So far, historiographical constructions of identity have often been debated in rather straightforward terms. Did historiography have any impact on ethnic, political or religious identities at all? And if so, which identity did a particular work construct? On the whole, recent historical, textual and literary critique has led to an increasing scepticism towards the value of historiographical sources, both for an adequate reflection of ‘real’ communities (because the texts were too biased) and for the impact they may have had in creating or promoting identities (because the audience and influence of the texts is only rarely attested). This project aims at developing a more complex approach. In fact, most works of historiography do not construct a single identity, but balance a whole range of possible identifications. Their narrative develops several options and explores their chances and limits. Each work also reacts to other possible identifications, in the context of a polyphonic discussion of which most voices are lost, but which can be reconstructed to a point through the reactions in our text.
The project pursued in the context of the SFB ‘Visions of Community’ (VISCOM) involved several collaborators of the Institute of Medieval research and numerous invited guests. The matter was discussed in a series of workshops held in Vienna, Princeton, and Prague from 2012 to 2015. On this basis, six collaborative volumes will be published at Brepols. They do not intend to provide a new history of historiography, but a series of studies to recover some of the considerable potential of identification that early (and also later) medieval historiography developed, which provided rich resources for further constructions of identity in medieval Europe.