This year’s ‘Passages from Antiquity to the Middle Ages’ conference was held at the University of Tampere on August 6–8. It was already the sixth one with the same idea; that is, connecting the historians, art historians, archaeologists, and philologists of Antiquity and the Middle Ages to present and discuss their research and the longue durée of pre-modern western societies. When the first ‘Passages’-conference was organized in January 2003, over twelve years ago, nobody actually expected it to become a conference series. But, fortunately, it quickly became quite popular and still remains so – the organisers were happy to point out that some people who participated the first ‘Passages’ conference also attended the sixth one! Perhaps that is one type of an indication of the need of the longue durée perspective, as well as of the spirit of the conferences.
The first conference, concentrating on Family, Marriage and Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, was the starting point of a three years research project funded by the Academy of Finland. Since then, the conference series has focused on friendship, religious participation, death and dying, and infirmity. Many of the conferences have also resulted in published proceedings of the papers presented (see the series website for more information. All these conferences have a tight link with the research at the University of Tampere, where the study of pre-modern social history, especially everyday life, lifespan, gender, lived religion, and social history of medicine are well established topics within the discipline of history.
The theme of the latest ‘Passages’ conference was ‘On the Road. Travels, Pilgrimages and Social Interaction’. During the three days the conference lasted, thirty-five speakers from twelve countries presented their research with varying topics. Keynote presentations were given by Ray Laurence (University of Kent), Cecilia Gaposchkin (Dartmouth College), and Klaus Herbers (University of Erlangen). Among the most visible themes during the conference were religious and liminal travels, imaginary travelling, the travels of different social groups (such as children and various professionals), and the ways how travelling was organised and how it shaped the social and geographical landscape. The vastly varying motivations for travel were perhaps the most visible theme of the whole weekend, showing how a profound theme travelling and mobility – or the lack of it – is for all human societies. As concluded in the ending discussion, there is of course much more to do on the topic. Important issues to address in the future are, for example, questions related to those not travelling, the restrictions to mobility, and other problems of travelling. Nevertheless, the conference presented a many-sided approach to the topic, showing its vast potential for the study of different kinds of aspects of pre-modern cultures.
Visiting Museum Centre Vapriikki. Photos: Katariina Mustakallio
The conference naturally included also a vivid social programme. Professor Pertti Haapala gave his traditional guided city walk around the centre of Tampere, and the guests and organisers visited the Plevna restaurant at Finlayson area, which has been a popular place for informal gatherings also during the earlier gatherings. On Friday there was a reception hosted by the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the conference ended with a conference dinner and before it a visit to the pilgrimage exhibition at Museum Centre Vapriikki. There we had the privilege of a guided tour given by Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola, a curator of the museum and the person behind the exhibition. The evenings with their lively discussions have always been one of the best parts of the ‘Passages’ conferences. To be able to meet scholars from all around the world willing to participate in creating a warm atmosphere and lively exchange of ideas is one of the biggest privileges of the whole organising committee. Thank you everyone involved – and perhaps we meet again in Tampere in three years time!