The Byzness

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The Byzness, 31st July 2016


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Open Letter Condemning the Purge of Academic Institutions in Turkey


Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported on 20 July that the country’s Higher Education Council had ordered the resignation of all deans from both public and foundation universities: 1,176 from state institutions and 401 from foundation institutions. Further, over 15,000 education staff had been suspended from their posts. The government is reported to have instituted a travel ban on all academics, and a three-month long state of emergency has been declared. On the same day the European University Association issued a statement condemning ordered resignation of university deans.


For those who wish to, an open letter condemning the purge of academic institutions with over 8,000 signatures can be found and signed here.






Global Byzantium, 50th Spring Symposium of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies,  Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham, 25-27 March 2017

The call for communications is now open. See full CfP here.


 If you would like to offer a 10-minute communication on the theme of the symposium, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Daniel Reynolds at by 1 September 2016.


Successful submissions will be informed no later than 1 October 2016. Some bursaries will be available to selected speakers, especially to attendees from outside the UK. If you would like to be considered for a bursary please indicate this on your abstract and we will send you further information about the application process if appropriate.





Light and Darkness in Medieval Art, 1200–1450 (I–II), Session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 11-14 May 2017

Sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art, (Convenors: Stefania Gerevini and Tom Nickson)


Light has occupied an increasingly prominent role in medieval studies in recent years. Its perceptual and epistemic significance in the period 1200-1450 has been scrutinized in several specialised research projects, and the changing ways in which light and light-effects are rendered and produced in the arts of the Middle Ages, particularly in Byzantium and Islam, are routinely evoked in literature. However, scholarship on these topics remains fragmented, especially for the Gothic period, and comparative approaches are seldom attempted. New technologies of virtual reconstruction and changing fashions of museum display make it an opportune moment to consider these issues in a more systematic manner.


These two sessions will investigate how perceptions of light and darkness informed the ways in which art across Europe and the Mediterranean was produced, viewed and understood in the period 1200–1450. In the late 12th century a key set of optical writings was translated from Arabic into Latin, providing new theoretical paradigms for addressing questions of physical sight and illumination across Europe. At this time theologies of light also gained renewed popularity in the eastern Mediterranean – particularly as a result of the Hesychast controversy in Byzantium, and in connection with Sufi notions of divine illumination in Islam. What correlations can be traced between theories of optics, theologies of light, practices of illumination, and modes of viewing in the Middle Ages? Are there similarities in the ways different religious or cultural communities conceptualised light and used it in everyday life or ritual settings?


These sessions invite specialists of Christian, Islamic and Jewish art and culture to explore the status of light in broader discourses around visuality, visibility and materiality; the interconnections between conceptualizations of light and coeval attitudes towards objectivity and naturalism; and the ways in which light can articulate political, social or divine authority and hierarchies. The session will also welcome papers that address such broad methodological questions as: can the investigation of light in art prompt reconsideration of well established periodizations and interpretative paradigms of art history? How was the dramatic interplay between light and obscurity exploited in the secular and religious architecture of Europe and the medieval Mediterranean in order to organise space, direct viewers and convey meaning? How carefully were light effects taken into account in the display of images and portable objects, and how does consideration of luminosity, shadow and darkness hone our understanding of the agency of medieval objects? Finally, to what extent is light’s ephemeral and fleeting nature disguised by changing fashions of display and technologies of reproduction, and – crucially – how do these affect our ability to apprehend and explain medieval approaches to light?


Proposals for 20 min papers should include an abstract (max.250 words) and brief CV. Proposals should be submitted by 10 September 2015 to the session organizers: Stefania Gerevini ( ) and Tom Nickson ( ). Thanks to a generous grant from the Kress Foundation, funds may be available to defray travel costs of speakers in ICMA-sponsored sessions up to a maximum of $600 ($1200 for transatlantic travel). If available, the Kress funds are allocated for travel and hotel only. Speakers in ICMA sponsored sessions will be refunded only after the conference, against travel receipts.




