This project deals with the relationship between empires or other supra-regional states and smaller communities – for instance, ethnic groups, religious communities, local or peripheral populations. It raises the question how these different types of community were integrated into the larger edifice of empire, and in which contexts the dialectic between empires and particular communities could cause disruption in one or both of them.
How did religious discourses or practices reinforce (or subvert) imperial pretences?
How were constructions of identity affected in the process?
The time frame is roughly the fifth to tenth centuries CE, a period with a particular dynamic of empires in Europe and the Mediterranean: while successive parts of the Roman empire eroded, its Byzantine core areas (“the empire that would not die”, as John Haldon put it) showed a surprising resilience; Islamic expansion led to a succession of caliphates; and the Franks attempted to recreate a Western Roman Empire, with only limited success. The period is thus exceptionally well suited to study the various expansive and erosive dynamics of empires, and their interaction with somehow smaller communities.
These questions can productively be addressed from a comparative angle. This is the task of a high-level international research group in the context of the SFB Visions of Community in several meetings between 2013 and 2017, with a resulting collaborative publication.