Call for Prospoals: Individual Identity Formation among Christians in Antiquity

Michael Glowasky (Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley / University of Ottawa) Theodore de Bruyn (University of Ottawa)

We know today that individual identity formation is an ongoing process involving a complex set of factors, including one’s life experiences, exposure to diverse worldviews, and affiliation with different social groups, as well as changes to one’s geographical location and cultural context. We also know that one’s sense of identity can be profoundly shaped by religious instruction, participation in ritual performance, and engagement in spiritual practices. However, while scholars in recent years have considered in detail the processes involved in social identity formation and individualization in antiquity, less attention has been given to processes used to shape or maintain individual identity within religious contexts during this time. What educational, ritual, relational, or other processes were used to cultivate individual identity in religious contexts? How did these processes interact with dimensions of an individual’s agency or sense of self? How were these processes shaped by specific contexts or factors?

Answering these questions about a period so far removed from our own requires not only careful consideration of the relevant source material, but also deliberate attention to both theory and method. We believe that it would be instructive and productive to bring together scholars who are currently seeking to draw out insights into individual identity formation by applying a particular theoretical approach to materials relating to Christianity in antiquity (2nd to 7th centuries CE). Various theoretical approaches could be relevant, bearing on cognition, education, affect, identity, ritual, performance, gender, or class, to name a few. Whatever the theoretical approach, there are common questions that could be the basis of a fruitful exchange, such as: (1) what aspect(s) of individual identity formation does a given theoretical approach illuminate? and (2) how does one deal with the evidence from antiquity in applying that theoretical approach?

We are hoping to organize such a discussion at the Oxford Patristics Conference (August 5 – 9, 2024), ideally in the form of a workshop, with the goal of publishing the papers in Studia Patristica(subject of course to the review processes of the conference organizers). If you are interested in participating in such a workshop and contributing a paper, we invite you to contact us by April 30, 2023 (emails below). In your reply, please specify: (1) the aspect of individual identity formation you are working on; (2) the theory or theories you are drawing on; and (3) some methodological considerations entailed in applying this theoretical approach to the evidence you are working with. If you already have a provisional title for a paper, please state it as well.

Author: Dr. Bernard Mulholland

Dr. Bernard Mulholland is a Byzantinist, archaeologist, historian and Patristics scholar with a Ph.D. in history (QUB, 2012). Bernard's publications include: Fiction: Bernard Mulholland, Nazareth Quest (2022). Non-fiction: Bernard Mulholland, The man from MENSA - 1 of 600: Mensa research (2016). ---, The man from MENSA - 1 of the 600: Politics 1990-1995 (2016). ---, Ratio analysis of financial KPI in the Higher Education sector: a case study (2018). ---, Early Byzantine Ireland: a survey of the archaeological evidence (2021). ---, Navan Fort, Ireland: archaeological and palaeoecological analysis (2021). ---, The Early Byzantine Christian Church (Oxford, 2014). ---, 'Identification of Early Byzantine Constantinopolitan, Syrian, and Roman church plans in the Levant and some possible consequences', Patristic Studies in the twenty-first century: proceedings of an international conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies, ed. Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony, Theodore de Bruyn and Carol Harrison (Turnhout, 2015), 597-633. Mulholland, B. (2021). 'Can archaeology inform the climate change debate?' Academia Letters, Article4385.

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