of the S: The Dynamics of Mind between Social Conflicts and the Dialogicality of the Self'

The paper deals predominantly with the theory of moral reconstruction in George H. Mead’s thinking. At the same time, it points to certain underdeveloped aspects of Mead’s social-psychological theory of the self and his moral philosophy, and tries to develop them. Since Mead’s ideas concerning ethics and moral philosophy are anchored in his social psychology, at the outset, the paper presents this theory underlining some problematic moments there and tries to solve them. The most important one, as the author argues, is the hypothesis that social conflicts (which are, at the same time, conflicts within individual selves) are to be seen as a root of reflective, discursive thinking altogether. Unlike certain other psychologists of his era (like Vygotskiy), Mead failed to appreciate this moment in the genesis of the dynamics of the self. As the paper argues, in the light of this critical interpretation of Mead’s philosophy, the classic philosophical term ‘the care of the soul’ can be reformulated in contemporary terms as ‘the care of the self’. Since, in Mead’s philosophy, the self is a product of social interaction, it turns out that the care of the self and the care of the soul might, to a great extent, be regarded as identical to the care of society (or community).

Monday, 26 June 2017

Kornelia Kończal presents a working paper on 'The Moral Economies of Plunderers'

Around the end of the Second World War two processes dramatically changed the socio-economic landscape of East Central Europe: the expulsion of up to twelve million Germans and the establishment of a new social order inspired by the Soviet model. This project is an inquiry into the interconnectedness between these apparently distinct histories. My aim is to understand how the redistribution of property formerly owned by Germans shaped the post-war reconstruction of the social order in two countries whose territories were comprised of up to one third of the post-German lands: Poland and Czechoslovakia. The specific focus of this study lies in the illegal takeover of property left behind by Germans, attempts to control it and the associated discourse. Studying the destructive and productive effects of plunder offers me the opportunity to reveal how public security, economic stability and redistributive justice were negotiated at various intersecting levels. I show that the illegal property transfers were both an obstacle to the post-war reconstruction as well as an opportunity used by individuals and institutions to accelerate it. In more general terms, this reading highlights the critical role of the legally-opaque property arrangements to be found in any modern socio-economic order.

An International Conference is taking place on 'Violence, Trauma, and Identity in Early Christianity'

Max-Weber-Kolleg für Kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Professur für Allgemeine Religionswissenschaft, Universität Erfurt
Schwerpunkt Religion der Universität Erfurt

gefördert von der DFG

The Christian faith traces its origins in an act of extreme violence. In the aftermath of the Jesus’  execution, his followers were left to grapple with the implications of both the fact and the violent manner of his death. For some Christians, identification with the crucified Jesus meant a willingness to suffer violence, and even the active pursuit of death. Other Christians debated whether membership in the ekklesia prohibited them from fulfilling the grisly duties required of their occupations. While Christians in the first three centuries were more likely to find themselves on the receiving end of state-sanctioned violence, by the end of the fourth century, elite Christians were confronted by the dilemma of determining the conditions under which it might be legitimate to use state violence for  their own ends.

This research conference aims to examine how early Christian experiences as victims and perpetrators of violence contributed to the construction of Christian identity(ies) in the first four centuries of the Christian era, through the reign of Theodosius. We are especially interested in exploring the relationship between Christian discourses on violence and three
particular facets of early Christian identity:

a) conceptions of the self as an ethical agent;
b) strategies for coping with the experience of traumatic violence, both individual and
corporate; and
c) strategies for legitimizing the perpetration of violent acts.

Contributors will investigate the realities and imaginations of violence among early Christians, as well as their Pagan and Jewish contemporaries in the Greco-Roman world. Lectures will explore themes including martyrdom, persecution, and capital punishment, as well as those that extend the question to topics such as the extirpation of the passions, violence and war, trauma, and sacrifice.

