by Oliver Freiberger (KHK fellow) to the panelists of panel Faking Asceticism: East and West
Panel Chairs: Almut Barbara Renger, Tudor Sala
The ancient world was a culture of suspicion. The individual, whether stranger, neighbor, or kin, was under constant scrutiny in a face-to-face society in which rivalry, competition, and misgivings nagged at the surface of the self. The circumstance of being world-renouncers would not have placed ascetics in the blind spot of public mistrust. The performative, elitist, and counter-cultural aspects of ancient asceticism actually exposed it to a heightened scrutiny from outsiders, critics, and rivals alike. The papers of the panel thematize practices and polemics that constructed ‘ascetic deceit’ in Mediterranean and Asian cultures, with a special focus on the processes of institutionalization, innovation, and change that initiated or framed the various normative dichotomies of ‘genuine’ versus ‘fake’.