Strategies of Identification & Post-Roman Transitions

Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann eds.
Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe
Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 13 (Brepols; Turnhout 2013)

Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann eds.
Post-Roman Transitions: Christian and Barbarian Identities in the Early Medieval West
Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 14 (Brepols; Turnhout 2013)

How were ethnic and religious communities made meaningful in the early middle Ages? These two volumes explore a wide range of source material (historiography and hagiography, exegesis and monastic rules, sermons and letters, epigraphy and costume, manuscripts and material remains) in order to study how visions of community were created in an age of social and political transition. The Christianization and dissolution of the Roman Empire had provoked a crisis of traditional identities and opened new spaces for identification. What were the textual and material resources on which new communities could be built, however precariously? Biblical models and Christian discourses, from the psalms to the apocalypse, were used in elastic ways. As many of the contributions show, they were also fundamental for creating a stronger political role for ethnicity in the post-Roman kingdoms. The uses of the Roman and barbarian past for the formation and legitimation of new identities is also well-represented in the studies collected. The ‘scripts of Romanness’ had changed in the early Middle Ages, and so had the significance of othering pagans, barbarians and, in western Europe, the Greeks who called themselves Romans.

The studies represent ongoing research on identity and ethnicity, which had already started in the framework of an earlier project on "Ethnic Identities in Early Medieval Europe" (FWF Wittgensteinproject led by Walter Pohl). Work on these themes is continued within the Project Part focusing on Early Medieval History, and has inspired – and will continue to inspire – many further discussions within VISCOM.

Last Update: 17.07.19