Benjamin Bunk gives a working paper on 'Experiences abroad - agency and political orientations through (structured) temporary stays abroad between youth and globalizations'

More and more different programs in Germany fund temporary Experiences abroad of youth and young adults: as year abroad during school, as student mobility in higher education, as worldwide voluntary service, as internship abroad or international social work for adolescents. But even thought there are some scientific discussions on the topic a profound study on it’s implications for political orientations is still missing – even though currently politicians stress the strong nexus of experiences abroad and being a global citizen in an European community. However, to which extend do ‘experiences abroad’ really foster a participatory attitude towards global transformation processes, the believe in democratic structures in a plural society or lead to individual acquaintance with complexity and resilience towards crisis? Do these programs prevent individuals from alienation towards the political, reinforce stereotypes, the retreat into private realms or the adherence to simplifying ideologies? Special emphasis of the planed project lies on questions towards formation processes, possibilities of Individuation between family and milieu and the scope to design relevant opportunity structures. This implies to intertwine person- and institution oriented perspectives and compare different practical fields of experiences abroad.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Valentino Gasparini gives a working paper on 'Carving the Rocky Memory Lane. The Visit of Senator G. C. Calpurnius Rufinus to Panóias (Vila Real, Portugal)'

The sanctuary of Panóias, currently located near Vila Real in northern Portugal, plays an undoubtedly unique role in the scenario of the Isiac cults of the Western Roman Empire. Its extraordinary importance (which makes it one of the most cited Portuguese archaeological sites) basically lies in the anomalous features of the complex. This is a pre-Roman rock sanctuary which was later experienced, converted into a Serapeum and adapted to specific mystery requirements during the 3rd century CE, on the occasion of the visit of senator G. C. Calpurnius Rufinus. The intervention of the senator (whose eastern origin – maybe from Pamphylia – seems betrayed by some linguistic details in Doric Greek) consisted in the creation of what Géza Alföldy reconstructed as an actual initiatory path, implemented through specific ritual actions (sacrifices, libations, etc.) performed at certain installations (temples, stairs, basins, altars, circular cavities, vestigia, etc.). The various stages of the itinerary were marked by several carved rocks, two of which originally engraved with five inscriptions (CIL II 2395a-e). A new recent interpretation of the four preserved tituli (Correia Santos, Pires & Sousa 2014), based on the use of the Morphological Residual Model (MRM), has significantly improved their reading and enhanced the understanding of the Isiac features of the installation. This paper aims to explore, both from an archaeological and epigraphic perspective, the strategies through which G. C. Calpurnius Rufinus negotiated between already existing (pre-Roman) ritual patterns and new (Graeco-Roman) forms of communication, in order to individually appropriate, re- (or better over-) sacralise and memorialise the local rocky space.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Elisabeth Begemann is going to present a working paper on '“They demand a spectacle!” – The Roman triumph in American movies'

In the context of the Cold War, the depiction of the Roman triumph in Hollywood history films was an ambivalent affair. It worked both within the movie and towards the watching audience as actual parades and processions do, sending multiple messages that need decoding by the target audiences. In the context of the US/USSR antagonism, which was framed also in religious terms as a struggle not only between political systems, but between different faiths, and with the film industry in both nations being employed (with their consent) as active players in this struggle to promote certain values deemed intrinsic to their nations, the depiction of Roman religion in history films set in the ancient world had to be muted against the backdrop of America’s long identification with the Roman republic and the Roman empire, so as not to contradict its self-understanding as a Christian nation. Considering the Roman triumph as a test case, the paper examines the ways in which Roman religion was adapted and reinterpreted to fit American needs.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Martin Fuchs gives a working paper on 'Self-affirmation, Self-transcendence and the Relationality of Selves: Bhakti as Social Theory'

