Faculty Research Seminar II

Course Description: 

Lectures start at 5:30 in the Gellner Room!

The Faculty Research Seminar invites the departmental and CEU communities to share, learn about and discuss ongoing research. Presenters – visiting scholars, resident faculty, as well as advanced doctoral students or post-docs – are encouraged to offer work-in-progress (draft book chapters, articles, conference papers) or problematic passages from their sources for discussion, rather than to read refined papers. Topics will cover the whole range of medieval and historical studies at CEU. The Faculty Research Seminar is open to everybody and invites everyone interested to participate actively in the discussions.

The main topic of the course in the winter term of 2017/18 is Global Minorities in the Early Modern Period. The rationale of the seminar is the following:

According to a widespread concept, until the age of the great global conquests the peoples of the world had lived in more or less separate ‘civilizations’, although these ‘civilizations’ had contacts with one another on their peripheries. The main such ‘civilizations’ were determined mostly by the great world religions: Western Christianity for Western Europe, Orthodox Christianity for the Byzantine and part of the Slavic world, Islam for the Middle East, Hinduism for India and its sphere of influence and Confucianism for China and its cultural orbit, while animism determined the black African ‘civilization’. According the same model, these ‘civilizations’ were brought into intense contact the first time during the age of the great conquests, when the world became global. Yet, the ‘civilizations’ persisted up to the present age, when they are entering an inevitable clash among them. The authorities to whom representatives of this model can look back include Hegel, Weber, Jaspers, Spengler, Toynbee and, in newer times, Eisenstadt and Huntington.

Yet, this model, its plausible simplicity notwithstanding, does not stand to historical scrutiny. It ignores the economic and cultural interdependence and unity of the pre-modern Afro-Eurasian world. Moreover, it considers history from the point of view of big, dominant unities, mostly empires, and represents a political and courte durée perspective. As such, it tends to overlook the persistent longue durée structures that tend to survive the short-term political changes, the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, the conquests and the wars, as they are based on agriculture, manufacturing, trade and learning. Also, the ‘civilizational’ approach tends to overlook the minorities, whose role this kind of historiography considers as negligible. This perspective has led not only to the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ theory but also to a situation, in which the minorities are the first to be sacrificed for the sake of geopolitical and imperial interests. Yet, the minorities were the cement and the connecting links of the integrated oikumene that constituted the pre-modern world, which was global before the globalization.

Thus, perhaps, no humanistic or liberal outcry at the present fate of so many minorities would help until we understand the role of the minorities in the pre-modern world, their historical role, which was no less important than that of the majorities within the great empires. The seminar will present fresh research on minorities in the early modern world, living among different majorities: Eastern Christians and Yezidis in the Muslim Arab-dominated Middle East, Jews in a Protestant and Catholic Christian milieu, confessional minorities in the Ottoman Empire, new converts in the Tridentine Catholic Portuguese empire, East-Europeans in a West European milieu, and syncretistic Sufi Mystics in India, constituting a minority among Muslims who, as a larger and mighty minority, are ruling over a vast Hindu majority.


Lectures start at 5:30 in the Gellner Room!

17 January – Almost Different but Not Quite: The Dutch Republic, Poland-Lithuania and the Co-dependency of Centre and Periphery by Tomasz Grusiecki (CEU)

31 January  – The poet-patriarch Abdisho of Gazarta (d.1570) and the Church of the East in schism by Lucy Parker (Oxford)

14 February – The Discovery of a Religious Minority in the Middle East: Changing Perception of the Yezidis from Western Missionaries to Kurdish Nationalism and Modern Scholarship by Eszter Spät (CEU)

28 February –  Theological debates in the Netherlands in the 17th-century: Jews, Socinians, Arminians and Calvinists, by Carsten Wilke

12 March - The Madāriyya Sufi brotherhood in India: Good Muslims or heretics? by Ute Falasch (Center for Religious Studies, CEU)

14 March – Fishing for Souls: Jesuits and Paravas on the Pearlfishing Coast (16th century)

 28 March – lecture by Ionut-Alexandru Tudorie, title tba

Learning Outcomes: 

Thus, the seminar series will constitute a necessary corrective to a one-sided historical view based on a courte durée perspective, which prioritizes the political over everyday life and culture, just as the narrative of the mighty over that of the weak. It will enhance the critical acumen of the audience, will present the results of modern, innovative research and will open for debate many topical questions. Also, it will help understand the pernicious influence of a distorted historical perspective on modern political choices and decisions.



1. a class journal on 5 out of the 7 lectures, one or two pages, or

2. a more extensive paper on one of the lectures in consultation with the lecturer,

AND active participation in the lectures in either way.