Friday, 24 May 2019

Katharina Waldner: The Construction of Martyrs and Martyrdom in Early Christianity

Is early Christian martyrdom just a narrative representation of the “myth of persecution” (Candida Moss), a typical product of urban life in the Roman Empire (Glen Bowersock) or a kind of device to make the vague division between “Judaism” and “Christianity” more explicit (Daniel Boyarin)? My paper will discuss the genealogy of Christian martyrdom accounts anew, starting from the assumption that “martyrdom” is a dispositif (Foucault), invented and further developed to deal with a certain historical situation or event which one can observe in different cultures and in antiquity from the process of Socrates through Hellenistic time until Christian martyrdom accounts. The core element of this event is a stereotypical historical situation or even crisis when an imperial power (e.g. Ancient Athens, Hellenistic rulers or Roman governors) tries to control “religion” i.e. the way how individuals and groups communicate with the invisible world by capital punishment. The authorities depended on public performances of the juridical procedures which made it possible for witnesses to retell the court and punishment scenes in written form in a way that not only helped them to overcome the trauma of loss and survival but also to promote the victims of this kind of imperial violence as heroes and models of a very special and intense relationship between human selves and the invisible world. After exposing this theoretical and historical background the paper will explore, how the dispositif of martyrdom and the figure of the martyr is shaped by different media in the first two centuries.

  • In this workshop, speakers will only give brief summaries of their papers. The draft papers will be circulated in advance to all participants. Please contact the organiser to have the PDFs sent to you by late July/early August.

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