This is a Werkstattbericht, a report on work in progress, in the full sense of the term! It is not a finished paper. The paper has a long gestation period and represents a step in a process that runs through several stages. It invites comments and critique, in particular with respect to the issues of religious individualization.
This paper does not introduce and discuss a specific historical case of religious practice or ideation. Instead it targets an entire phenomenon, or family of related phenomena, to which the label bhakti has been applied. This has certain drawbacks. In particular, interlinkages between various dimensions of the phenomena under discussion, which a close empirical study can provide, cannot be closely pursued and may thus not become visible. The reasons why I chose to go for an overall discussion of bhakti are twofold. On the one hand, bhakti is still not very well known outside the expert community, and even within South Asia studies or the study of Indic religions, has still not always received adequate attention.[1] On the other hand, taking our interest in the processuality of types of individualization and the modes of institutionalization of such forms, the “case” of an extended moment – or series of moments – of religious history that illustrates the pertinence of individualization observations provides relevant material for a general discussion. There are other contributions in our volumes [the concluding volumes of the KFG after the Eisenach conference later in this month] that provide a much more focussed discussion of particular cases, issues and approaches, as does the forthcoming volume on Bhakti and Self, based on a conference held in Erfurt in the context of the KFG in June 2016.
Bhakti is a case of a special kind not only within Hinduistic or more broadly Indic religions. It stands out also in religious history at large with respect to the extension and duration of existence (depending on how one counts, between 1600 and 2000 years up to our times), and because of the diversity and versatility of this case of religious individualization. Zooming in, the processes we assemble under the name bhakti are highly varied, regarding the composition of participants and followers, their pedigree, their imageries, their conceptualizations, their affiliations, and the social context and social effects. At the same time, certain issues and aspects are recurring. They concern the conceptualization of the Divine; they also concern the ideas regarding the relationship to the Divine and the notions of grace or compassion (kripa,  arul) as well as love (prem), the importance of relationality and connectedness in practices and conceptualizations of self, and also some overall historical dynamics – the ever new emergence of alternative versions of bhakti and the forms of institutionalization.
The aspects I foreground are not final, and I look forward to the discussion for additions and critique. The historically and regionally different cases I allude to more indirectly than directly have still to be fleshed out and referenced (to the extent space allows) once the overall composition of the paper looks satisfactory. And finally, I hope to deepen, and add further dimensions to, the reflections on the relationality of selves at the end of the paper.

[1] Axel Michaels in his widely read book on Hinduism – Der Hinduismus: Geschichte und Gegenwart (München: Beck 1998) – dedicates a mere eight, and at that very superficial, pages (pp. 277-285), plus a few short references here and there, to bhakti.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Knud Haakonssen presents a working paper on 'Early Modern Natural Law: An Introduction'

This text is part of a basic introduction to early-modern natural law. It has to be read with the following limitations in mind. The piece has been written for an Englishlanguage audience, and all the references (except for titles of primary sources) are to works in English. In its fuller and properly scholarly version I do of course draw on the extensive literature in other languages, especially German, just as I engage with the critical literature. Secondly, the seminar text barely goes beyond the middle of the 18th century, except for a few references concerning French thought; the section on German natural law in the later 18th and early 19th century has been cut entirely for reasons of space – but see the final reference. Thirdly, it is useful to distinguish the history I am trying to outline from the overlapping history of rights (see some remarks on this at pp. 16-17). Finally, this paper sticks – more or less – to the highways of natural law, but it is meant as a map from which the byways are pursued through much closer contextualisation, especially localisation, in the form of case studies of individual thinkers, locales and themes. A few of my case studies have been presented in earlier seminars at MWK, and a great deal more is being done within the network on Natural Law 1625-1850. The cumulative effect of this work is likely to be that my current routes have to be amended and supplemented, indeed that some of them may turn out to be blind alleys. In other words, this is work that I explicitly entertain as an invitation to have it undermined.

Monday, 12 June 2017

A workshop is taking place "Die Quellen der Idee der dynamischen Einheit – des reziproken Ineinseins – im Johannesevangelium"

Julie Casteigt: “This workshop is the first stage of a specific research project, which is to elaborate an archaeology of the concept of dynamic unity. The specific topic of this workshop is the source of the idea of dynamic unity, expressed in the formulation of the unity of „the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father“ in the Gospel of John. The philosophical interest in this question is to think of new patterns of unities and associations in a historical perspective. In my speciality (medieval philosophy), the representation of dynamic unity is derived from a convergence between Greek-Arabic metaphysics and cosmology, on the one hand, and the Gospel of John, on the other. In the Early Age, this idea is also perceived as a convergence of Christian Kabbalah, Hermeticism and the doctrine of the Trinity. The question, then, is whether this interweaving of the various doctrinal traditions was already present in the development of the idea of dynamic unity in the Gospel of John. Has the author of the Gospel of John brought together debates in Hebrew literature (Torah, intertestamentary literature, Philo of Alexandria...) in the philosophical Greek currents (Neoplatonism, gnosis, etc.) to create a new synthesis? Can this original interlacing explain why the elaboration of the concept of dynamic unity is characterized by the coincidence of several traditions?”

