In this lecture approaches developed within the transcultural Research Program "Visions of Community. Comparative Approaches to Ethnicity, Region and Empire in Christianity, Islam and Buddhism (400-1600 CE) (VISCOM)" are presented. By means of a selection of case studies situated in their wider socio-cultural contexts we ask how medieval ideas of “community” affect the making and unmaking of contemporary social formations. The concept of “community” underlying VISCOM´s comparative endeavours embraces various forms of social organization central to medieval life, such as ethnic, spiritual, or urban communities, and social categories such as family, kinship and gender as their key elements. This approach is informed by the wide temporal and geographical scope VISCOM embraces, but also by its interdisciplinary perspectives on community. Accordingly, we conceive of community as a comparative category to approach social and symbolic representations as well as practices of belonging and differing. In this lecture we will present selected case studies to exemplify the methodology applied in VISCOM´s working groups.
Christina Lutter holds a PhD from the Univ. of Vienna (1998) and is Professor at the History Department, University of Vienna and PI of the project Social and Cultural Communities across Medieval Monastic, Urban, and Courtly Cultures (SFB Visions of Community). She is member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Member of the scientific board of the Forschungsstelle für Vergleichende Ordensgeschichte, Dresden; Vice president of the scientific board of the International Research Centre Kulturwissenschaften (IFK), and Member of the scientific board of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria. Her research interest covers medieval and early modern cultural and gender history, religious reform movements, entangled monastic, urban, and courtly cultures, as well as visions and practices of community and representations of emotions.
Andre Gingrich is director of the Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences. He finished both his PhD and his habilitation (1990) at the University of Vienna, where he is now a full professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. He is a several times awarded scholar (and Wittgenstein Laureate in 2000) with an extensive ethnographic field research worldwide from Syria and Yemen to Saudi-Arabia and China. He was a co-founder of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Gingrich specialises, among other things, in the anthropology of the Middle East, with emphasis on southern Arabia, on which he published extensively. He is a member of the most influential international anthropological organizations and anthropological scholarly journals’ editorial boards.