Martyrdom: Canonisation, Contestation and Afterlives

5 do
5 maart 2020

In collaboration with Amsterdam University Press and the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture


The phenomenon of martyrdom is more than 2000 years old but, as contemporary events show, still very much alive. During the launch of ‘Martyrdom’ we examine the canonization, contestation and afterlives of martyrdom and connect these with cross-cultural acts and practices of remembrance.

Martyrdom appeals to the imagination of many because it is a highly ambiguous spectacle with thrilling deadly consequences. Imagination is thus a vital catalyst for martyrdom, for martyrs become martyrs only because others remember and honor them as such. This memorialization occurs through rituals and documents that incorporate and re-interpret traditions deriving from canonical texts. By adopting an interdisciplinary orientation and a cross-cultural approach, the new book Martyrdom goes beyond both the insider admiration of martyrs and the partisan rejection of martyrdoms and concisely synthesizes key interpretive questions and themes that broach the canonized, unstable and contested representations of martyrdom as well as their analytical connections, divergences and afterlives in the present. We reflect on these ideas via poetry and a panel discussion with various experts.

About the speakers

Friederike Pannewick is Professor for Arabic Literature and Culture at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS), an co-director of the research field ‘Travelling Traditions: Comparative Perspectives on Near Eastern Literatures’ within the frame of the research program Europe in the Middle East; the Middle East in Europe (EUME) at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. She is co-editor of the series Literatures in Context: Arabic – Persian – Turkish (Reichert Verlag/Wiesbaden), and has published extensively on modern Arabic literature and theatre. She is editor of Martyrdom and Literature: Visions of Death and Meaningful Suffering in Europe and the Middle East from Antiquity to Modernity (2004).

Lucien van Liere is Director of Studies and Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Utrecht University. His research focuses on the analysis of the role of religion in contexts of violent conflict. He combines philosophical perspectives with insights from social sciences and psychology. Van Liere published on conflicts in Indonesia, on the transition of political tensions into religious language, and on the specific place of religion –  more particularly – Islam in so-called secular societies.

Nafiss Nia is an Iranian-Dutch poet, film maker, translator and cultural entrepreneur. In 2004 she published her first collection of poems Esfanan, mijn hoopstee, after which followed De momenten wachten ons voorbij (2012) and 26 woorden voor schoonheid (2019). In her first feature film Dance Iranian Style we follow an asylum seeker who tries to find his way on the streets of Amsterdam. Nia is director of Stichting Granate in Amsterdam and curates festivals like Granate Festival, the project Poëzie op de stoep and the poetry campaign Dichterbijtje.

Mounir Samuel is an Egyptian-Dutch political scientist, author of ten books of which his latest is God is groot: eten, bidden en beminnen met moslims, and awarded journalist for De Groene Amsterdammer. In 2019 he created his first solo theater show En toen schiep God Mounir, a contemporary origin story. In his work and public life, God and meaning hold a special place.

Jan Willem van Henten is Professor of Religion (in particular Ancient Judaism and Ancient Christianity) at the University of Amsterdam. He is also extra-ordinary Professor of Old and New Testament at Stellenbosch University (South-Africa). His research projects concern Jewish and Christian Martyrdom, the Maccabean Books, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, and research into the reception of the Bible in popular culture.

Ihab Saloul is Founder and Research Co-Director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) at the University of Amsterdam, and Professor of Memory Studies and Narrative at Bologna University. He is the author of Catastrophe and Exile in the Modern Palestinian Imagination (2012), an editor of two book series: Heritage and Memory Studies (AUP), and the Palgrave Studies of Cultural Heritage and Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan), and editor-in-chief of the international peer review open Access Journal Heritage, Memory and Conflict (AUP).

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