Call for Papers: Christian Political Cultures in Late Antiquity 

University of Liverpool

Wednesday 21st-Thursday 22nd June 2023

Deadline for Proposals: 30 June 2022, to robin.whelan@liverpool.ac.uk

We invite papers for a conference (and planned edited volume) on Christian Political Cultures in Late Antiquity. The remarkably homogeneous ways of thinking about Christian political authority across the Roman world in late antiquity (c. 250-700 CE)—so carefully reconstructed in classic mid-20th century accounts—mask the immense diversity of the social and institutional contexts in which those ideas mattered. The character of Christian governance could look very different to an official placed at the centre of power as against an ordinary Christian standing in the nave of an urban basilica, a civic grandee sitting in the plush seats of a provincial town council, or an ascetic keeping vigil in a remote monastic cell. In fact, widely divergent visions of what the divine sanctioning of earthly rule meant in practice are visible even across the many different (and sometimes competing) institutions of late ancient states.

This workshop and subsequent volume will build off an increasing tendency to investigate Christian political thought ‘in action’ and root it in the lived experience of governance in the late ancient world. Taking inspiration from recent work on the centrality of social relationships and identities to Roman political thought (esp. notions of gender, family and freedom/unfreedom), it will also seek to develop a more plural notion of Christian political discourse which moves beyond the narrowly constitutional analysis of the relationship between emperors and bishops (or ‘church’ and ‘state’). Above all, the volume will seek to consider the ways in which distinctive Christian political cultures shaped (and were shaped by) specific institutions, environments, and communities, and were made meaningful through concrete interactions between the late ancient people who inhabited them.

We particularly invite papers on:

1.     Distinctive forms of Christian thought or practice (and, indeed, thinking about the importance or otherwise of Christian thought and practice):

  1. within particular political institutions and configurations in specific times and places. (e.g. imperial or royal palaces, official bureaux, army units, governor’s residences, town councils, elite households, villages, estates and peasant communities etc)
  2. amongst the members of those political institutions (e.g. under/around particular empresses/queens, generals, or governors, or amongst chamberlains, soldiers, or office staffs)
  3. amongst non-Christians serving within, or subject to, those political institutions and configurations

2.     Distinctive forms of thought and practice regarding politics and governance within particular Christian communities, institutions and settings (e.g. church factions, episcopal sees, monasteries, ascetic communities)

3.     The interplay of these divergent institutional and communal assumptions as seen in particular events, episodes or moments of conflict (e.g. petitions to court, legal and doctrinal disputes, urban riots)

This conference is designed as a pre-publication workshop for a planned edited volume on Christian Political Cultures in Late Antiquity. Participants will be expected to submit their papers in advance for pre-circulation, read the other papers in advance of the workshop, and be willing to act as the designated respondent for another paper. Each paper will receive a dedicated session with a short presentation from the author, a response, and a general Q&A session/discussion. The deadline to submit draft essays for the edited volume will be 31 July 2024.

The primary format of this conference is in person at the University of Liverpool, but remote participation will be possible for those unable to make it to Liverpool for whatever reason. For those who can travel, we will fund accommodation and meals in Liverpool. We will also be able to pay for UK and international travel for those who need it, although, given the increased costs of travel since the original funding application, we may ask those with access to institutional research funding to pursue support from those sources to help to contribute to those costs.

The deadline for proposals is 30 June 2022. Please send a title and an abstract (no longer than 500 words) to robin.whelan@liverpool.ac.uk. If you have questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of the organisers.

Organisers

Dr Richard Flower (r.flower@exeter.ac.uk)

Dr Meaghan McEvoy (meaghan.mcevoy@mq.edu.au)

Dr Robin Whelan (robin.whelan@liverpool.ac.uk)

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