Studying East of Byzantium VIII: Material Culture


Marica Cassis, University of Calgary
Kate Franklin, Brikbeck, University of London

Studying East of Byzantium VIII: Material Culture is a three-part workshop that intends to bring together doctoral students studying the Christian East to reflect on how to study the material world of the Christian East, to share methodologies, and to discuss their research with senior specialists in the field. The workshop 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.

“But script is ink, and images are materials.” This was the riposte of Vrt‘anēs K‘ertogh, a seventh-century Armenian theologian, to iconoclasts who venerated the Gospel but despised matter. Scholars of material culture would agree: what indeed is the divide between textual and material phenomena?

For those who study the Christian East, what is the role of material culture—of monuments, archaeological sites, artifacts, and images? How can the tools of the study of material culture assist in understanding the realities of the Christian East? What is the difference between material culture and art-historical and archaeological approaches? And how does attention to the non-verbal world harmonize with or challenge historical narratives based on textual study? These questions are just some of what we hope to discuss in the upcoming workshop. Students whose work considers, or hopes to consider, the material and visual worlds, in addition to, or outside of texts, are encouraged to apply.

Workshop Format
The workshop events will be led by Marica Cassis and Kate Franklin and facilitated by Christina Maranci and Brandie Ratliff. Meetings will be held on Zoom. The first event on November 19 will be a short introductory session where participants introduce themselves and their projects. During the second event on February 18, 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 6–7, each participant will deliver a 20- to 25-minute presentation based on their project. While research projects may be on any topic and need not focus specifically on material culture, the workshop theme should be the focus of the presentations. Individual presentations will be followed by a 10-minute response from Marica Cassis or Kate Franklin and a general discussion. The timing of the workshop meetings will be determined when the participant list is finalized.

Interested students should submit a C.V. and a 200-word abstract through the East of Byzantium website no later than September 13, 2021. 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 7, 2022.

September 13, 2021: Abstracts due
October 1, 2021: Organizers notify workshop applicants of status
November 19, 2021: Workshop, Part I (Zoom)
February 18, 2022: Workshop, Part II (Zoom)
May 7, 2022: Complete papers due
June 6 and 7, 2022: Workshop, Part III (Zoom)

Marica Cassis is Associate Professor and Department Head in the Department of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary. She is the Assistant Assistant Director and Byzantine Project Director of the Çadir Höyük Archaeological Project in central Turkey.

Kate Franklin is an anthropological archaeologist and Lecturer in Medieval History at Birkbeck, University of London. Her work is focused most closely on Armenia in the Mongol period, and specifically engaged with techniques of world-making and Silk Road cosmopolitanism. Dr. Franklin’s dissertation (University of Chicago, 2014) centered on excavations at the Arai-Bazarjul caravanserai in the Kasakh Valley. Her current research explores the layered cultural landscapes of Orbelyan-era Vayots Dzor. Prior to her position at Birkbeck, she has taught anthropology, archaeology and history at the University of Chicago as Dumanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has published on caravan infrastructure, medieval embodied politics, landscape, memory, and everyday life; her book Everyday Cosmopolitanisms: Living the Silk Road in Medieval Armenia will be published (in print and Open Access) in September 2021 from University of California Press.

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