SECOND UNISA SYMPOSIUM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NEW TESTAMENT AND EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES
University of South Africa, Pretoria
DATE: October 6- 8 2001
The symposium explores the many aspects of the development of early Christian identity(-ies) in the Mediterranean world of the first centuries. Tradition, and the contextualizing of tradition, was at the core of claims and perceptions of self-understanding by those who claimed allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth during the first and second centuries of the Common Era. Yet, what was remembered and invoked as authoritative? By whom and why? A growing sense of identity correlates with distinct memories. Memory is cultural, local, embodied. Memory is social, ideological, processual. Memory is power, but also ephemeral. Above all, memory is discourse. With this conference we seek to explore how identity and tradition interrelate and how they were contextualised within the social dynamics of the time (see abstract below). Apart from literary/textual investigations, we encourage contributions with an historical or archaeological concern. Enquiries regarding theoretical and methodological issues, the design of interpretive strategies and the fabrication of a sociohistoriography are also welcomed.
This year's symposium is a collaborative effort of the Department of New Testament & Early Christian Studies at the University of South Africa and Dr. Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, participant in the “Jesus in Cultural Complexity” Research Project, University of Oslo, and aims at fostering interdisciplinary perspectives.
Conference fee: R300.00 (R200 for students)
Symposium programme: Click to download (pdf)
Memory and Identity in Early Christianity: complexity and hybridity
In the New Testament writings and even more so in other early Christian literature, we have the memory of not only Jesus but also of those participating in remembering. Understanding those memories requires studying the relationships among these early Christians as well as the cultural complexes they were negotiating with their memories. Claims of breaking with cultural codes — or the opposite claims of true continuity — are always simplifications. Authentic and hybrid, style and tradition, original and syncretistic: these are massively complicated discursive markers of claims to historical identity. This conference provides opportunity to reflect on possible themes, practices (or even models) by means of which various identity markers combine into larger and interconnected systems. Our aim is to analyse the social mechanisms related to gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, age, beliefs (and others) interacting to manifest memories and concepts of tradition.
That the early Christians successfully communicated to and persuaded significant groups/individuals cannot be doubted. But what made their words, claims, actions persuasive to some and not to others? Why certain groups? At stake here is understanding the problematic intersections of memories about Jesus and his movement with cultural diversity and socio-religious practices. How were boundaries set and how were they crossed?
The planned discussions seek to reflect aspects of the lived experiences of men and women, situated in concrete webs of social relations. The questions involved deal with how the social, political, and institutional forces that shaped early Christian identities can be understood. How and why did their specific value systems develop? Did the early Christians have a sense of themselves as belonging to (or dissenting from) a tradition, generation, or community?