Reconceiving Religious Conflict

I just received my copy of Reconceiving Religious Conflict: New Views from the Formative Centuries of Christianity, which has meticulously edited by Wendy Mayer and Chris de Wet and published by Routledge. As the title reveals, the volume reconsiders the religious conflicts in Late Antiquity. Some of the articles explore the theoretical foundations of studying religious conflicts and other articles look at phenomena such as persecutions, martyrdom, identities, and discourses.

My contribution ”Christianization and Late Antique Patronage – From Conflicts to Everyday Nuisances” looks at the religious conflicts from a less dramatic perspective – from the everyday life viewpoint.

The abstract of my article:

The history of Late Antiquity is packed with accounts of religious struggles, temple destructions, urban disturbances, resistance and violence between religious groups. The written sources are inclined to emphasize the dramatic and drastic instead of the regular and peaceful. The sources do not need to report repeated activities and uninterrupted life. It is this tendency that has influenced the scholarly propensity to see the religious changes (Christianization) of the Mediterranean area in conflictual terms. Christian literary sources tend to highlight the dichotomies and clashes in their triumphalist accounts of the Christian expansion. However, the day-to-day social life filled with negotiations and compromises was more complex than the ecclesiastical writers usually tell us. This chapter is an attempt to break out the conflictual narrative and to balance between the late antique melodramas and the not-so-exciting everyday nuisances with economic and social issues. This is not to minimize the occurrences of violence and conflicts in Late Antiquity or to claim for only easy-going coexistence between different religious groups. Instead, I focus on conflicts of interests in the regular routines of everyday life, discussing the patronage relationships in Italy and North Africa in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. A powerful landlord could influence his clients to embrace Christianity or retain old practices. The same applied to the rivalry between ‘Donatists’ and ‘Catholics’ in North Africa where local landowners exerted pressure on their tenants. I also look at conflicts of interests between local landowners and bishops in their struggle for hegemony on the regional level.

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