Ambiguity and Ambivalence in Late Antiquity – Conference

Ambiguity and ambivalence are productive notions through which to explore Late Antiquity. They reflect the uncertainties and grey areas that are such a feature of this period, as the classical past slowly gave way to the medieval future, as paganism was overtaken by Christianity. Definitions – of sacred and secular, orthodox and heretical, Roman and non-Roman, to name but a few – were in flux, constantly reassessed and contested. Ambiguity and ambivalence were useful tools for those living in Late Antiquity, allowing them to negotiate these often perilous boundaries, and to find pragmatic nuances in the midst of controversy. To be ambiguous and ambivalent is to be open to more than one interpretation, to allow more than one meaning or definition, to pose a question without providing an answer. It is not (necessarily at least) the same as neutrality; rather, it leaves the delicate question of assigning significance and meaning with the individual. Ambiguity and ambivalence can also be useful to us as students of Late Antiquity as we wrestle with often intractable problems of categorisation and definition. They can help us to understand the complexities and contradictions of the period in all their intricacy and variegation.

The conference will be held online on Thursday 9th, Friday 10th, Thursday 16th & Friday 17th September 2021 (due to being online, we have chosen to run sessions for a shorter time over four days in order to avoid Zoom fatigue). Papers will be pre-circulated at the beginning of September, and should be approximately 2500-5000 words in length. Those giving papers will be invited to give a 10-15 minute summary, followed by questions and discussion.

The keynote speakers will be Professor Morwenna Ludlow (University of Exeter) and Dr Robin Whelan (University of Liverpool).

We welcome submissions from all postgraduate students and early-career academics (including independent researchers), from anywhere in the world. Abstracts of 200-250 words, accompanied by a short academic biography, should be emailed to the organisers, Nicola Ernst & Ben Kybett, by Thursday 17th June 2021. Please feel free to direct any queries about the conference to this address.

The full CFP may be viewed here.