Annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature

November 18-21, 2017     Boston, Massachusetts

What are the historical, social functions of the return to ancient tradition – real or imagined – in ancient Mediterranean religions?   The re-materialization of the archaic is a familiar phenomenon in a range of Greek and Roman rituals, including the religious reforms of Augustus, Hellenistic archaizing, and the antiquarian enthusiasms of the second sophistic (Alcock 2001; Nasrallah 2005; Spawforth 2011). Theoretical frameworks emphasize the challenges and potential of these fabrications, for both the ancient participants who lived the cultures we study and for the scholars who seek to understand these phenomena. Significant theoretical foundations have come from Hobsbawm and Ranger, who explored the significance of fabricated pasts for the emic realities of national and cultural self-identity (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983; Linnekin 1991; Babadzan 2000; Briggs 1996). Bourdieu’s work among the Kabyle famously examined how generations of cultural change transformed the ‘pure’ Kabyle house into an object of ‘structural nostalgia’ – simultaneously receding from, and created by, the investigator’s lens (Goodman 2009; McCutcheon 1997; Silverstein 2004). Studies of religion and cultural memory have explored ritual practices through the lens of memory as a social phenomenon (Assman 2005; Galinsky 2016)

This panel invites papers which ground these theoretical questions in specific case studies from ancient Mediterranean contexts, including Greek, Roman, Near Eastern, Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. We are especially interested in papers which employ comparative approaches, and which integrate the study of material and textual sources.

Proposals should be submitted electronically through the SBL website.  The deadline is Tuesday,  March 7, 2017.  You must be a member of the SBL or seek a waiver in order to deliver a paper. Papers should last between 15 and 20 minutes. Abstracts should contain a title and a word count, but should not have any information regarding the identity of the submitter. All abstracts will be reviewed anonymously. Please direct all queries to SAMR at   Deadline for all abstracts: March 7, 2017.


Alcock, Susan E. “The reconfiguration of memory in the eastern Roman empire.” Empires: perspectives from archaeology and history 122 (2001): 323.

Assman, Jan. Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies. Stanford University Press, 2006.

Babadzan, Alain. “Anthropology, nationalism and the invention of tradition’.” Anthropological Forum. Vol. 10. No. 2. Taylor & Francis Group, 2000.

Briggs, Charles. “The Politics of Discursive Authority in Research on the ‘Invention of Tradition”, ’ Cultural Anthropology 11.4 (1996): 435-469

Galinsky, Karl. Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity. Oxford UP 2016.

Goodman, Jane E. Bourdieu in Algeria: Colonial politics, ethnographic practices, theoretical developments. U of Nebraska Press, 2009.

Hobsbawm, E. and T. Ranger, The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge UP 1983

Linnekin, Jocelyn. “Cultural invention and the dilemma of authenticity.” American Anthropologist 93.2 (1991): 446-449.

McCutcheon, Russell T. Manufacturing religion: The discourse on sui generis religion and the politics of nostalgia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Nasrallah, Laura. “Mapping the World: Justin, Tatian, Lucian, and the Second Sophistic.” Harvard Theological Review 98.03 (2005): 283-314.

Silverstein, Paul A. “Of rooting and uprooting Kabyle habitus, domesticity, and structural nostalgia.” Ethnography 5.4 (2004): 553-578.

Spawforth, A.J.S. Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011.