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Religion in Premodern Europe and the Mediterranean Unit

Call for Proposals

We welcome proposals on all topics related to the Unit's subject matter, broadly conceived. Proposals that are themselves comparative in nature or that present novel approaches to the study of premodern religion are particularly welcome. We encourage the submission of preformed panel proposals suitable for 90-minute time slots. We also encourage the submission of individual paper proposals for panels on the following subjects:

  • The Magic of the Crafted Image: statues, icons, talismans (Co-sponsored with the SBL Art and Religion group)

Papers are invited that consider statuary, figurines, poppets, processional sculpture, astral talismans, and other images and iconic/sacred books -- crafted in wood, lead, stone, etc. -- as magical agents and/or ritual subjects: that is, in the context of object-agency, ritual performance, and the lives of images. A sizeable theoretical literature, bridging religion, art history, anthropology, history, and archaeology, has come to regard images not as passive objects of ritual or decorative activity but as agents in a world of vital things. We invite papers that can bring these new frameworks to bear on particular artefacts (or stories of artefacts). As far as possible, papers should interact with Laurel Kendall’s Mediums and Magical Things: Statues, Paintings, and Masks in Asian Places (Berkeley, 2021).


  • Premodern Astrology: cultural and disciplinary interfaces

Though aspects of astrological practice were contested, astrology was also the foundation of a set of broadly shared cosmological concepts in Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures. Astrological interfaces in medicine, alchemy, and magic link time with eternity, the material world with God, natural philosophy with theology. Astrology can also infuse ideas of other cultures for good or ill. Roger Bacon worried that the Tartars knew more about astral magic than the Christians did; medical doctors of various faiths had conversations about the use of astral talismans. This session invites papers considering interdisciplinary and/or interreligious conversations or practices involving astrology.


  • Premodern Ecologies

We invite papers that examine the ways premodern people in Europe and around the Mediterranean approached their environments and local ecosystems, and how these approaches intersected with religious practices and ideas. How did people react to epidemics, severe weather events, crop failures, or a scarcity of animals or plants that were formerly common? How did they think about managing agriculture, animals, and the natural world? We are interested in how premodern understandings of environments and nature can resonate with but also can differ from our contemporary concerns.

Statement of Purpose


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members

Review Process Comments