1) Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion

1) Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe – Walter Pohl, Gerda Heydemann
Brepols Publishers | 2013 | PDF

How were identities created in the early Middle Ages and when did they matter? This book explores different types of sources to understand the ways in which they contributed to making ethnic and religious communities meaningful: historiography and hagiography, biblical exegesis and works of theology, sermons and letters. Thus, it sets out to widen the horizon of current debates on ethnicity and identity. The Christianization and dissolution of the Roman Empire had provoked a crisis of traditional identities and opened new spaces for identification. What were the textual resources on which new communities could rely, however precariously? Biblical models and Christian discourses could be used for a variety of aims and identifications, and the volume provides some exemplary analyses of these distinct voices. Barbarian polities developed in a rich and varied framework of textual ‘strategies of identification’. The contributions reconstruct some of this discursive matrix and its development from the age of Augustine to the Carolingians. In the course of this process, ethnicity and religion were amalgamated in a new way that became fundamental for European history, and acquired an important political role in the post-Roman kingdoms. The extensive introduction not only draws together the individual studies, but also addresses fundamental issues of the definition of ethnicity, and of the relationship between discourses and practices of identity. It offers a methodological basis that is valid for studies of identity in general.

2) Post-Roman Transitions: Christian and Barbarian Identities in the Early Medieval West – Walter Pohl
Brepols Publishers | 2013 | PDF

What were the social contexts, cultural resources, and political consequences of the new models for identification which emerged during the transition from the Roman empire to the medieval world?

This volume looks at changing identities during the transition from the Roman Empire to a political world defined by a different kingdoms and peoples in western Europe. It addresses ‘ethnicity’ in the context of alternative modes of identification, mainly Christianity and Romanness. To widen the horizon of current debates, it shows that the ancient dichotomy between barbarians and Romans is hardly helpful in understanding the complex transitions to a post-imperial age in the West. In a broad sweep of regional examples, from Spain and North Africa to Dalmatia and the British Isles, the book follows the unfolding of Christian and barbarian identities: How were both the Roman and the barbarian past used for the formation and legitimation of new identities?

The ‘scripts of Romanness’ changed in the early Middle Ages, and so did the significance of othering pagans, heretics, or barbarians. The contributions trace the tenacity and the ambiguity of traditional narratives and signs of distinction: manuscripts and material remains, costume and epigraphy, historiography and hagiography were used in creative ways to shape civic, local, or religious communities. Many of the contributions show the fundamental importance of Christian ‘strategies of identification’ for creating a stronger political role for ethnicity in the post-Roman kingdoms. As such, they follow a line of argument that has also been explored in the book’s companion volume in this series, Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe.