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Preparatory Workshop: Introduction


Preparatory workshop, ‘Uses of the Past’ theme: possible goals and aims

As we are all aware of, this preparatory workshop, the last in a series of four international conferences, is carried out in the framework of an ongoing Research Consortium, entitled Beyond the Fathers: In Search of New Authorities. This project, which is about to conclude, is funded by the Dutch Council for Scientific Research (NWO) in the framework of their Internationalization Scheme.

This gathering and, hopefully, application and a subsequent team project, is in many ways, a natural sequel to the Beyond the Fathers project, both in terms of its concept and scope, as well as in terms of its administrative structure and deliverables. Truthful to its core objectives, in the Beyond the Fathers project we sought to identify new themes and new styles in manifold forms of literary and artistic expressions, which were developed, forged, and formulated in the face of major political and societal developments (Amirav and Celia, 2017; Amirav, Grypeou, and Stroumsa, 2017; and two more volumes). More specifically, we addressed the formation in the wake of Islam of new authorities, which came to replace earlier ecclesiastical and political hierarchies. In the proposed project, we will seek to take two further steps: an exploration of hate and radicalized discourse as deployed within the forms of discourse and literary expression emerging in late antique and medieval times, and a study of the way people today use their own past as a feeding ground for interaction with their opponents.

Using, as I hope it will be the case, our newly acquired knowledge about the development of means of literary and artistic expressions, e.g. intense collection and reduction activities, which came to dominate the Mediterranean area in the early stages of the Islamic era and beyond it, it is time for us to zoom in on the interplay of history, that is, how history was and is being used in negative and positive discourses about religious minorities.

Hagit Amirav, Oud Poelgeest, December 2014