Call for Papers: Acts of Excommunication in the Late Antique and Early Islamicate Middle East

Leiden University, Netherlands, 12-13 March 2020

Deadline: 1 October 2019

As part of the ERC-funded project, “Embedding Conquest, Naturalising Muslim Rule (600-1000)”, at Leiden University, this conference aims to bring together both senior and junior scholars to present research which illuminates the dynamics implicit in the act of excommunication and associated practices: ostracism, anathema, and other forms of religio-social exclusion, among the major religious communities of the Islamicate world, 600-1200 CE: including various Christian and Jewish denominations, Sunni, Shiʿi, ‘Khārijī’ and other groups within Islam; Zoroastrians and other relevant groups.

The workshop will focus on “acts of excommunication”, meaning that its primary focus will be specific cases, whether real or imagined, which display the dynamics and implications of excommunicatory practices. The discussion of specifc (pseudo-) documents is particularly encouraged. While participants will be asked to focus on specific cases, they should show how these examples illuminate the larger frameworks within which their cases occurred.

Topics to be covered might include the following:

· Excommunicatory statements in contracts and oaths
· Excommunication as a tool in managing institutional hierarchies and hierocracies
· Maximal and minimalist excommunication
· Exclusions from ritual, social activities, trade, place and space
· Political rebels
· Overlapping or contested jurisdictions
· Enforcement issues
· Excommunication at centre and periphery
· Conversion and apostasy

Scholars of Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam often study excommunication in separate silos, developing separate vocabularies and models. However, during the early Islamic period, these communities shared space and ideas. When compared, various contexts (theology, ritual, eschatology, social mores) indicate isomorphisms which suggest that different religious communities were as connected as they were divided.

Excommunication is a tool of coercion, and as such, it deserves to be studied in comparative context which might highlight the operation of intersecting power dynamics in society.

This workshop aims to move beyond the idea that acts of excommunication were purely the result of theological issues. Instead, this workshop aims to explore acts of excommunication as social and political as well as religious practice, with important implications for activities in local communities, but also for interactions with wider society and with governing authorities within the early Islamic empire.

While the theological, doctrinal and legal backdrop are important, an act of excommunication does not simply flow from the conceptual force of a doctrinal transgression, but rather it is situated within a set of overlapping fields which may include economic, institutional, familial, political, ethnic, linguistic and generational aspects. These fields, in turn, contributed to how an act of excommunication came to be interpreted and positioned within evolving systems of law, theology and doctrine.

The output of this workshop will be an open-access special issue on the topic of excommunication in and around the early Islamicate empire, to be published in Al-ʿUsur al-Wusta: The Journal of Middle East Medievalists.

Contributions to this workshop will be understood to be works in progress, with final versions to be submitted for the special issue. Please send an abstract of around 300 words to by October 1st, 2019. Pre-circulation of papers will not be necessary, but final versions of papers for publication will be requested by September 2020. If you are unable to attend the workshop, but would be interested in submitting to the special issue, please indicate this.

Call for Papers: The Citizen in Late Antiquity

The Postgraduate and Early Career Late Antiquity Network, University of Utrecht, 25th November 2019

Deadline: 26 July 2019

‘Citizen’ in Late Antiquity was an emotive and complex term. In the classical world, the term not only signified the distribution of rights and duties of members of city and empire, but perhaps much more importantly reflected the intricate processes of inclusion and exclusion that shaped Greco-Roman culture in a myriad of ways. Conventional historiography, which tended to focus on legal citizenship almost exclusively, once characterized citizenship as defunct by the onset of Late Antiquity: it has argued that the mass enfranchisement of the edict of Caracalla and the gradual transformation – or collapse – of the classical city, turned the ‘citizen’ into an anachronism, with its social, cultural and political significance returning only at the onset of the Renaissance. Recent scholarship however has started to contest this view by positing that neither the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west nor the transformation of the classical city brought an end to the concept of the citizen.

Next to other forms of self-identification, such as gender, class and ethnicity, people in late Roman and post-Roman polities continued to imagine and conduct themselves as citizens and these categories could themselves be understood in terms of legal and social citizenship. The citizen was also omnipresent in religious discourses, most significantly in late antique Christianity where the followers of Christ could either be perceived as citizens par excellence (viz. of the civitas Dei) or as intrinsic strangers and outsiders, namely to the civitas of the transitory world. Furthermore, citizens, of whatever kind, were also represented in material and visual culture, they took part, as citizens, in economic and artistic life and they appear most frequently in a vast number of textual sources and genres. An understanding of the full spectrum of ‘citizenship’ and ‘the citizen’ in Late Antiquity thus requires the use of a wide range of sources and approaches, and the fresh insights of a new generation of scholars.

This workshop, The Citizen in Late Antiquity, aims at providing an informal, constructive environment for postgraduate and early career researchers to present their work, meet others working in the field, and discuss current trends and issues. The Late Antiquity Network provides a single platform for those working on a broad range of

geographical and disciplinary areas within the period of Late Antiquity, and participants are thus encouraged to interpret ‘citizen’ in a broad sense, thinking about how the theme intersects with their own research. Papers will be of twenty minutes, with ten minutes allocated for discussion. Facilitating this will be an address by our visiting speaker, Professor Engin Isin of Queen Mary University London, an acclaimed and prolific theorist on the subject of citizenship. The workshop is generously supported and hosted by the Dutch NWO VICI research project “Citizenship Discourses in the Early Middle Ages” and the Utrecht Centre for Medieval Studies (UCMS) at Utrecht University. Some suggested topics for discussion are:

– Different types of citizens
– Citizens and material culture and imagery
– Citizens and non-citizens, and interactions between different kinds of citizenship
– The spatial dimensions of citizenship
– Citizens, universalism and cosmopolitanism
– Criteria for becoming or ceasing to be a citizen
– Alternatives to citizenship discourse
– Citizens and the city
– Citizens and religion
– Poverty and citizenship
– Citizens in different literary genres
– Citizens and lawmaking

Abstracts of no more than 400 words with a brief biography to be sent to the conveners Thomas Langley and Kay Boers by Friday 26th July. Please include your affiliation (independent scholars welcome) and current academic status (or the year your PhD was awarded). If interested in the opportunity to run the seminar next year, please detail any relevant previous experience alongside the biography when you submit the abstract. Successful applicants will be notified by Monday 19th August.