Worlds of Byzantium: The 2016 Byzantine Studies Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks

Prophet Daniel holding a scroll 

April 22–23, 2016
Music Room, Dumbarton Oaks
1703 32nd Street NW

Washington DC
The 2016 Dumbarton Oaks Spring Symposium, “Worlds of Byzantium,”
seeks to reconsider Byzantium from Late Antiquity through the Middle
Ages, problematizing long-established notions of its character and

In 1980 Dumbarton Oaks hosted the now famous “East of Byzantium” symposium, which resulted in an era-defining volume
of scholarly articles under the same name, edited by N. Garsoïan, T.
Mathews, and R. Thomson. This gathering of experts in various eastern
Christian traditions put Dumbarton Oaks at the forefront of the emergent
conversation about Byzantium’s eastern neighbors. Today, the medieval
Mediterranean within which Byzantium was situated appears much more
complex and fluid than what was envisioned thirty years ago. New
archaeological, historical, and literary research has made this fluidity
abundantly clear and has opened up new questions about the formation of
identity in the empire as the relationship between the metropolis and
the provinces fluctuated.

What was Byzantium? Where was it? What religions did its people
practice, and which languages did they speak? The 2016 Symposium will
examine the very foundations of what we think “Byzantium”
was—Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christian, Constantinopolitan—and attempt
to reset scholars’ expectations about what counts as Byzantine.
Nevertheless, just as “East of Byzantium” transformed the expectations
of a generation with regard to the value of eastern Christianity for
medieval studies, we believe that Byzantium itself, however it is
defined, can play a more central role on the world historical stage if
Byzantinists are willing to let it be decentered and reconstituted for
the next generation. This symposium will argue that a polycentric and
interconnected Byzantium only strengthens Byzantine Studies as a
discipline by making it indispensable to other fields: in order fully to
understand essential aspects of the medieval Middle East or the
medieval West one must also understand Byzantium.




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