The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts

By Richard Corradini; Max Diesenberger et al. | Go to book overview

THE CONSTRUCTION OF COMMUNITIES AND THE
PERSISTENCE OF PARADOX: AN INTRODUCTION

Walter Pohl

In a sense, we can regard the new kingdoms and peoples of the west in the course of the “transformation of the Roman world” as communities under construction, and the title of the book underlines this aspect: perhaps a proper perspective for the third in a series of volumes that have emerged directly from the work of theme group 1 of the TRW project.1 But the aspect of 'construction' also represents a variety of theoretical implications, rarely made explicit in debates among historians. Some of them go back to the ground-breaking study on the sociology of knowledge published in 1966 by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann under the programmatic title “The Social Construction of Reality”.2 A similar approach to study the impact of (scientific) language on the perception of the world was developed by 'constructivist' philosophers.3 More radical were the attempts by

1 The European Science Foundation project “The Transformation of the Roman
World” made a series of international workshops possible, among them about a
dozen encounters of the theme group on “Imperium, gentes et regna”. The two
previous volumes from this group were: Kingdoms of the Empire. The Integration of
Barbarians in Late Antiquity,
ed. W. Pohl, The Transformation of the Roman World
1 (Leiden, New York and Köln 1997); Strategies of Distinction. The Construction of Ethnic
Communities, 300–800,
ed. W. Pohl and H. Reimitz, The Transformation of the
Roman World 2 (Leiden, New York and Köln 1998). A further volume is in print:
Gentes, Kings and Kingdoms, ed. H.-W. Goetz, J. Jarnut and W. Pohl, The Transformation
of the Roman World (Leiden, Boston, forthcoming). Group 1 also contributed con-
siderably to the volume The Transformation of Frontiers. From Late Antiquity to the
Carolingians,
ed. W. Pohl, I.N. Wood and H. Reimitz, The Transformation of the
Roman World 10 (Leiden and Boston 2000).

2 P.L. Berger and T. Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (New York 1966).
For a critical discussion: N. Luhmann, Gesellschaflsstruktur und Semantik. Studien zur
Wissenssoziologie der modernen Gesellschafl
4 (Frankfurt am Main 1995) pp. 16 If.

3 Cf, for instance, the 'Konstruktivismus' of the 'Erlangen School' in Germany,
mainly interested in the relationship between scientific language and practical life:
W. Kamlah and P. Lorenzen, Logische Propädeutik. Vorschule des vernürftigen Redens (Mann-
heim 1967). Implications for historical research: P. Hoyningen-Huene, “Bemerkungen
zum Konstruktivismus in der Geschichtswissenschaft”, Österreichische Zeitschrift für
Geschichtswissenschaft
8/2 (1997) pp. 282–289; see also O.G. Oexle, “Deutungsschemata
der sozialen Wirklichkeit im frühen und hohen Mttelalter, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte
des Wissens”, Mentalitäten im Mittelalter: Methodische und inhaltliche Probleme, ed. F. Graus,
Vortrage und Forschungen 35 (Sigmaringen 1987) pp. 65–117.

-1-

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