Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies Holds Third Graduate Conference

Presenter Anna Linden Weller presents her paper "Transmittable Apocalypses: Byzantine Diplomatic Letters and Latin Eschatology during the First Crusade." Image credit: CEU/Mihail Mitrea

The Center for Eastern Mediterranean (CEMS) recently hosted its third graduate conference “Tradition and Transformation: Dissent and Consent in the Mediterranean.” During the three–day conference in early June, participants explored a broad spectrum of aspects regarding the appropriation and transformation of cultural and religious traditions that informed the spiritual and intellectual struggles and changes in the Mediterranean from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period. Taking into account the dynamic socio-historical setting of religious and cultural processes, it seeks to approach the manner in which the permanently competing communities questioned, structured and performed their own beliefs and religious practices by disclosing heresies and shaping their orthodoxies.

“The subtitle of the conference, 'Dissent and Consent in the Mediterranean' can apply not only to a broad range of historical topics, but also to progress in scholarship,” said Associate Professor Katalin Szende, head of CEU's Department of Medieval Studies. “Sometimes one seeks consent and the confirmation of one's results by other scholars, perhaps from other disciplines. In other cases, however, dissent, or clashes of different opinions can be even more creative and fruitful, and can lead to challenging discussions and new perspectives.”

Graduate students explored a variety of topics from games in Byzantium Muslim and Jewish mysticism. The mix of participants was diverse and included those focusing on: Late Antique, Islamic, Jewish, Byzantine, Western Medieval, Ottoman studies as well as students in the field of philosophy, theology, history of religion, sociology of religion, and anthropology. They presented their research on particular themes that reflect and address the complex formation and development of cultural, intellectual and religious identities in the Mediterranean. Keynote speakers were Professor Albrecht Berger, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, who's lecture was “Re-Writing the Urban History of Constantinople”; Professor Rubina Raja, Aarhus University, who spoke about “Marking Religious Identity in Eastern Mediterranean Late Antique Urban Landscapes: Churches as Signs of Cultural Continuity and Change”; and Professor Philip Wood, Aga Khan University, London, who addressed “Khusrau II Aparavaz and the Christians of His Empire (c.585–630).”

CEMS is a joint enterprise of CEU’s Departments of Philosophy, Medieval Studies, and History, and is heir to the Center for Hellenic Traditions. It promotes the study of the eastern Mediterranean and its hinterlands from antiquity, especially the Hellenistic period (323–30 BCE), to the end of the Ottoman period (1923). Founded in November 2004, it is one of CEU’s oldest research centers, with some eighteen senior and over forty junior (student) members, it is also one of CEU’s largest, and most active. Junior CEMS members Mihail Mitrea, Anna Adashinskaya, Vedran Bileta, Mircea Dulus, Sona Grigoryan, Dora Ivanisevic, and Andras Kraft made up the organizing committee.

"We perceive the Mediterranean as an ideal framework for the analysis of interconnections across geographical, chronological, imperial, religious and disciplinary boundaries, focusing on east-west interaction and exchanges, the movement of people, objects and ideas to and from the eastern Mediterranean, as well as imperial continuities and discontinuities – Roman, Byzantine, Islamic Caliphate, Ottoman – from the ancient to the modern period,” said Associate Professor of Medieval Studies Niels Gaul.

For full conference information visit To view a gallery of images from the event visit