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CALL. 03.06.2018: The Persian Empire, the Social Sciences, and Ancient Historiography: An Explorator




LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Helsinki (Helsinki, Finland)


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Studying the first Persian Empire (550 – 330 BCE) is both frustratingly immense and too restrictive, with extant evidence often not directly answering the questions we wish to ask of it. For social and cultural dynamics, very careful methodology is necessary to tease out more sophisticated understandings. However, it is no longer sufficient merely to mine existing theory that appears to be adaptable; rather, ancient historians need better integration in the broader social scientific discourse. Therefore, the purpose of this workshop is twofold: 1) for ancient historians to engage with cutting edge social scientific work and find new, potentially fruitful angles; 2) to explore ways of contributing to the development of social scientific theory through the ancient evidence. We call for paper proposals for the workshop under the headings of sociology, economics, and political science, each with a day focused on two general themes. For the sociology session we invite papers exploring social networks and social authority. Social Network analysis has already proved fruitful for the Satrapy of Babylonia. What other ways can networks help us understand social dynamics within the empire? How do networks relate to ideas of “authority,” and what does “authority” mean in the Persian Empire, on a social level? For the economics session we invite papers on taxation and forced labor and forced migration. A major source of data comes in the forms of tax documentation, yet a large portion of this taxation took the form of labor obligations. How can we better understand the economic implications of this? Does this affect our analysis of coinage and bullion exchange? For the political science session we invite papers exploring imperial administration and elite identity. A significant number of the elites and scribes within the empire functioned within the administration on some level. How can we understand processes of local-imperial negotiation and identity, and the processes of administrative functioning? How does this inform our readings of scribal productions not directly for the empire? Each day of the workshop will begin with a keynote lecture with discussion, followed by workshop of pre-circulated papers on the day’s themes, followed by a response and wider thematic discussion. It is our sincere hope that this format will enable as much evidence-based discussion of the theoretical issues as possible, as well as lay some groundwork for future collaboration between historians and social scientists. The target audience is historians of the Persian Empire as well as scholars who work on texts likely from that time frame, but the event is open to all interested historians who can find links in their work to the Persian Empire and the themes discussed in this workshop. The goal is to develop more novel avenues into discussing the social dynamics of this empire, and thus will be relevant for other Near Eastern empires (including the Roman east). Abstracts for 20-30 minute summarized papers should be submitted by 3 June 2018. Please indicate in the abstract the field heading (sociology, economics, or political science) and theme or themes. Abstracts should be submitted in pdf to Abstracts from PhD candidates as well as senior scholars, and both historians and social scientists are warmly welcomed. Since the purpose of the workshop is exploratory and methodological, it is not envisioned that this event will result in an edited volume. Follow-up workshops and conferences, however, may produce edited volumes. Accepted proposals will need to submit a draft paper for circulation to workshop participants before 15 December 2018. All participants will be strongly encouraged to read the other draft papers before the workshop begins on 11 January 2019.

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