2018–2019 Topic:
Beyond Patristics: North Africa in the First Millennium

Co-Chairs: Theodora Naqvi, Jillian Stinchcomb, Steve Weitzman, Julia Wilker

ancient depiction of female Egyptian musicians

Recent scholarship on the Mediterranean world in the first millennium has destabilized the methodological and theoretical assumptions that undergird traditional disciplinary boundaries between Early Christian Studies, Classics, and Religious Studies; textual and material studies; Roman, Byzantine, and other imperial regimes; or “Eastern” and “Western” provincial histories. Church fathers like Tertullian and Augustine have been a fruitful site of production for these interdisciplinary efforts, but such a lens risks re-inscribing a “great man of history” paradigm.

For 2018-19, the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins hopes to invite fresh conversation from the intersection of Religious Studies, Classics, Ancient History, and Art History, centered by a geographic focus on the region, peoples, and histories of North Africa. What happens when we bring together archaeological, textual, and theoretical data in new configurations? What local continuities can be traced among political, religious, and economic changes? How might such a perspective affect our understanding of empire, periphery/center, and the history of Christianity beyond elite Latin discourses?

Now in its fifty-sixth year, the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (PSCO) brings together scholars and graduate students in Philadelphia and surrounding areas for informal discussion and debate of timely issues and questions in the study of ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and cognate fields. Each year, PSCO hosts five to six meetings to explore one theme—ranging from pressing methodological or theoretical questions, to neglected primary or secondary sources, to timely conversations across disciplines. Meetings are informal and discussion-oriented, and invited speakers are encouraged to provide suggested readings and resources prior to their session so as to facilitate productive conversation. PSCO has been made possible by generous sponsorship from the Penn Humanities Forum and Penn’s Center for Ancient Studies.