The City as Site of Discourse

In one of its sub-projects, Group C-IV (Topoi 1) spotlights the city space as the site of public discourse in a political, as well as a cultural and religious, dimension. The project focuses on the unique character of three metropolises of late antiquity – Antioch on the Orontes, Milan and Rome – in the transition period between traditional paganism and increasingly influential Christendom at the end of the 4th century.

Past and Present in late antique Rome: Forum Romanum, Temple of Saturn as restored in Late Antiquity. Photo: Susanne Muth

As manifested in both architecture and surviving texts, the example of these three cities clearly shows that the material dimension of space and the social interactions – human thought and activity – within this space exert a mutual influence on each other and make reference to each other in terms of this reciprocity. Mechanisms of personal and institutional interaction, as well as the attribution of concrete meanings to specific locations, are researched in detail on the basis of surviving texts and archaeological findings. The methodological principles applied in the project include the concept of field theory advanced by Pierre Bourdieu and the formulation of constellation analysis developed by Dieter Henrich and Martin Mulsow. The comparatively large number of literary testimonies, inscriptions and archaeological findings allows us to draw up a fairly detailed description of the constellations of individuals, documents and buildings in the three cities and to draw conclusions about the genesis of political, religious and philosophical positions held by those individuals and represented in the texts – positions which have since become relevant in the history of the ideas. The goal of the project is, through textual analysis and networking with problems and theoretical concepts from archaeology and social and religious history, to expose the dynamics of the intellectual and political discourse in metropolitan Rome, Milan, and Antioch at the turn of the 4th and 5th centuries.

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A contribution to this research group has been published in the issue 02/2010 of Neotopia
→ Neotopia [PDF | 222 KB]

Research project: The City as Site of Discourse. Rome and Milan in Late Antiquity

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