Benjamin Sippel is going to present a working paper on 'Choosing my Religion: Egyptian temple-officials referring to Greek deities in late antique Egypt'

My paper applies a concept of religious identification as analytical instrument for the observation and description of religious dynamics from the perspective of the individual, especially in regard to the conditions of papyrological sources. In concrete terms, I investigate Egyptian cult-officials which referred individually to Greek deities. Since they were originally only educated in cultic practice and literature of Egyptian tradition and kept a highly endogamous familial structure, references to divine agents of Greek context presuppose an active entanglement and engagement with Greek culture and society. My concept and methodology shall offer a way to investigate the circumstances, patterns and dynamics behind each individual reference more closely.
The concept of identification is defined here as “positioning of structured selves in a socially structured environment” (Rüpke 2015). In consequence, one’s identities become observable in communicative actions, either with human and divine agents, or in self-reflective statements. Following Jörg Rüpke’s definition of religion as “attribution of agency to something beyond the unquestionably plausible” (ibid.), religious identification is the communication about such not unquestionably plausible agents. Besides, following Michel de Certeau, individuals appropriate systems of (religious) signs or practices only partially and imperfect (Certeau 1984). That means, historical records contain a wide range of individuated ways how actors set religion into practice and expressed religious identities.
In order to study dynamic processes of religious identification in documentary papyri, the first obstacle is to detect utterances of religious signs or practices at all. The second obstacle is to make the uttering agent visible: who was speaking there? Then, questions about the patterns of appropriation emerge: What was said? When, how, and in relation to whom did the person act, in which context was the religious utterance embedded and for which function? Case-studies, on which these questions will be applied, focus at first on the stolistes Pakysis from third-century Soknopaiou Nesos who worked also as bookkeeper and invoked Greek gods in one of his business-accounts. Another case is the cult-official Aurelius Ammon from fourth-century Panopolis who referred in a private letter to his mother, among other things, to the powers of Tyche, as known from the Corpus Hermeticum and the Stoic philosophical school.
The paper is a sketch for an international conference in Leiden in November 2017: "Late Antique Religion in Practice: Papyri and the Dynamics of Religious Identification"

Gábor Gángó presents a working paper on 'The formation of Leibniz’s mature ethics and his Specimen Polonorum'

The study shall contribute to the reconstruction of the efforts of the young Leibniz to find an integral formula for rationality, justice, and happiness. I intend to prove that Leibniz’s treatise Specimen Polonorum (1669), together with another one of his for the Polish royal election campaign, Comparatio propinquitatis Jagellonicae inter Ducem Neoburgicum & Principem Lotharingiae, are indeed relevant to the applicability of his ethical insights to political matters. Nevertheless, I will also demonstrate that the ethical stance of the Specimen Polonorum cannot be understood entirely as a precursor of his love-centred ethics since the concept of ‘amor’ as conceived in this treatise is not relevant directly from the point of view of the formation of Leibniz’s mature ethics.
Leibniz’s everyday experience in the practical school of politics did have impact on his theory, juridical or ethical. Leibniz’s occasional political treatises from the Mainz period tested the theory in concrete situations, helping to draw the boundary of its applicability and simultaneously to search for a higher unity. The most important witness of this knowledge process was the Specimen Polonorum being, similarly to the other major political works form these years, like the Securitas publica interna et externa or the Consilium Aegyptiacum, a detailed case study in a concrete political situation while containing, in contradistinction to them, also theoretical parts closely linked to his research into the science of right.