As a Junior Fellow, I hope to make significant progress on my dissertation and more fully develop my research agenda among other like-minded but differently positioned scholars. To my mind, the critical categories and methods that we use as scholars are only useful insofar as they are tested and refined within a comparative and collaborative context. The Marty Center provides an enriching space in which such collaboration can take place, and I am excited and honored to pursue my research alongside fellow Marty scholars in the year to come.
My dissertation examines the emergence and development of “magic” as part of a larger discourse of religious deviance among Roman elites in the late Republic and early Principate periods of the Roman Empire. In particular, I investigate the articulation of “magic” as a precondition for Romans’ increased and intensified attempts to control and repress certain religious practices and groups within what has traditionally been understood as a polytheistic and plural (tolerant?) religious system—a trend that emerged as a result of the pressures of empire and came to mark later imperial policy. In drafting my first two chapters, I have focused on the concept of “magic” as developed by Roman intellectuals. I am hoping in the coming year to complete chapters that investigate such ideas of “magic” alongside other marginalizing concepts (e.g., superstition) and examine other related contexts which might have contributed to a strong notion of “magic” or in which “magic” played a role in fostering a larger discourse on religious deviance (e.g. legal accusation, ethnographic discourse).