2020–2021 Topic:
Popular Piety in Late Antiquity

Co-Chairs: Reyhan Durmaz, Simcha Gross, and Theodora Naqvi

For the 2020-2021 year, the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins will explore popular piety in Late Antiquity.

Popular piety defined the lives of the majority of people in Late Antiquity, as well as those of often neglected groups, including women, children, and slaves. Yet its importance as a subject is hindered by weighty methodological and theoretical challenges. In fields where the majority of primary resources were written by the elite, and archaeological evidence is sporadic, how does one reconstruct the everyday believer, the non-orthodox praxis, and popular piety, and situate it within a robust historical context? This problem when faced by scholars in their own areas, periods, and disciplines often appears intractable. The vision of the PSCO talks this year is to attempt to broach this issue from a comparative perspective, bringing together a group of scholars from a variety of periods and disciplines whose research attends to religion and piety of the everyday and the regular. This conversation is essential in order to bring nuance into meta narratives of various religious traditions that are mostly shaped by elite perspectives.