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Annual Marco Symposium

18th Annual Symposium

Religious Communities Across Space and Time in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East”

March 4-5, 2022


Image of people dining around a central text in Hebrew

The Darmstadt Haggadah, c. 1420

The Marco Institute’s 18th annual symposium brings together scholars of the medieval and early modern world to examine how religious communities conceptualized and imagined themselves. The symposium will feature specialists whose geographic interests include Africa, the Middle East and Europe. “Community,” therefore, will be interpreted broadly to include not only world systems such as oikumeneummah or ecclesia, but also local communities such as individual mosques, monasteries or synagogues. Furthermore, papers will investigate how interactions between religious communities shaped their identities and experiences. The symposium will explore the diversity and complexity of pre-modern notions of religious communities across a wide range of geographic, confessional and temporal boundaries.

The “Religious Communities” Symposium is hosted by the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Symposium committee: Manuela Ceballos, Matthew Bryan Gillis, Felege Yirga.

Two Muslim men in turbans kneeling before the court and throne of the ruler of Aksum

The najashi (king) of Aksum refuses to hand over Muslim refugees at his court to the Meccans

Program Information:

Keynote Lecture: Friday, March 4 at 5:30 pm
Lindsay Young Auditorium, Hodges Library, 1st Floor

Headshot of a woman with chin-length blond hairEmily Gottreich, University of California, Berkeley

“The Jewish umma: Middle Eastern and North African Jewry and the Development of an Islamicate Community”


Friday, March 4

VENUE: Great Room, UT International House

8:45-9:15 Continental Breakfast, UT International House

9:25-9:30 Welcome and Opening Remarks by Gregor A. Kalas, Riggsby Director of Marco

9:30-11:00 Section I: Ethnicity, Ideology, and Memory

Sean Anthony, The Ohio State University, “The Ummah and the Arabs: Ethnicity and Ideology in the Formation of the Early Islamic Polity”

Felege Yirga, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Remembering Rome and Performing Romanness in the Post-Roman World: The Chronicle of John of Nikiu”

11:00-11:15 Break

11:15-12:45 Section II: Prayer and its Communal Places

Michael Moore, University of Iowa, “Saved from the Gates of Hell: Prayer for the Dead at Cluny”

Mikael Muehlbauer, Columbia University, “Architectural Hybridity at the Lalibela Church Complex”

1:00-2:30          Lunch at the International House

2:30-4:00 Section III: Communal Identity in Region-Specific Contexts

Robert Clines, Western Carolina University, “A City for (Almost) Every Nation: Diversity and Exclusion in Gregory Martin’s Rome”

Matthew Bryan Gillis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Pious Heroes and Monstrous Foes in Carolingian War Poetry”


Saturday, March 5

VENUE CHANGE: Student Union Room 377A (Executive Dining Room)

10:00-10:30 Continental Breakfast, Student Union Room 377A

10:30-12:00 Section IV: Heresy, Apostacy, and Conversion

Molly Lester, US Naval Academy, “Heretical Rites & Disordered Customs: Discerning Orthodox Liturgies among Christian Communities in Early Medieval Iberia”

Kristina Richardson, CUNY, “Ottoman Romani in 1410s Germany: Muslim Apostates, Christian Converts”

12:00-1:30 Lunch in Student Union Room 377 A (Executive Dining)

1:30-3:00 Section V: The Varieties of Religious Communities

Michael Gomez, New York University, “Islam as a (Surprisingly) Diverse Community, or Set of Communities, in Medieval West Africa”

Claudia Rapp, University of Vienna, “Experts and Amateurs: Religious Communities across Time and Space in Byzantium”

3:00-3:15 Break

3:15-4:30 Religious Communities: A Roundtable


Registration Information:

The 2022 symposium will be held in person at the University of Tennessee. The event is free and open to the public.

Registration information forthcoming.

Please email with questions.

A group of holy men stand next to the enthroned king and appear to be marking out an icon

Detail, Theodore Psalter (British Library, Additional MS 19352, f. 27v)

About the annual Marco Symposium

The Marco Symposium is held every year in March or April. The Symposium brings leading experts in their field to the University of Tennessee for two days of talks on that year’s theme. A round-table discussion by all the participants concludes the weekend.

The Symposium is Marco’s signature event of the year, and typically attracts members of the larger Knoxville community in addition to students and faculty at UT and scholars from across the region. The theme of the Symposium changes each year. Faculty who are interested in submitting a proposal should contact

Guest Parking Information:

Visitor parking is located in the Volunteer Hall Garage (1545 White Ave.). Further details about UT visitor parking are available at the Parking & Transit Services website.

Free street parking is available in the neighborhoods around campus (e.g. Fort Sanders), but cannot be guaranteed. Guests can also get to campus via the free trolley from downtown.

The campus map is available online here.

Image of medieval stained glass window and picture of Richard Emmerson with information about 2021 Symposium

2020/2021 Marco Symposium

Visions of the End: Medieval & Renaissance Apocalyptic Cultures

2019 Marco Symposium
Death and Dying in Medieval Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
2018 Marco Symposium



Navigating Language in the Early Islamic World


2017 Marco Symposium



Carolingian Experiments

2016 Marco Symposium
Rome: Beyond the Discourse of Renewal
2015 Marco Symposium
‘Cry Havoc!’: War, Diplomacy and Conspiracy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
2014 Marco Symposium
Reconceiving Pre-Modern Spaces
2012 Marco Symposium
Grounding the Book: Readers, Writers, and Places in the Pre-Modern World
2011Symposium 2011 Marco Symposium
Gardens, Real and Imagined
2010Symposium 2010 Marco Symposium
The Building Blocks of France
2009Symposium 2009 Marco Symposium
Humanism and Its Economies
2007Symposium 2007 Marco Symposium
Saints & Citizens: Religion and Politics in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
2006Symposium 2006 Marco Symposium
The Book of Travels: Genre, Ethnology, Pilgrimage from 1250-1650



2005Symposium 2005 Marco Symposium
Interactions and Images: Cultural Contacts Across Eurasia, 600-1600



2004Symposium 2004 Marco Symposium
Spectacle and Public Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance



2003Symposium 2003 Marco Symposium

Books and Readers in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance



2002Symposium 2002 Marco Symposium

Scripture and Pluralism: The Study of the Bible in the Sectarian Worlds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance