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Research Profiles of the Principal Investigators of the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies

The members of the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies represent a unique set of disciplines specializing in non-European premodern societies. They have worked with a wide range of societies. Their array of expertise on individual and group dependencies in premodern societies is mirrored in their individual research areas.

Christoph AntweilerProf. Dr. Christoph Antweiler (Cultural Anthropology)
Christoph Antweiler focuses on dependent economic and personal relations pertaining to work in Southeast Asia. Work relations, for example in Indonesia, tend to be subdivided into several steps involving several people between the customer and the contractor. If a person wants to build a house, they hire one individual as a contractor who then organizes the building team and large parts of building planning and implementation. The people employed in this way are often relatives, dependants or individuals who owe the contractor from previous dependent situations. This creates a chain of patron-client relations that often involve semi-free work bonds.
Martin AustProf. Dr. Martin Aust (Eastern European History)
At the University of Bonn, Martin Aust has continued his work on early modern Russia. The Department of Eastern European and Russian History of the University of Bonn is currently working to set up a European forum on Premodern Russian History. Research topics include politics, society and religion in premodern Russia, varieties of dependency in the premodern Russian empire and comparative perspectives. Looking at politics and society, it is a remarkable fact that not only peasants were enslaved in premodern Russia. Russian nobles used to call themselves slaves of the Tsar in their correspondence with the ruler. Thus, premodern society in Russia displays multiple layers of dependency. It is still an open question as to how this multi-layered dependency played out in various regions of the expanding empire from the sixteenth into the eighteenth centuries.
Matthias BecherProf. Dr. Matthias Becher (Medieval History)
Matthias Becher focuses on the problem of loyalty in the Carolingian Empire (750–900). For the first time in European history, Charlemagne made use of the oath as an instrument of government. The objective of the oath was to create a strong personal bond between subjects and ruler. In this way a relationship of obligation was formed in order to reduce the agency of people in lower social groups. Unfree persons were also obliged to take the oath, but for them it meant an improvement of their social status. This was a crucial element in the emergence of high and late medieval chivalry.
Dennis M BeckDr. Dennis Mario Beck (Classical Archaeology)
Dennis Mario Beck studies different forms of dependency in the archaeological data and literary sources in the Punic, Greek and Roman world in the entire Antiquity. His research mainly deals with the ancient economy and network systems, based on several forms of personal and institutional dependencies, in extracting, dealing and trading of resources, in particular stones. Research into the exploitation and operation of ancient quarries, e.g. the marble quarries in Simitthus/Chimtou (Tunisia) and Luni (Italy), taking into account various socially hierarchically structured networks of different social groups regarding their collaboration and interaction. The different actors in economic processes working together in networks of exploitation, trade, and completion as well as the methodological framework for investigating these actors, for example by showing production chains, are two of his current research topics. 
Jan BemmannProf. Dr. Jan H. Bemmann (Prehistory and Early Historical Archaeology)
As a specialist in the archaeology of the Mongol Empire (1206–1368), Jan Bemmann focuses on the analysis of multi-faceted dependencies in this quickly-expanding and enormous state. The political and economic success of the Mongol World Empire depends to a high degree on the exploitation and deportation of specialists out of conquered regions into Inner Asia. Advisors, literati, bureaucrats, artists, astronomers and the like are gathered at the court(s); artisans, architects and farmers specialized in irrigation are settled in newly-founded cities, builders of military engines, engineers and units of defeated armies are integrated into one of the most successful armies in the Old World. Bemman compares the strategy of moving people and knowledge in the Mongol Empire with similar practices in earlier Inner Asian steppe empires.
Martin BentzProf. Dr. Martin Bentz (Classical Archaeology)
Martin Bentz studies different forms of dependency in the Greek and pre-Roman world of the first millenium BC, beginning with the material evidence – archaeological data and ancient images – and contextualizing them with literary sources. He devotes particular attention to the different actors in economic processes: slaves, metics (foreigners with limited rights) and free citizens, all collaborating in different and changing types of relationships and working als slaves, day laborers, tenants or independent entrepreneurs.
Ulrich BergesProf. Dr. Ulrich Berges (Old Testament)
Ulrich Berges focuses on the biblical and especially Old Testament roots of dependency and movements against oppression. What biblical texts were used for the legitimization and for the delegitimazation of dependency? What happens when these texts were used in the same context by oppressors and oppressed? It is highly probably that different images of God were instrumentalised by the various sides in these antithetical strategies.

