SAMR News: April 9, 2008

We have chosen a theme for the recently announced SAMR conference in Rome, to be held in July 2009 immediately preceding the International Meeting of the Society for Biblical Literature. The theme will be "What's Religious about Ancient Mediterranean Religions?"; a full description is provided at below. This theme was proposed by Greg Snyder of the Department of Religion at Davidson College, and he will serve as the program committee chair for this conference. We are looking for nominations (including self-nominations) for the other 2 slots on the program committee. SAMR officers will check with the nominees to make sure that they are willing to serve on the committee. The members of the committee will need to review abstracts during the period of Sept. 1-29 and are asked to recuse themselves from submitting abstracts on their own behalf for this conference. Please submit nominations to Eric Orlin, SAMR Secretary-Treasurer, by April 28. If more than 2 nominees are put forward, an email election will be held during the period of April 30-May 11.

Description of Conference Theme:

What's Religious about Ancient Mediterranean Religions?
At this, the inaugural meeting of the Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions, we might expect a certain ambiguity about the terms "ancient" and "Mediterranean." The more profound challenge, however, arises when it comes to rightly characterizing the object of study. That there is something there to be studied, no one will deny. Sacrifice, prayer, pilgrimage, sacred sites, domestic and public devotion, ideas about gods and goddesses--all of these seem to fall safely enough into the religion basket. A question worth thinking about, however, is whether the dimensions of this basket---and indeed the basket itself--match up with any conceptual structures in the ancient world. In other words, what did it mean to be "religious" in the ancient world? Perhaps what we might now call "religious behaviors" didn't fall so much within the boundaries of religion as they did within the realm political, tribal, or familial identity formation and practice. Matching up ancient and modern ideas about this cluster of ideas and practices promises to reveal some interesting gaps in our conceptual lexica where religion ancient and modern is concerned. It may also give rise to interesting reflections about this inter-disciplinary project that we have initiated: what different methodological presuppositions do students of classics and religion bring to the study of ancient religious phenomena? Proposals addressing this topic and formed with reference to Mediterranean societies up through the Late Antique period are welcome.

We are very much looking forward to this conference and hope that it will stimulate some exciting discussion. Please consider serving on the program committee to make it happen.