CFP: Family as Strategy in the Roman Empire

10TH UNISA CLASSICS COLLOQUIUM in cooperation with the Department of New
Testament and Early Christian Studies
University of South Africa, Pretoria

Date: October 15 – 17, 2009


‘Family as Strategy in the Roman Empire’

Papers are hereby invited on any aspect of the family in Greco-Roman
antiquity and early Christianity that may be seen to further illuminate
the conference topic. The interdisciplinary link is deliberate and aligns
with the historical emergence of early Christianity as part and parcel of
the Roman Empire.

The approach of this conference seeks to emphasize that family, house and
household were contextualised within the social and power relations of the
time. Apart from literary investigations, we would like to encourage
contributions with an historical or archaeological concern. Enquiries
regarding theoretical and methodological issues, such as the interaction
between literary and material evidence, the design of interpretive
strategies and the fabrication of a socio-historiography are also welcomed.

The last few decades have witnessed an explosion of studies on a multitude
of aspects concerning the family in Greco-Roman antiquity. This conference
wishes to contribute to the ongoing debate by exploring the specific ways
in which the family was used as a strategy for a variety of social
purposes. On the one hand, the family was generated by political,
economic, cultural and moral forces. On the other hand, it functioned
reciprocally to cultivate, reinforce and sustain the very practices from
which it emerged.

The family may be interrogated in terms of its various dimensions; for
instance, as a social site occupying space. It may be asked how the
individual’s place was determined in interaction with his or her family?
How was the family, in terms of cultural discourses, strategically
utilised as microcosm within a particular macrocosm? Exactly what was
public and what was private in the workings of the Graeco-Roman family and
how rigid was this distinction? How was the family determined by and—in
its turn—fashioned material sites and cultural products: household
architecture, art, decoration, utensils, and the like? The family may also
be investigated in terms of its temporal dimension, such as its legacies
from pre-colonial times, its role in Romanization and the ideal of
Romanitas, as a nucleus of identity, cooption, and resistance.
Furthermore, Early Christianity emerged as part and parcel of this complex
discursive world and structured itself in continuity (e.g. patriarchy),
but also deviated from the model in significant ways, for instance in how
desire and gender was regulated within the structures of family life, and
in its cultivation of movements such as asceticism and monasticism. How
was the dominant family discourse appropriated by early Christianity and
to what extent did the family as a form of strategy cooperate in the
Christianization of the Roman Empire?

Finally, papers concerned with appeals to either the continuity or
discontinuity of the family formed in the Roman Empire will also be

Papers are limited to 45 minutes. Please submit abstracts of appr. 200
words via e-mail attachment to the organizing committee by 15 July 2009 at
either bosmapr AT or Olympus At

This conference is a joint project of the Unisa Departments of Classics &
World Languages and New Testament & Early Christian Studies.

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