Friday, March 3, 2023

 CfP: Dissolving Kinship in the Early Middle Ages, ca. AD 400-1000

The University of York, 1-2 June 2023

Confirmed external participants: Catherine Cubitt (UEA); Erin Dailey (Leicester), Rachel Stone (Bedfordshire & KCL),

Kinship is often treated as a social phenomenon that binds people together permanently through the creation of mutual ties, obligations, and emotions between individuals. Over the last decades, work on family and kinship in the early Middle Ages has addressed the basis of this claim through considering two key issues: i) how new types of kinship ties emerged in the early Middle Ages; ii) how far early-medieval kinship was derived from spiritual or blood ties. 

However, kinship can also be used to separate as much as bring together, and kinship ties were not always as permanent as might be inferred. The moments where kinship ties were considered to cease offer us the opportunity to investigate how these conceptual differences might shape or be expressed in social behaviourBy considering the extent to which moments of imposed (or initiated) separation can be considered dissolvement of kinship ties, our workshop addresses two related issues.

First, our workshop seeks to investigate how such separations occurred, and by whom they were acknowledged. Second, it seeks to establish comparable factors that can be extended to kinship ties in early-medieval European and Mediterranean societies that did not necessarily share the same ideological underpinning of family, systems of enforcement, or agreement on which ties were intra- or extra-familial.

Throughout the event and during a final roundtable discussion, we hope to interrogate the extent to which revealing the processes through which kinship may have been dissolved can improve our understanding of how kinship ties were created and sustained in the first place.

Proposals for 30-minute papers are invited from late-stage postgraduates and ECRs. We suggest a few suggested moments to stimulate but not limit the scope of enquiry:

The status of hostages and their familial dependents; their status and reception on return

The treatment of absent or missing relatives and their partners and dependents

The negotiation of familial ties between relatives of differing free/unfree statuses

The treatment of imprisoned, convicted or executed relatives and their dependents

Remarriage, adoption, and other methods to restore familial relationships

Adultery, assault and other (non-legal) modes of instigating separation

Concubinage, fosterage and other modes of quasi-familial status

Familial ties across ethnic, racial or religious divisions

(In)consistent alienation of specific familial rights or duties within separations

Due to the generosity of the Past & Present Society and the Department of History, University of York, accepted speakers who wish to present in person will receive at least a 150-pound bursary towards travel and accommodation. We also welcome applications for virtual presentations.

Please send ca. 300 word abstracts and a brief bio to both organisers, Dr Alex Traves ( and Dr Becca Grose (, by 7 April 2023.

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