The 16th Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions

June 17-21, 2018.  Bern, Switzlerland.

The study of ancient Mediterranean religions is challenged by the issue of plurality on many fronts, involving both the inherent plurality of lived religion and the scholarly tendency to derive categories that yield clearer theorizing while obscuring empirical facts of diversity. The lived experience of polytheistic, festival-rich city states offers an emic reality significantly removed from investigators embedded in predominantly monotheistic systems. Narrative and poetic traditions that emphasize the intimacy and identity of deity and celebrant contrast with material evidence suggesting the range of gods that respond to individual experience and status. Overly homogenous models of civic religion, derived from evidence-rich milieus such as Athens, may problematically serve as de facto standards for ancient Greek religion.  Categories better suited for modern times can impede clear analysis of ancient beliefs and behavior; for example, when the dichotomy immortal/mortal is strictly applied to the study of rituals honoring the Roman emperor or other rulers, or when ancient religious persons are too readily assumed to identify exclusively with one religious tradition or to practice a certain ritual with the aim of pleasing only one particular deity.

We propose in this panel that these heuristic challenges hold the potential to become productive pathways for investigation, and invite scholars of ancient Mediterranean religions from prehistory to the early Islamic period to join us in this consideration of the theoretical and methodological potential behind ancient pluralities. Does the addition, for example, of comparanda from lived contexts help close the emic-etic gap between scholars and subjects; do models of materiality offer more nuanced relationships between poetic and material evidence? To what extent do regional approaches to religion beyond the data-rich urban centers cast light on the plurality of possibilities behind a single divine name; is it possible to adjust the use of our own, etic, contemporary categories so that they become productive analytical frameworks? Papers should tie these issues of theories and method to specific case studies. We seek contributions from scholars in the fields of Classics, Ancient History, Religious Studies, Archaeology, Near Eastern Studies, and Egyptology.  While not excluding textual evidence, the organizers are seeking proposals that incorporate archaeology, history of art, ritual and/or liturgical studies, and other sub-fields that provide a window into the religious practices of the time. Particular preference will be given to proposals that engage a question from a cross-disciplinary perspective or that highlight important theoretical or methodological issues. Especially welcome are transdisciplinary papers which synthesize a variety of textual, archaeological, and art historical and/or material culture sources to reach new insights into ancient Mediterranean religions. Scholars from all phases of their careers are welcome to submit proposals.

Abstracts of 500-600 words for a paper to take 18 to 20 minutes to read should be submitted online at the EASR site.  All abstracts will be judged in a blind-review process by the SAMR Program Committee.  Deadline for submissions is January 15, 2018.