Université d'Erfurt


Everyday Christianity in Late Antiquity. Being Christian in North Africa, AD 150-450

As a Fellow of the Max Weber Center, I am working on a book project called „Everyday Christianity in Late Antiquity. Being Christian in North Africa, AD 150-450.“ In this book I wish to consider the evidence on Christians as inhabitants of the Roman cities of North Africa between the middle of the second and the middle of the fifth century. I deliberately seek to shift the focus from conflicts and tensions to participation and inclusion. Binary oppositions between Christians and non-Christians are increasingly understood as a discursive construct, part of the making of a Christian identity, but, even if it has become apparent that on-theground confessional identities were less important than contemporary sources state, our view of the realities beyond the discursive structures has not yet been fully revisited. The difference between the social experience and the discursive construct of our sources is acknowledged, but only somewhat perfunctorily and the focus is mainly on discourse. Moreover, what Rogers Brubaker had called „the unhappy marriage of clichéd constructivism and engrained groupism“ has resulted in a discourse that talks about the fluidity of identities at the same time as it substantializes identities by attributing them to groups together with agency, interests, and will. Following this and other insights from current debates about identity and approaches to it in the social sciences, I will consider individuals instead of groups, and the plurality of their identities instead of supposing the salience of their religious allegiance. There is no need to assume that Christians formed a discrete, homogeneous, and stable group. Instead I will ask when Christianity matters in the everyday life of persons living in North Africa from the second to the fifth century. North Africa presents us with enough evidence of all types, textual and non-textual, to be a good case-study for a re-evaluation of what it meant to be Christian in Late Antiquity.

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