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Tracking Religious Conversion through Onomastics in Late Antiquity and Beyond

The aim of this workshop is to discuss the theoretical and practical problems surrounding tracking religious change based on onomastic data. The main focus will be on the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity (ca. 300–800 AD), especially on conversion to Christianity and Islam, but comparative examples from other regions and periods are also welcome. The workshop will scrutinise methodological questions: how shall we understand and define conversion? When does a name bear a religious significance? How to deal with ambiguities in this respect, such as names common in all Abrahamic religions? What kind of sources can be fruitfully used to track religious changes through onomastics? How to deal with datasets, especially in the context of digital humanities? What kind of statistical methods are the most helpful to analyse them? What kind of evidence and which methodologies can help to move beyond pure statistics and assess the social context of religious conversion?

An important aim of the conference is to induce a dialogue between experts of various fields dealing with this topic. These include Ancient History, Theology, Islamic Studies, Epigraphy, Papyrology, and Digital Humanities. The participants are kindly asked to present a short (30 minutes) overview of their pertinent research. Each thematic session of four participants will end with a round-table discussion to assess similarities and differences across various regions and cultures.

The conference will take place 10–12 December 2020 at the Theological Faculty of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.