Call for papers: “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

Organisers: Agnès Garcia-Ventura (“Sapienza”, Università degli Studi di Roma / IPOA, Universitat de Barcelona) & Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki)

When and where: IPOA, Universitat de Barcelona (Spain), February 1-3 2017.


After the workshop held in Helsinki in October 20141, the organisers are now pleased to announce the “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology, and the Ancient Near East”. The aim of the meeting is to discuss different methodological and theoretical approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and to enable fruitful dialogues between these approaches.

If you are interested in delivering a paper relating to the aims of the workshop, please send us the title and the abstract (150-300 words) by September 30th: Agnès Garcia-Ventura (agnes.ventura[AT] and Saana Svärd (saana.svard[AT] Decisions about acceptance will be made before October 15th.

Hierarchy and Equality – Representations of Sex/Gender in the Ancient World

Time and place:
Sep 11, 2016 – Sep 13, 2016, The Norwegian Institute at Athens, Greece

The Norwegian Institute in Athens, in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo, would like to announce the call for papers for the interdisiplinary conference «Hierarchy and Equality – Representations of Sex/Gender in the Ancient World». We invite scholars with a material and/or theoretical interest in sex/gender, or in social structures based on gender distinctions. We hope to explore more broadly what was “before sex”, i.e. the modern reproduction-based two-sex model (Laqueur), and seek possibly even more fruitful ways to approach sex/gender in the ancient world. We encourage contributors to approach a variety of records and explore hypotheses outside of the established scholarly consensus on ancient understandings of sex/gender. We also encourage papers that reflect on the extent to which modern notions of sex/gender affect our reading of the past.
Continue reading Hierarchy and Equality – Representations of Sex/Gender in the Ancient World

Masculinities and the Ancient Near East

Masculinities studies is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to analyse how being or becoming a man was constructed, performed and represented in specific social contexts, both modern as well as ancient. Although it is far easier to study masculinities in modern periods –due, no less, to the fact that we have not only manuals detailing how to perform gender in accordance with societal norms, but also to the fact that we can interview people about what it means to them to be or become masculine-we cannot have this type of access to ancient man. Nevertheless, in the absence of direct documentation or manuals that describe how society expected men to behave, we have to turn to other sources, like the Bible and the annalistic inscriptions and palace relief programmes of Mesopotamian kings, to study how masculinities were constructed in ancient history.

In this talk, I will first be discussing what we mean by the social construction of masculinities, and then look at individual case studies based on our ancient source material to show that masculinity has never only been an essential, monolithic and stable substance conferred by nature through male hormones, but rather the continuous process of gender configuration and reconfiguration that not only makes masculinity differ across time and space, but an aspect of identity that may change even thorough the course of a man’s (or, indeed, a woman’s) lifetime. Continue reading Masculinities and the Ancient Near East

Let your penis consume my crotch: thoughts on female sexual desire in ancient Mesopotamia

womenPenetrated_©BritishMuseum2015In a time1 and place where sexual matters figure in the agenda of both public institutions and private individuals, it may be interesting to turn our attention to ancient societies and ask ourselves: what can we know about sexual practices, attraction and desire in antiquity? How did gender relations manifest in sexual terrains? Or more specifically, how was women’s sexual desire perceived and understood in the various societies of the ancient world?

Ancient Mesopotamia has provided us with a disparity of sources dealing mainly or tangentially with sexual matters, from mythical-religious compositions depicting carnal congress between deities to legal provisions regulating rape and unfaithfulness. But it is a particular kind of source, the so-called ŠÀ.ZI.GA or “potency texts” – especially when read side by side with other cuneiform texts- that offer revealing glimpses on the techniques and mechanisms women could employ to accomplish their personal wishes and sexual appetites. Continue reading Let your penis consume my crotch: thoughts on female sexual desire in ancient Mesopotamia

About history and organization of the blog

Helsinki_27oct14_group photoIn October 2014 Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki) and Agnès Garcia-Ventura (Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”) organized the workshop “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”, hosted by the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions”, University of Helsinki. Emails from that time reveal that the aim was: “to discuss different methodological approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and enable a fruitful dialogue between these approaches”.

Luckily, the expected “fruitful dialogue” did take place! As a result, during the final panel, devoted to discussion and concluding remarks, many of the participants expressed their wish to keep in touch. Some proposed using social networks to achieve this goal. Eventually, one of the participants, Vanessa Juloux, was brave enough to propose a collaborative plattform developed by her. As the leader of the project, V. Juloux is now working to make the wish of the participants of the workshop to come true. Furthermore, she is adding the possibility to enlarge the community, to form a larger research and study community around this collaborative platform. Continue reading About history and organization of the blog

Svärd: Women and Power in Neo-Assyrian Palaces

The volumSAAS23e has two main aims. First, it presents the available textual evidence relating to women in the palaces of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 930-610 BCE).  Second, it evaluates the power relationships that these women were engaged in.

Power in general and women’s power in particular has been understood mostly in a hierarchical way in earlier research on Mesopotamian women. Hierarchical power structures were important in Mesopotamia, but other kinds of power structures existed as well. In addition to discussing hierarchical power relationships, this study  draws attention to heterarchical power relations in which women were engaged in Neo-Assyrian palace milieu.

Heterarchical power relations include power relations such as reciprocal power, resistance and persuasion. Although earlier research has certainly been aware of women’s influence in the palaces, this study makes explicit the power concepts employed in previous research and further develops them using the concept of heterarchy. Continue reading Svärd: Women and Power in Neo-Assyrian Palaces

For Scholars Studying Gender and/or Agency from Ancient Near Eastern and Late Antiquity Civilizations