CFP: Inter-Faith Interactions: Mortuary Practices in the Ottoman Period in Central Europe, Balkans and Greece

The session “Inter-Faith Interactions: Mortuary Practices in the Ottoman Period in Central Europe, the Balkans and Greece” at the EAA Annual Meeting in Zadar, Croatia, 18-22 September 2007, is looking for contributions. Please contact the session organizers John Chapman ( and Bisserka Gaydarska (, if you wish to participate.

One of the defining characteristics of the AD 2nd millennium in Central and South East Europe is the co-existence of two major religions – Christianity and Islam – for several centuries. One of the ways in which we can approach these faiths is by considering their relations with both global power structures and local identities. To the extent that centralised decisions about wider religious practices were made in Constantinople or Rome, the local religious habitus (the normal way of life on a daily basis) was affected, by insisting on some practices or forbidding others. To the extent that these faiths contributed to the identities of the local populations and influenced their social practices, the belief structures of the two major religions – including their various sub-groups and syncretic combinations – had a powerful effect on the daily lives and mortuary practices of communities in these regions.

An investigation of mortuary practices in Bulgaria in the historic period has shown that a specific kind of megalithic grave marker, consisting of undressed standing stones, was used as an inter-faith marker in both Christian (Orthodox) and Muslim cemeteries, possibly for several hundred years. In this session, we propose an investigation of mortuary practices current in both major faiths over the period AD 1200 – 2000. The research questions arising from the Bulgarian study are fourfold:-

(1) Are mortuary practices in Christian and Muslim cemeteries quite distinctive, is there a strong overlap in burial practices or does this vary over time?
(2) Are there attachments to specific orientations (e.g., facing Mecca) in Muslim cemeteries any more than in Christian cemeteries?
(3) Are there any indications of how / why mortuary practices are shared between faiths which are apparently in such opposition to each other?
(4) Are there any regional instances outside Eastern Bulgaria of the use of undressed standing stones in cemeteries, whether Christian or Muslim?

This session seeks to present an innovative examination of an inter-faith issue that has the potential to transcend the divide between disciplines such as archaeology, history, ethnography, religious studies and sociology, bringing together communities of schools who may not otherwise engage in constructive dialogue.

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