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Living the End of Antiquity. Individual Histories from Byzantine to Islamic Egypt - Basel May 16-18, 2017

CFP : Living the End of Antiquity. Individual Histories from Byzantine to Islamic Egypt - Basel
May 16-18, 2017

SNSF-Project : "Change and Continuities from a Christian to a Muslim Society — Egyptian Society and Economy in the 6th to 8th Centuries" (2016 - 2018), University of Basel, Ancient History
16.05.2017-18.05.2017, Basel, Kollegienhaus, Petersplatz 1, Universität Basel, Switzerland
Deadline : 15.05.2016

Keynote speakers include : Roger S. Bagnall (New York), Anne Boud’hors
(Paris), Alain Delattre (Brussels), Jean-Luc Fournet (Paris), Jim Keenan
(Chicago), and Arietta Papaconstantinou (Reading)

The Arab conquest of Egypt, accomplished in 642 with the capture of
Alexandria, initiated a new step in the country’s history. Once again
Egypt fell to the influence of a foreign power, and yet again, like with
previous regime changes, we know little about institutional and
organizational changes the new rulers imposed when they came into power.
The general scientific consensus assumes that numerous social, religious
and economic phenomena survived the first decades of Muslim rule in
Egypt. However, in-depth scientific scrutiny of the administrative,
social, and economic changes is still missing for this crucial
transition period from Antiquity to early Medieval history.
The period of time in focus, i.e., from the late 6th until the 8th
century, is one of the least explored periods of Egypt’s history in the
1st millennium CE. This is partly owed to the fact that in the past,
interdisciplinary cooperations were not given high priority, and even
thematically close study fields such as Arabic and Greek papyrology did
not form common study or research units. It is important to approach
these issues on a micro and macro level, which requires analysis from a
broad scope of study fields such as papyrology, history, numismatics,
archaeology, religious and cultural studies, philology, and legal
studies. Only a full appraisal of all relevant evidence allows us to
analyze continuities and disruptions during the transition from
Christianity to Islam. The conference intends to bridge this gap between
neighboring disciplines and thus to give researchers from different
fields of Byzantine and early Islamic studies a platform for mutual
scientific and personal exchange. To address this challenge, the
envisaged conference will apply an interdisciplinary and comparative

At this conference, internationally established experts as well as young
scholars will focus on change and continuity from late Antique to early
Islamic Egypt through individuals’ experience, putting particular
emphasis on continuities and disruptions during transition from the
Classical to the post-Classical world. By focussing on individuals we
aim to combine a ’compartmented’ analysis (based on categories such as
religion, administration, economics, etc.) with a trans-categorical
approach (individuals). The purpose of the conference is therefore to
insist on the plurality that is inherent to the dialectic of change and
continuity. The adoption of an individual-centered perspective allows,
on one hand, to exemplify a system and, on the other, to concentrate on
aspects of diversity inside that system and, consequently, to better
mirror the circumstantial character of change and/or continuity.
Participants will discuss ’change’ from administrative, religious,
economic, and social points of view. To this end, each panel will
include speakers from different disciplines and chronological core areas
discussing the impact of the Arab conquest through the eyes of
individuals. In fact, change is not perceived equally by all involved
parties : the common taxpayer, for instance, faces administrative changes
only when these changes affect the amount or the procedures of his/her
fiscal obligations ; decision-makers, on the other hand, will more
immediately realize when their power is diminished. Concepts of change
and continuity manifest themselves differently in different (social,
administrative, economic, religious, etc.) environments or are perceived
to a varying extent by different actors. This means, for instance, that
a merchant in Bubastis in the Delta region might earlier have the
impression that the Arab conquest has brought about change than a Coptic
tenant does in the Thebaid.

As a starting point we choose the reign of Justinian in the 6th century
as a time when documentary, literary, and legal sources are comparably
abundant. An end point of the period evaluated can reasonably be set at
the end of the 8th century : while the new regime started to consolidate
during this century, the fading of Greek sources - if taken as
symbolizing late Antique culture - around that time suggests an even
more obvious ’end’ of the supposed transition from late Antique to early
Islamic culture.

The envisaged collaborative effort enjoys the best conditions for
filling this gap by closely focusing on individuals within Egyptian
society, and, for the first time, giving as much attention to the
Byzantine period as to the early Islamic instead of using the first one
as a mere introduction to the second or, at the opposite, alluding to
the second only in the conclusion. In the end, participants will be able
to assess if and why these transformations are of such significance to
mark the end of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

We invite scholars from any discipline, subfield, or methodological
approach, including (but not limited to) the following themes :

- Servants to the rulers, masters of the land : governors, local
authorities, and great landowners
- Serving God : bishops, clergy, monks, and nuns
- Working to survive in a time of change : families of peasants,
merchants, and craftsmen
- Being part or being apart : village communities, strangers, and

Each panel will reflect upon different perspectives in a final open and
summarizing discussion round, which again gives opportunity for
interdisciplinary exchange among the participants.

Abstracts should be no more than 400 words (exclusive of title and
biographical note), describing a 20-minute paper to be delivered in
English. Please include the full title of your paper and a brief
biographical note on your academic affiliation and previous research. We
plan to publish an edited volume based on the conference proceedings in
an international peer-reviewed series.

Qualified junior researchers and recent PhD graduates are encouraged to
apply. The deadline for full consideration is May 15, 2016.
Please submit your abstract by email to :

Sabine Huebner

Petersgraben 51
CH - 4051 Basel


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