Toni Alimi, a graduate student in the Department of Religion, received funding from the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity to travel to the U.K. to attend the Oxford Patristics Conference in August 2019.
Below, Alimi shares more about his experiences abroad and how they contributed to his dissertation research:
The Oxford Patristics Conference includes one of the most significant gatherings of English-speaking scholars on Lactantius, an understudied third-/fourth-century African convert to Christianity. Lactantius figures significantly in my dissertation, “Slaves of God,” which explicates Augustine's account of slavery and uses this account to interpret his conceptions of citizenship, law and religion. Thus, it situates Augustine in a tradition of Roman philosophizing about slavery as a political, ethical, and religious concept.
My dissertation further argues that Augustine’s conceptions of religion and true religion can help us coordinate his commitments on slavery, law, and citizenship. Thus, the project has implications for the history of ethical and political thought and in the history of religions. It also helps us better understands Augustine’s legacy with respect to the history of slavery, his place in the republican political tradition, and his role in the development of early Christian understandings of religion.
The opportunity to learn from and converse with the scholars who attended the Patristics Conference was invaluable for my work. Furthermore, I was able to travel to Cambridge and meet with Dr. Peter Garnsey, who has done significant work on Lactantius and ancient slavery. Not only were our conversations illuminating with respect to my current project, but he was also able to suggest avenues for future work that I look forward to pursuing.