Studying East of Byzantium VII: In Conversation with Anti-racism, Pandemic, and Social Inequality


Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Northern Arizona University
Sergio La Porta, California State University, Fresno

Studying East of Byzantium VII: In Conversation with Anti-racism, Pandemic, and Social Inequality is a three-part workshop that builds on the success of Studying East of Byzantium VI: The State of the Field (March 13, 2020) and continues the efforts of East of Byzantium, the partnership between the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross and the Arthur H. Dadian and Ara T. Oztemel Chair of Armenian Art at Tufts University, to foster an interdisciplinary community of early career scholars engaged in the study of the diverse traditions of the medieval Christian East, including Syria, the South Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.

The events of the past year—from the police murders of Black men and women in the United States to the coronavirus pandemic—have changed our lives and livelihoods. The coalescing of these events have laid bare systemic racism and economic inequality and prompted conversation and reflection as individuals and societies. We invite doctoral students working in any discipline of East Christian studies to discuss how they addresses issues of identity, race, and injustice in their research projects, how they may have adjusted their research questions or methodological approaches in response to the events of 2020, and how they have adapted their research plans (particularly the use of digital tools) to address pandemic strictures. The workshop events will provide participants with an opportunity for sustained conservation about their projects with a diverse group of colleagues and senior specialists in the field.

Workshop Format
The workshop events will be led by Zsuzsanna Gulácsi (Professor of Asian Religious Art, Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, Northern Arizona University) and Sergio La Porta (Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies and Associated Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, California State University, Fresno) and facilitated by Christina Maranci (Arthur H. Dadian and Ara T. Oztemel Chair of Armenian Art, Tufts University) and Brandie Ratliff Director, Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture, Hellenic College Holy Cross). The first event on November 20 will be a short introductory session where participants introduce themselves and their projects. During the second event on February 26, participants will provide a short 10-minute update on their research and have the opportunity to pose questions or problems to the group. At the final two-day event on June 3–4, each participant will deliver a 20- to 25-minute presentation based on her/his project. While research projects may be on any topic and need not focus specifically on the main themes of the workshop, these themes (identity, race, injustice, and pandemic response) should be the focus of the presentations. Individual presentations will be followed by a 10-minute response from Zsuzsanna Gulácsi or Sergio La Porta and a general discussion.

Interested students should submit a C.V. and a 200-word abstract through the East of Byzantium website no later than September 15, 2020. Papers should be based on the dissertation project. The final output may be in the form of a conference paper, a dissertation chapter or excerpt, or an article.

Complete Papers
Papers should not exceed 5,000 words in length including footnotes. Complete papers must be submitted to all workshop participants no later than May 8, 2021.

Parts I and II of the workshop are planned as virtual events. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to bring everyone together in person for Part III; however, at this time, we cannot predict if this will be possible. Decisions about the format of Part III (virtual or live) will be made in Spring 2021.

If a live event is possible, it will be held at Tufts University on June 3–4, 2021. For participants who do not live in the Boston area, accommodations will be provided. Additionally, for those who cannot obtain financial support from their home institution and would otherwise be unable to attend up to $400 may be requested towards travel costs. Travel funds will be in the form of reimbursements. Participants must submit receipts for travel and complete a reimbursement form in order to receive travel funds. Applicants should submit a short statement requesting travel funding with their abstracts.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days.

September 15, 2020: Abstracts due
September 30, 2020 : Organizers notify workshop applicants of status
May 8, 2021: Complete papers due
November 20, 2020: Workshop, Part I (virtual)
February 26, 2021: Workshop, Part II (virtual)
June 3 and 4, 2021: Workshop, Part III (virtual or live)

Zsuzsanna Gulácsi is professor of art history, Asian studies, and comparative religious studies at Northern Arizona University. She is a historian of religious art, specializing in the contextualized art historical study of pan-Asiatic religions that adapted their arts to a variety of cultures as they spread throughout the continent. Her research has been supported by the National Humanities Center, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Scholarship, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and most recently the Getty Foundation (2019).

Sergio La Porta is Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies and Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, California State University, Fresno. His areas of research include medieval Armenian intellectual and political history, philology, and apocalyptic literature. Dr. La Porta’s publications include a three-volume study on Armenian commentaries on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite (Peeters, 2008) and articles on political legitimacy and intellectual history in medieval Armenia. He recently co-edited a volume with Dr. Kevork Bardakjian entitled The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective (Brill, 2014). Professor La Porta previously served as editor of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies.

Blog at