Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wendy Mayer: Religious Conflict and Diplomacy

In response to global events of the past decade a flood of studies has emerged that focus on the most obvious aspect of religious conflict: violence. These studies range across time periods and religions and examine the phenomenon from a variety of angles. Embedded in many are a series of assumptions about the religious character of such violence, religious (in)tolerance, and historical periodization. Recent scholarship on the period from the third century to the rise of Islam now challenges a number of these. In addition to the need for further studies that break down persistent myths, these studies call for increased attention to other aspects of such conflicts. The role of ordinary discourse, the reconstruction of memory, the reinforcement of embodied metaphors, how communal stories both respond to and play a role in local conflicts, the rhetorical construction of local topography, ritual (communal and private), and exile and damnatio memoriae, are all aspects that invite study. At the other end of conflict, a recent spate of studies investigating the development of canon law alongside letter-writing between bishops, popes and patriarchs in the 4th-7th centuries allows us to explore at a deeper level the topic of religious diplomacy directed towards the resolution of such conflicts. This workshop brings together papers from scholars currently working on both angles with a view towards arriving at a more nuanced understanding of the factors behind religious conflict and its resolution (or not) in the Patristic era.

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