Monday, 23 October 2017

A Conference is taking place on "Urban Religion in Late Antiquity"

The role of religion in creating socio-spatial and temporal order in cities has been an important topic in research: from ceremonial centers and cities of Meso- and South America through not only Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean, but also Chinese, Indian and medieval European cities. Historical research has reconstructed such functions in many instances, and recent sociological studies, above all research on migration, have inquired into processes of inclusion and exclusion, tolerance and competition caused or experienced by immigrating minorities that proffer different or identical religious identities. Yet some questions still need to be tackled. How is religion used by different agents to appropriate and ‘craft’ urban space over time? How do religious practices and imaginaries produce a transcending global that is different from other projections of the trans-urban? And how does the urban context change different or even competing practices of religious communication and the ensuing forms of sacralization? In addressing these questions, we do not suppose an easy evolutionary path. We rather assume high variability in the mutually productive relationship between the developments of urban-based religious practices and the developments of cities being confronted with, and building on, agents who use religious practices in different phases of the history of religion.

Within the wider framework of a larger comparative approach, this conference aims to focus on these processes in the historical context of the advanced imperial and late antique Mediterranean space (2nd century CE–8th century CE). This is a period of sustained change and ever new appropriation of urban spaces by ever different agents within clearly articulated and monumentalized built environments. We are interested in the individuals’ making of urban space and in the processes of groupings following on, or directed against, such built environments. We are looking for archaeological evidence not only of new structures, but also of rebuilding, ignoring or actively avoiding spaces, as well as of creating coherent or dis-coherent urban spaces by patterns of movements or marking in religious terms. We are searching for textual evidence for such strategies, as well as for imaginations of urban spaces, ritual practices, religious narratives or norms of re-interpreting and transcending them. We are as much interested in the mutual constitution as in the mutual critique of the urban and the religious in a global horizon.

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