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Research - Education: Call for Papers
Utrecht University logo.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Citizen in Late Antiquity

University of Utrecht, 25th November 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 post-graduate 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 ([email protected]) and Kay Boers
([email protected]) 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.