Josef Römelt presents a working paper on ‚Theological Ethics within the rational conditions of Cultural Studies‘

The text offered for the colloquium is intended to demonstrate the increasing interest of geography in ethical questions. Part of the dissertation project describes a process of increasing sensitivity for ethical questions on the part of geography, which overcomes the scientific positivism of the second half of the 20th century and leads to the transdisciplinary questions of the 21st century. Under the heading of „moral geographies“, the PhD project attempts to discuss the results of these cultural studies processes in geography. This could be helpful hints to possibly supplementing this analysis (however, it has already turned out to be relatively broad). However, the aim of the dissertation project is to obtain helpful suggestions for theological ethics from the increasing sensitivity of geography to ethics. „Geographical“ terminology seems particularly helpful for the task of structuring ethical problems. For example, Integrative Ethics speaks of topology, aporetics and poristics as essential components of striving ethics. Just as in geography topography designs maps for orientation, in ethics the demonstration of topoi, i.e. problem centres, paths of possible solutions (poristics) and the description of cul-de-sacs (aporetics) should provide ethical orientation services. In connection with the ethics of responsibility, Hans Jonas contrasts the Christian principle of „charity“ with the principle of „responsibility at a distance“. This addresses the problem that present generations are capable of destroying the living conditions of future generations from an ecological point of view. The spatial metaphors from near (charity) and far (responsibility for the farthest) serve to describe ethical problems in spatial and temporal distance. In media ethics, the attempt to establish spatial and temporal presence via media services (immediacy of the individual’s fate, language of images …) is thematized, so that moral action become politically effective.

The collection of ideas for the analysis of further points of contact between geographical metaphors and attempts at ethical structuring would be helpful for the project.

Simone Wagner gives a working paper on ‚The Cistercians of the Upper Rhine. Foundation, Relationships and textual Production of female monasteries‘

This paper overviews the history of three south-western female Cistercian monasteries (Günterstal, Wonnental, Marienau) from the 13th to the 15th century. In order to analyse the specific and non-specific characteristics of female Cistercian monasteries in contrast to their male counterparts and other non-Cistercian female communities it focuses primarily on three different aspects: 1. the foundation of the monasteries and their affiliation to the Cistercian order, 2. their relations to different worldly and religious actors such as the father abbot as well as cities and 3. the written record of the monasteries.

Applying to all examples the relationship with the order was complicated and it is unclear whether they all were incorporated into the order or if this question was important for contemporaries. However, all communities developed a Cistercian identity. Nevertheless, they were also in (close) contact to other non-Cistercian religious actors and their religious lifestyle resembled other female communities. Equally, the relationship with cities was quite important for the south-western monasteries. The women had options to shift the boundaries being normatively imposed on them. Men and women did work together regarding administrative business and the nuns didn’t always adhere to strict enclosure. Their written record — though perhaps quantitatively not comparable to the men’s – should also be taken seriously and offers a lot of inside in 15th century religiosity.

Javier Francisco presents a working paper on ‚Clashes of Empires: Europe’s Zero-Sum Games in America‘

In my research project I investigate the paradox of European imperial longevity in the Americas when compared to the second European empires in Africa and Asia (19th-20th centuries). The aim is to offer a new argumentative narrative for understanding imperial cohesion and centrifugal forces that ultimately led to colonial secession. This narrative is based on zero-sum thinking which I interpret as a main driver. Herein, I identify several fragile phases which I use as a foundation for historical theory formation, while focusing on the US-American Revolution of 1776. I investigate how zero-sum thinking became a problem for imperial stability because colonists were no longer afraid of their potentially hostile neighbors (due to inter-imperial consolidation after the Treaty of Madrid of 1750 and France’s loss of the French and Indian War in 1763); because the thought of zero-sum expansion could still be pursued at the cost of the indigenous (“frontiers”); because zero-sum thinking was no longer a defining idea of economic growth and prosperity (mercantilism loses support); and because the spread of universalism of ‘sovereignty’ entered the socio-political stage and forced reforms that were not met (in the case of the British) or partially and insufficiently met (in the case of the Spanish, i.a. Cádiz Cortes). Following the argument of imperial fragility throughout the centuries, the US-American Revolution has to be seen in a historical line of fragility which was then ultimately cut.

Christina G. Williamson presents a working paper on ‚he strength of festival ties. Intentional networks, ‘portable communities’ and the transmission of common knowledge in the Hellenistic world‘

Panhellenic festivals, such as at Olympia, have long been understood as a major factor in the formation of the Greek community during the expansionist processes of colonisation and dispersal of communities across the Mediterranean in the archaic and classical periods. In the Hellenistic period, a new dimension to this phenomenon appeared as interurban festivals were increasingly being hosted by individual cities, modelled on the great panhellenic games. Delegates, athletes, and performers travelled across the Mediterranean, creating a ‘portable community’ that a trail of honorific monuments, victory lists, and civic decrees. These data lend themselves for analysing the cohesion of this expanding world through the lens of network analysis. Yet contrary to the general model, which presumes that innovation comes from random, or ‘weak-tie’ brokers outside the close knit, i.e. strong-tie group, these festivals operated on a shared concept of the past through which interurban connections were shaped. This paper examines these views of the past, their use in creating intentional connections, and the role of ritual in generating common knowledge as it seeks to gauge the strength of festival connections. As it does so, it argues that festival connectivity was anything but random. Although weak ties will have perpetuated the network in numerous ways, the backbone was founded in the strong-tie connectivity of a presumed shared heritage, however fabricated this may have been.

Aaron Plattner is going to present a working paper on ‚Pausanias in Amyklai and Lebadeia. Apollon’s throne and the oracle of Trophonios‘

Presumably a native of Asia Minor, Pausanias was a Greek writer of the second-century AD, who lived in the period of the Antonines. He is famous for being the author of ten books entitled Περιήγησις τῆς Ἑλλάδος (Periégesis tês Helládos, Engl. Description of Greece). The work’s focus is on the „classical“ Greece of the First Sophistic (5th century BC). Pausanias is mainly interested in the religious sphere of the archaic-classical period as well as its material, mythical, and ritual-performative forms of expression. Although, in his time, these sanctuaries, temples, aetiological narratives, rituals, festivals, cult images, etc. no longer existed to the full extent, Pausanias nonetheless selects some of these to picture them vividly on a textual level for his educated audience. He therefore applies the rhetorical stylistic device of ἔκφρασις (ékphrasis, Engl. description). Thus, it is in many cases hard to distinguish between historic and fictional utterances, especially for those who comprehend the work as a travel report or tourist guide.

Thus, my research project is a contribution to clarifying the question of how Pausanias’ idiosyncratic writing can be adequately described. By the means of a reinterpretation of the work’ intention, based on the analyses of approximately 30 descriptions, it can be shown that Pausanias is neither a tourist guide nor a peculiar historiographical piece of work, but rather a museum guide for educated women and men coming from different ethnic backgrounds and constituting the Roman elite, the museum being Roman Achaea, where the reader encounters the ubiquitous cultural highlights of the Greeks that are part of their collective memory. For Pausanias deliberately creates semanticized space, in which a collection of antiquities is not only admired by the reader, but in which the latter feels addressed by the described places and gains the impression to really be in situ.

The present paper is a first draft of my dissertation’s third chapter, as scheduled. It contains the discussion of two ekphrastic examples, the first being an object description (Apollon’s throne), and the second being a description of ritual practices (oracle of Trophonios). In both cases, the discussion’s aim is to show how the text tries to establish a connection to its reader in order to give him or her the impression of being present.