Throughout history, religious groups across the world have claimed exemption from their rulers’ demands, with a considerable degree of success. Such exemptions were prevalent in the pre-modern world, from Buddhist monks’ accumulation of tax-free lands to Latin clerics’ assertion of ‘benefit of clergy’ and Islamic charitable waqf.
Yet though undoubtedly important, a full appreciation of these exemptions’ significance in the pre-modern world is hampered on the one hand by their embedding in traditional narratives such as the rise of the modern (Western) state, to which they are often represented as obstacles, and on the other by the conceptual difficulties posed by the categories at the historian’s disposal, such as ‘religion’, ‘secular’, and indeed ‘state’, when applied to this period of time.
This conference seeks to engage with these problems as a contribution to a comparative global historical understanding of religious exemption from state demands in the pre-modern world. Confirmed participants include RI Moore (Newcastle), Andrew Wareham (Roehampton) and Naomi Standen (Birmingham).
The conference will address three key questions. Firstly, how common were these exemptions on a global scale, and what kind of commonalities did they share? Secondly, what kind of structural role did these exemptions play: did they weaken the states that conceded them, or did they rather – as some recent research has suggested – strengthen them, whether by providing legitimacy or by supporting the informal networks underpinning the formal exercise of power? Thirdly, how should the demarcation they created best be conceptualised in an age thought not to have been structured by the modern secular/religious distinction?
We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers addressing these questions, whether on the basis of case studies (from anywhere in the world) or through critical engagement with specialist historiography, with a preference for the period 400-1300 CE. Limited travel funds are available, and accommodation for the duration of the conference will be provided for speakers.Paper proposals and all other queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, by Friday 19 September.
A version of this CFP is also available at http://turbulentpriests.group.shef.ac.uk/religious-exemption-and-the-state-400-1300-14th-16th-april-2016-call-for-papers/