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By Arietta Papaconstantinou, Daniel L. Schwartz

The papers during this quantity have been offered at a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar held on the collage of Oxford in 2009-2010, which sought to enquire aspect by means of aspect the 2 vital hobbies of conversion that body past due antiquity: to Christianity at its begin, and to Islam on the different finish. not easy the competition among the 2 stereotypes of Islamic conversion as an intrinsically violent method, and Christian conversion as a essentially non secular one, the papers search to isolate the behaviours and situations that made conversion either this sort of universal and this type of contested phenomenon. The unfold of Buddhism in Asia in widely an identical interval serves as an exterior comparator that used to be no longer stuck within the internet of the Abrahamic religions. the quantity is organised round a number of issues, reflecting the troubles of the preliminary venture with the articulation among norm and perform, the position of experts and associations, and the social and person fluidity at the floor. Debates, discussions, and the expression of norms and rules approximately conversion conversion aren't infrequent in societies experiencing spiritual swap, and the 1st portion of the publication examines the various major matters cited through surviving resources. this can be through 3 sections studying varied points of ways these rules have been - or weren't - placed into perform: how conversion was once dealt with via the kingdom, the way it was once continually redefined by means of person ambivalence and cultural fluidity, and the way it was once enshrined via varied kinds of institutionalization. eventually, a topographical coda examines the consequences of spiritual swap at the iconic holy urban of Jerusalem.

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53 In his classic study on this process, Maurice Halbwachs related it to the formation of collective memory, one of the most potent factors of common identity: Maurice Halbwachs, La topographie légendaire des évangiles en Terre Sainte. Étude de mémoire collective (Paris, 1941); see Gérôme Truc, ‘Memory of places and places of memory: for a Halbwachsian socio-ethnography of collective memory’, International Social Science Journal, 203–4 (2011): pp. 147–59. 54 John Baldovin, The Urban Character of Christian Worship: The Origins, Development and Meaning of Stational Liturgy (Rome, 1987).

57 Nancy Khalek, Damascus after the Muslim Conquest: Text and Image in Early Islam (Oxford, 2011). 58 Augusto Fraschetti, La conversione da Roma pagana a Roma cristiana (Rome, 1999). 59 Oleg Grabar, ‘Islamic Art and Byzantium’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 18 (1964): pp. 67–88 at p. 74. 55 56 Introduction xxxvii In many ways, monumental building programmes functioned like normative discourse on the part of religious group leaders: they construed difference, asserted domination, and imposed categories and order in a material world that was too fluid to be comfortable for them.

This was also the reason why it was so important to mark one’s presence there. Under the Umayyads, there was thus a triple religious focus on Jerusalem as a holy city, which created a contested urban space that was constantly transformed, but without losing its original nature. This insistence on a small set of focal points is very important for universalizing religions. For the distant convert, Jerusalem, like Rome or Mecca, played the essential role of ‘the centre out there’, to use Victor Turner’s famous phrase:52 a supra-local centre that gave a sense of a common, if distant, holy place across geographically scattered groups and thus maintained a symbolic unity despite the distance.

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