|Maijastina Kahlos, Senior researcher
Waiting for Barbarians, Recognizing Immigrants, Making Romans:
Roman Ambiguities and the Uses of ‘Barbarians’ in the Political, Social and Religious Struggles in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (300-600)
My new project looks at the mechanisms by which the Romans dealt with immigrants and aliens, both at the conceptual and rhetorical levels of knowledge ordering, ethnicization and religious othering, as well as at the socio-political level. While previous research has mainly concentrated on finding out who the newcomers were and how their identities evolved, I turn the attention to the host societies receiving the immigrants. I concentrate on the uses of immigrant and alien groups in internal political, social and religious struggles.
The project is about the attitudes and expectations in regard to immigrants, alien groups and religious others within the Roman and post-Roman societies. Since the majority of extant sources were produced by elite writers in these societies, the perspective is inescapably theirs. Hence, the objective is to construct an alternative approach with a different set of questions that concentrate on the circumstances and identities evolving within the host society. How does the host society use immigrants? Who are treated as aliens and who are recognized as Romans and what criteria and mechanisms are used? Who are taken as religious others? I contribute to the on-going research on immigration and multiculturalism by tracing the development of mechanisms of 1) ethnicization and 2) religious othering in cultural encounters in the Graeco-Roman world.
Modern social and cultural studies, immigration studies among others, suffer from a-historicity. I contribute to the research into modern migration and citizenship, by clarifying the historical context of concepts and stereotypes such as the notion of autochthony, the topos of migrating peoples and the development of citizenship. I will produce new interdisciplinary insights by 1) transcending the often-existing separation between ancient and medieval studies, 2) providing theoretical frameworks (post-colonial studies, imagology, immigration studies, new rhetoric) for studying late Roman identities and ethnic stereotypes, and 3) offering a more nuanced interpretation of the changes in the late Roman world with both violence and accommodation.