12. Annual Meeting and Masterclass University of Groningen: ‘Sensing, Making, Relating: Ontologies of the Divine’
CRASIS invites applications for its twelfth Annual Meeting and Masterclass, which will take place on 20 (Masterclass) and 21 (Annual Meeting) February 2023 at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. The Annual Meeting and Masterclass is a two-day event, designed to promote discussion and the exchange of ideas about the ancient world across traditional disciplinary boundaries among graduate students, postdocs, and established scholars. Each year, an internationally acknowledged expert in one of the fields represented by CRASIS is invited to give a masterclass for (Research) MA and PhD students and to deliver the CRASIS Keynote Lecture at the annual meeting.
This year we are honoured to welcome Prof. Esther Eidinow (University of Bristol) as keynote speaker and master. The overall theme of the 2023 Masterclass and Annual Meeting will be:
Sensing, Making, Relating: Ontologies of the Divine
How did the ancients imagine their gods? What did a god look like? How did a god behave? Ontology is the ‘study of being’, and ‘an ontology’ is a theory of the nature of existence, which offers a description of knowledge in a particular domain: a set of concepts, their characteristics, and the relationships between them. Regarding the gods of ancient cultures, scholars have conjured a rich variety of such ontologies, prioritising a variety of different dimensions. From the origins of gods and their evolution to, more recently, psychological and sociological models, these have categorised divinities and their relations in different ways, for example, treating the gods as individuals or as interrelating powers.
Alongside scholarly exploration of ontologies of the divine, a renewed interest in the ontology of belief in the divine has also developed. In the latter half of the twentieth century, scholars emphasised ritual, alongside what Henk Versnel has famously identified as the “modern notion [that] ‘belief’ did not and could not ‘exist’ in Greek (or any other traditional non-Christian) religion” (2011: 539). But the cycle of scholarship has turned again: renewed attention to the gods has accompanied a shift in focus, from one that concentrates on the external activities of cult to one that, at least, acknowledges the possible internal processes of the worshipper.
The gods are now studied with a rich diversity of perspectives and methods, examining both concepts of divinity and how these may have been experienced. From network theory to naming practices, from sensory experience to interrogations of ‘belief’, the result is a burgeoning field of inquiry that raises plentiful new themes and questions, many of which will be central to the Annual Meeting. This master class asks participants to explore past, present and potential ontologies of the divine in the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world, and their development/maintenance, investigating by what processes or activities—physical or mental, material or metaphysical, individual or communal—the gods were imagined and experienced. The focus of study may be perceived ancient ontologies and/or modern approaches (to the extent those can be separated) in Greek and Roman cultures, early Judaism and Christianity.
Topics may include (but are not limited to):
- Origins and evolutions and/or childhoods and adolescents: Did gods grow up?
- Iconism, aniconism, anthropomorphism, etc.: What did gods look like—and why?
- Gods on the move: How well did gods travel, and how did this generate new, or reshape existing, ontologies?
- Space and place: how did places of interaction with the divine affect how people imagined the divine, and vice versa?
- Status: were some gods ‘more god than others’ (Bremmer 2010: 11)?
- Media and materiality: what role did different media play in shaping divine ontologies—and vice versa? What do visual representations of the divine tell us about divine ontologies?
- Social categories, e.g., public vs. private vs. personal, civic vs. individual: can these labels help us understand the experience of an ancient worshipper?
- Narrativizing the divine: e.g., can you write the biography of a single god?
- Belief, etc.: e.g., did the ancients ‘believe’ in their god(s)?
Deadline for Abstracts
PhD and Research Master students are invited to submit a proposal of a topic (500 words) for the Master Class (20 February 2023), explaining how their own research relates to the theme. All other researchers are invited to submit a title and abstract (250 words) for a lecture at the Annual Meeting (21 February 2023).
CRASIS is the interdisciplinary research institute for the study of the ancient world at the University of Groningen and the Protestant Theological University in Groningen. It brings together researchers from Classics, Theology and Religious Studies, Ancient History, Archaeology, Ancient Philosophy, and Legal History, focusing on Greek, Roman, Jewish and Near Eastern civilizations and their mutual interaction.
About the speaker
Esther Eidinow is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol. Her broad area of expertise is ancient Greek society and culture, with a specific focus on ancient Greek religion, magic, and (ancient) futures thinking. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to research, employing cognitive, narrative and anthropological theories to investigate ancient evidence. Additionally, she collaborates with organisations and businesses on how different cultures deal with uncertainty, risk, and decision making, also in the present day. She currently works on projects exploring narratives and environmental risk, and myth and landscape, as well as directing a project which is building an immersive VR experience of a consultation of an ancient Greek oracle (the Virtual Reality Oracle). Esther is the author of Oracles, Curses, and Risk among the Ancient Greeks (2007), Luck, Fate and Fortune: Antiquity and its Legacy (2010), and Envy, Poison and Death: Women on Trial in Classical Athens (2016), as well as a large number of co-edited volumes, such as Cognitive Approaches to Ancient Religious Experience (2022, with Armin Geertz and John North) and Narratives of Time and Gender in Antiquity (2020, with Lisa Maurizio). She is co-founder and co-Editor in Chief (with Luther Martin, Vermont) of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography.
Information for PhD/ReMa Students
To participate in the Masterclass, Research Master students are expected to submit a paper of 3,000–4,000 words. PhD students submit a paper of 5,000–6,000 words. These papers will be circulated among the master and the participants and are therefore to be submitted no later than 31 January, 2023. During the Masterclass, the participants will introduce their paper, followed by responses from a fellow student and Professor Esther Eidinow. The Masterclass is an OIKOS and ARCHON activity and students will earn 3 ECTS by active participation.