Posted on Tuesday 15th July 2014
The study of language finds its place at Birmingham
By George Makris
The latest Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies Postgraduate Colloquium was held at the European Research Institute, University of Birmingham on 24 May.
This was the 15 th anniversary of the symposium, originally founded as the first and only meeting in the UK dedicated to Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies simultaneously. This year we were generously supported by the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies (London) and Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, the journal published by the Centre.
The theme of the colloquium was ‘Language as Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean (330-2013),’ and this broad topic brought postgraduate students together to discuss the significance of language in the eastern Mediterranean from Late Antiquity to the Modern Age.
Beginning with the observation that all studies are routinely possessed by language, the focus of our investigation was the role of culture in linguistic meaning, language use, and conversely, the role of linguistic form and culture in social action and in cultural practices.
The colloquium attracted 68 participants, of which 30 were speakers from various institutions across the globe such as the universities of Padua, Hamburg, Leipzig, the Central European University, Budapest, and Chicago, Harvard, Oxford, London and Birmingham.
Professor Michael Whitby, Head of the College of Arts and Law at Birmingham, opened the conference by highlighting the diversity and growth of research at the Centre.
Dr Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library at Athens, delivered the keynote lecture of the day entitled ‘Diglossia (Bilingualism) as a Cultural Paradigm,’ which focused on the complexities and inescapable reality of the multiple linguistic identities of peoples living in the pre-print era.
There then followed papers presented by research students. The staff of the Centre and the School of History and Cultures commented on the consistently high standard and exemplary diversity of the papers.
Characteristically, Dr Rhoads Murphey, Reader in Ottoman Studies, concluded by saying: ‘our students are to be congratulated for the timeliness and the aptness of the message they have collectively delivered: there is no history without language and can be no meaningful study of history without the insights and inspiration that language and texts can provide.’