In this symposium we approach the term “religion” in its broader sense, that is, institutionalized expressions as well as culture and practices. Our aim is to explore strategies of construction of identities and of otherness in religious groups and communities as well as to examine mechanisms and processes of confrontation and of stigmatization of the other. What primarily interests us is the shift from previously tolerated images of the other to a climate of religious intolerance in various historical eras. This obviously brings into discussion the question of the formation of “persecuting societies”, of the identification and gradual crystallization of the enemy, be it a dissenter, a heretic or a different religious creed. “Religions in conflict” thus refers to clashes between different religions as well as between dominant majorities and dissenting minorities within the same religion, in their different levels of confrontation (clash of propagandas to open, all-out war).
We propose several fields of investigation such as: Wars of Narratives: Rhetoric (including iconoclastic violence) and Representations (including the construction of the enemy in art and literature); Persecuting Societies: Inquiring, identifying, excluding or expelling and Historiographical approaches.
We begin our investigation from Late Antiquity, when the rise and gradual consolidation of monotheistic religions had a far reaching impact on the ways of self perception and of identification of the other. We choose to close our investigation roughly in the 18th century. The rise of colonialism and the historical experience of the 20th century have radically altered the phenomena and events sometimes described as “religious conflicts” or “religious wars”, despite the fact that modern day rhetoric frequently refers to age–old stereotypes and seeks to revive “everlasting” and “eternal truths” regarding religious and cultural identities.
Our aim is to bring together Greek and International scholars of Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Byzantium, of the Frankish, Venetian and Ottoman Rule as well as the Early Modern Period so as to appreciate the possibilities and the limitations of a comparative approach and of a common historicization.