As part of a project financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) investigating the ideology of the lower strata in the Byzantine Empire, a two-day workshop devoted to the same and overlapping topics brought together scholars from Austria, France, Britain, Italy, Greece, Serbia and the United States at the localities of the Institute for Byzantine Research at Wohllebengasse in Vienna.
The aim of the workshop was to investigate the ideological and epistemological horizons of the middle-Byzantine world, both vertically (from emperor to subjects) and horizontally (from the centre to the peripheries). The former approach raised a wide range of questions about the Byzantine individual, his modes of self-representation (Stratis Papaiouanou), and distinction in terms of class (Panagiotis Agapitos), or ethnicity (Dionysios Stathakopoulos), his interactions on the local level (Fotini Kondyli), acceptance of established order (Olof Heilo), and the “common good” of the political system of which he was part (Kostis Smyrlis), the role of such points of identification in cases of rebellion (Jean-Claude Cheynet, Alicia Simpson), the communicative function of images and rituals (Leslie Brubaker) and homilies (Theodora Antonopoulou). These perspectives were further widened by inquiries into the prevalence of an imperial ideology in Ravenna (Judith Herrin), Venice (Francesco Borri), Norman Sicily (Annick Peters-Custot) and Serbia (Vlada Stankovic), and the impact of the Byzantine culture among foreign peoples and visitors (Jonathan Shepard). The project leader Johannes Koder and the main organiser Yannis Stouraitis opened and closed the workshop, with John Haldon and Claudia Rapp acting as final discussants, whereas Alexander Riehle, Andreas Rhoby, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller and – last but not least – Walter Pohl deepened the discussions in their responses after each panel.
The workshop took place against the backdrop of a house demolition in the backyard outside and made almost parallel advances in the simultaneous deconstruction of the complex and elusive concepts referred to in the title. It is to be hoped, however, that it has also stimulated and inspired the participants to new and creative efforts in reconstructing and understanding the Medieval East Roman world.