Byzantine Studies Association of North America (BSANA)-sponsored sessions at 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies, 8-11 May 2014, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Session A: Contested Spaces and Byzantium
The landscape of the Roman world as it began fragmenting in late antiquity, as well as its proximity to Sassanid Persia (and later, the Caliphates, the Abbasids, the Seljuks, and then finally the Ottomans) meant that the Eastern half of the Empire was constantly having to solve the problem of contested spaces on several fronts. Militarily, the frontier of the Middle East was subject to much back-and-forth between Persia and Byzantium, as the early sixth century Sassanid siege of Amida demonstrates, as does the expedition of the Himyarites into northern Arabia. The Sassanid desire to restore Achaemenid-era borders in the Middle East and Asia Minor also made Jerusalem and Antioch the objects of struggle over occupation in the early seventh century. Of course, Muslim possession of formerly Roman territories fueled the Crusades during the Middle Ages, making Constantinople itself an object of siege and an occupied territory in the thirteenth century. In between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, the Bulgars, Khazars, Rus’, and Seljuk Turks turned eastern Europe and the Balkans into focal points of military struggle as well, such as with the Battle of Manzikert in the eleventh century.
From a religious point of view, central and eastern Europe became loci of conflict and negotiation between Byzantine and Frankish Christianity, such as the mission to Moravia of Cyril and Methodius, and the apparent jockeying of the Bulgars and the Rus’ between Constantinople and Rome for the most favorable terms on conversion.
On a civic scale, the Byzantine city itself has been a location of physical and religious strife; militarily, besides the 1204 sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusaders, there was the 626 attack by the Avars, and the tenth century sea attacks by the Rus’. In religious terms, the public spaces of cities in Byzantium have been subject to struggle, such as the competing choral street processions of the Arians and the Nicenes led by John Chrysostom in the late fourth/early fifth century, the East/West religious aspects of the Latin Empire of Constantinople in the thirteenth century, and into fourteenth century with the theological dimensions of the Zealot/Hesychast controversy in Thessaloniki. Even within the church building, there is discursive and liturgical struggle, such as Symeon of Thessaloniki’s pitting of the "sung service” of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople against the neo-Sabaïtic typikon that had become nearly universal by the time Symeon was writing in the fifteenth century.
This panel, then, will explore the theme of contested spaces in Byzantium. How can we better understand and interrogate issues of space and society in the Byzantine world? How do social forces in Byzantium construct these spaces, and how do these spaces, be they physical or ideological, subsequently influence society? What fresh theoretical approaches might be helpful?
Session B: Remaking the Empire: Socioeconomic Connectivity and Imperial Architecture under Justinian
Justinian’s empire saw Constantinople control the most extensive territory it would hold for the rest of its days. These conquests also renewed networks of socioeconomic connectivity across the Mediterranean, bonds that held west and east together and facilitated the movement of not only goods and people, but ideas, styles, and even disease. Within the artistic and architectural spheres, this connectivity–along with the emperor’s Mediterranean-wide ambitions–led to a period of building on a grand scale. Broadly Byzantine structures in part modeled on the cosmopolitan style of the imperial heartland appeared throughout the Mediterranean, and even the white marble quarried from the island of Marmara saw use in every corner of the restored Empire. Justinian’s building program itself has been well studied and its artistic uniformity is well known. What is comparatively poorly understood are the networks of exchange and communication that facilitated the movement of these ideas and materials, and the situation of these new structures and styles within local settings. Under what directive was marble quarried and shipped? How were building materials transported, and how was this transportation financed and organized by official or private mechanisms? Who were the artisans? And how were these new structures understood by local communities far from the Byzantine core? To what extent did they represent foreign dominance? How might their meanings have been transformed and renegotiated within different local contexts? This session brings together scholars exploring the role of renewed socioeconomic connectivity in the development of the vibrant artistic and architectural programs of late antiquity.
Please send abstracts of no more than a page to Richard Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 September 2013.