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Ordinary People, Everyday Lives: Exploring the Mundane in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Anne Lester, Johns Hopkins University

Sat, 10/26 · Louis A. Simpson Building, Room A71

2024 Medieval Studies Graduate Conference

Keynote Lecture by Anne Lester, Johns Hopkins University: “Ordinary Things: People and Their Possessions in Conversations with the Medieval State”

Our perception of the pre-modern world is often shaped by the creative expressions of its contemporaries, such as literary works, decorative art, and imposing architecture designed to captivate attention. The practices and processes of everyday life, which have left less noticeable traces, can be harder to access, even though it is these ordinary and mundane acts that can profoundly increase our understanding of life before modernity. Building on Bourdieu’s thesis that habitus informs practical action and Wittgenstein’s emphasis on the need to ground human experience in everyday language, this graduate conference asks how our understanding of pre-modern societies and cultures changes if we remain faithful to what sources tell us of practices “on the ground.” As such, this conference focuses on the lived lives of ordinary people—among others, laborers, artisans, and lower clergy. We’ll explore themes of liminality and intersectionality, practicality and processes, customs and traditions, and more as they relate to the quotidian in the late antique and medieval world. How did the individual perceive and navigate the world around them? What is the nitty-gritty of everyday pre-modern life, and how do we know?

More details to come. 

For questions, contact conference organizers Alice Morandy (amorandy@princeton.edu) or Lucia Waldschuetz (lucia.waldschuetz@princeton.edu).

This conference is sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies, the Center for Collaborative History, the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity, the Program in the Ancient World, and the Departments of Art & Archaeology and Religion.

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