 The Reproduction of Medieval Identity, Ethnicity and Nationhood session at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds 2017

‘The long history of identity, ethnicity and nationhood’ research network, hosted by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC), is organising a series of sessions at the IMC 2017, focusing on the reproduction of collective identities in the middle ages.


While a generic constructivist approach is widely shared in research on pre-modern identities, it often remains uncritical. On the one hand, it sometimes conceals latent essentialism (best represented by the formula ‘identities are constructed, but having been constructed become real’), and, on the other hand, restricts our capacity to arrive at a systemic understanding of how exactly collective identities are asserted and reproduced over long periods of time. Hence, our main goal is to tackle the difficult question of long-term reproduction of the same projected identities, often alongside broadly similar constructs, without resorting to essentialist or objectifying explanations.


We invite paper proposals focused on any period and region of medieval history exploring how a particular concept of identification, collective identity or polity was reproduced, imposed and reimagined over a long period of time. What were the material, political, intellectual and cultural conditions in which a particular identity can be reasserted and reinterpreted in the longue durée? What theoretical lenses can we use to make sense of certain identities’ persistence, if we accept the contingent and constructed nature of any collective identity and political organisation? Paper proposals addressing these and related questions should be sent to  by Monday August 22.


The Virgin as Bridge. Cultural Exchange and Connection through Images of the Virgin Mary,  Session at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 11-14, 2017, Kalamazoo, MI

Organizers: Diliana Angelova (University of California, Berkeley) and Amanda Luyster (College of the Holy Cross)

Across the medieval Mediterranean and beyond, people of many faiths and backgrounds sought the succor of the miraculous virgin and mother, Mary. Christians venerated Mary as the holiest figure of Christianity after Christ, the one thanks to whom the divine mystery of the Incarnation was fulfilled. The Koran also hailed her as chosen by Allah. Converts to Christianity from paganism or Islam were often said to be motivated by their great love of the Virgin. Byzantine churches were incomplete without her image in the holiest of holies, the apse of the sanctuary. In the West, the grandest Gothic cathedrals rose in her honor. Objects such as the thirteenth-century Freer canteen, as well as shared shrines, suggest that Marian images could be appreciated by audiences professing different faiths. Images of the Virgin acted as a shared touchpoint between people of many different backgrounds, socio-economic strata, and faiths.


This panel invites 15-20 minute papers that focus on the capacity of the Virgin to act as a bridge or cultural mediator: between regions, between genders, between political factions and cities, and between belief systems. Panel participants could focus on representations of the Virgin as well as references to religious practices associated with images of the Virgin. Icons, cult centers, personal objects such as jewelry, metalwork more broadly, manuscripts, monumental sculpture, wall-painting, architecture, as well as practices associated with all of these, might be considered.

*The deadline for paper proposals is September 15, 2016.

**Please send the abstract of your proposed paper (300 words maximum), CV with current contact information, and completed Participant Information Form, available at to the organizers, Diliana Angelova and Amanda Luyster, at  and


***All abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions.



Assistant Professor in Late Antiquity at the University of Mannheim

Please see further details about the position here. Deadline for applications is August 10, 2016.




Two Research Associate positions at the University of Cambridge

Applications are sought for a Research Associate who will be one of four postdoctoral researchers on the ERC funded ‘Impact of the Ancient City’ project led by the Principal Investigator Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. The project will re-examine the impact of the ancient, Greco-Roman city on subsequent urban history in Europe and the Islamic world, investigating both the urban fabric and urban ideals. Bringing together researchers trained in historical, archaeological and literary analysis, the project spans the entire Mediterranean region from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present day. The research team will investigate case histories in the western and the eastern Mediterranean, and pose a set of questions about how urban forms responded to changing social needs.

1.      Research Associate: Impact of the Ancient City ERC Project (Eastern Mediterranean)

A full description of the position is found here.


2.      Research Associate: Impact of the Ancient City ERC Project (Urban Ideals in the Islamic World)

 A full description of the position is found here.

 The deadline for applications for both is noon September 12th, 2016.






Mirela Ivanova

MSt Late Antique and Byzantine Studies
President, Oxford University Byzantine Society

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