Sunday, 22 March 2015

Matthieu Pignot: Becoming Christian in the late antique West (3rd-6th centuries): discourses and practices.

This workshop aims to contribute to the scholarly debate on conversion, through an emphasis on the complex and progressive nature of religious belonging. The objective is to highlight, by exploring sources of the late antique West, the dynamics through which individuals experienced, witnessed, and theorized the process of becoming Christian. The panel, focusing on the Latin-speaking regions of the Western Mediterranean (particularly Italy, Africa and Gaul) from the third to the sixth century, shall open up new perspectives by letting theological, sociological and historical approaches inform each other. Papers will explore the way Christian identity was formed, expressed and understood in society with an attention for concrete means of identification and for the relevance of cultural and ethnic parameters, the practical or rhetorical role of the aristocracy in the Christianisation of the West during the crucial fourth and fifth centuries, the contribution of preached texts to understand the initiation process, and the related theological conceptualisation of conversion, with particular emphasis on the image of childhood and of the Christian family. The long chronological span and attention to regional diversity should assess changes over space and time. In this respect, the variety found in the sources about what it means to become and be a member of a Christian community should enrich our understanding of conversion, and of the gradual sense of belonging - and of exclusion - generated within and without the ecclesia.

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