Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Colloquium Report for 'Converting the Isles'

Dr Brittany Schorn writes:

The ‘Converting the Isles’ Research Network held its fifth and final colloquium in Cambridge on September 19–21.  The theme of ‘The Isles and the Wider World’ was fitting, as we sought to situate our findings on Insular conversion in a broader geographical, chronological and disciplinary context and to look forward to new directions for future research.  That said, the work of the Network is far from finished.  Two edited volumes are well under way.  These will incorporate material from not only the colloquia, but also the special lectures and Leeds IMC sessions sponsored by the Network. Together with the website, these volumes will represent the most visible legacy of the Network.

Another part of the Network’s legacy is less tangible, but certainly no less valuable.  The ‘Converting the Isles’ colloquia were designed to facilitate discussion between scholars who work in adjacent but not always intersecting fields.  This has led to productive conversations and new collaborations that will advance the discipline in years to come. 

‘The Isles and the Wider World’ left many of us inspired by new questions as well as new answers. The Right Honourable Rowan Williams opened the colloquium by posing the question of what we, and medieval writers like Bede, actually understand by ‘conversion’.  Chris Wickham’s keynote lecture then articulated especially well the complexities inherent in the subject and the advantages and potential pitfalls of a comparative approach.

The second keynote lecture, by Jean-Michel Picard and Sébastien Bully, used recent archaeological discoveries at Luxeuil and Annegray to question the reliability of hagiography and illuminate literary tropes. The other ten speakers presented papers which ranged widely across the conceptual and historical phenomenon of conversion: from converts from Islam to Christianity through to anthropological considerations of religious conversion in the modern world; and from liturgical and literary witnesses to conversion in early medieval northern Europe, to archaeological traces of paganism in southwest Germany.

A full programme remains available on the Network’s website (http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/conversion/), where podcasts of papers from the conference are now accessible, along with podcasts from past colloquia and other resources for the study of conversion which will continue to be developed and updated. News about forthcoming and past events can be found on our homepage.  Please do get in touch with Brittany Schorn (bs321@cam.ac.uk), Roy Flecher (roy.flechner@ucd.ie) or Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (mnm21@cam.ac.uk) with any questions, comments or suggestions for the website or if you wish to be added to our mailing list.