Bela BodoProf. Dr. Béla Bodó (Eastern European History)

Béla Bodó's current research revolves around the issue of the dependency of Jews on the state and the political and social elites in Hungary and East-Central Europe after 1848 to achieve full emancipation and defeat antisemitism. His publications have dealt with the following topics (among others):
The cooperation between the Jewish social and cultural elite and the Hungarian nobility and the Austro-Hungarian state to liberate the Jews after 1848.
The successes and failures of Jewish emancipation after 1867 and the changing perceptions and roles of the aristocracy and the gentry in the emancipation process after the Tiszaeszlár Blood Libel Trial of 1883. 

Elke BrueggenProf. Dr. Elke Brüggen (German Medieval Studies)
As a specialist in the language, literature and culture of the German Middle Ages, Elke Brüggen focuses on literary constellations concerning opportunities to exert political influence and power. She devotes particular attention to literary negotiations of giving counsel, an instrument which is central to the concept and practice of rule and social order. She examines counsel given to rulers by dependent individuals from their entourage. Elke Brüggen focuses in particular on the underresearched area of the relationships between female rulers and their confidant(e)s, as well as to the particularly interesting character of the female adviser. Within the configuration of female ruler and female adviser, Brüggen seeks to reveal the relationship between dependency and agency. She is also engaged in exploring narrated forms of dependency that include existential threats, depicted within constellations that display emotional proximity of various origins as well as social distance and hierarchy.
Stephan ConermannProf. Dr. Stephan Conermann (Islamic Studies)
Stephan Conermann compares different forms of slavery in premodern societies. His point of departure is the plurality of forms of dependency in the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria (1250–1517), where a predominantly Arabic population was dominated by a Turkish speaking elite of manumitted military slaves who sought to regenerate themselves continuously through a self-imposed fiat of import and training of young slaves. The only person who could become a Mamluk was a Turk (or, less frequently, a member of another ethnic group) who had been born free outside the Islamic territories as a non-Muslim, then enslaved, brought to Egypt as a slave, converted to Islam, trained as a warrior and finally freed and enrolled in the Sultan's armies.
Thomas Duve works on the legal history of the imperial spaces of the Iberian monarchies in the early modern period and modernity. He is interested particularly in the history of canon law and moral theology, especially that of the School of Salamanca, and in the history of knowledge creation in the field of law and other modes of normativity. Further fields of Duve's interest include the history and methodology of legal history. As the director of Department II at the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Thomas Duve is responsible for the Institute's cooperation project "Law and the Creation of Dependency in the Ibero-Atlantic" led by Mariana Dias Paes.
Sabine Feist focuses on the formative role of the Christian veneration of saints in late antique and early medieval societies. Particular attention is given to relics and their distribution and to the question how the availability of different relics determined not only their value, but also the circle of those who could come into their possession, who could establish sacral networks and who could buy sacral alliances.
Nikolai GrubeProf. Dr. Dr. h.c. Nikolai Grube (Archaeology and Anthropology of the Americas)
Nikolai Grube focuses on the structures of Mesoamerican societies, studying pre-Columbian Maya societies in particular. The strongly stratified pre-Hispanic societies of Mesoamerica were characterized by asymmetrical dependencies between different social groups. The power and wealth of the aristocracy were based on the control of land ownership, labor and tribute throughout Mesoamerica.

Maroin GymnichProf. Dr. Marion Gymnich (English Literature and Culture)
In her research project on representations of domestic service, Marion Gymnich explores changes and continuities in a wide range of literary and non-fictional depictions and negotiations of asymmetrical dependencies that shaped the lives of domestic servants in Britain from the Restoration period to the end of the nineteenth century. The juxtaposition of fictional representations of domestic service that were targeted at a middle-class and/or upper-class readership (in plays, poems and novels), "lowbrow" texts (such as street ballads) and non-fictional texts (e.g., diaries, letters, advertisements, and testimonies by employers and servants), promises to shed new light on social stereotypes and recurring narratives that informed dominant discourses on relations between employers and (domestic) servants. More often than not, the stereotypes and narratives (with their implicit assumptions about ‘normal’ life trajectories) sought to legitimize and perpetuate patterns of asymmetrical dependency, although traces of resistance and subversive (literary) performances can also be found. Gender, age, social mobility, changing notions of "family", "home" and human development as well as numerous literary strategies of voicing and silencing are among the key concepts drawn upon in this project.
Julia HegewaldProf. Dr. Julia A. B. Hegewald (Art History of South Asia)
Julia Hegewald focuses on artistic and architectural expressions of different forms of dependency in Asian, particularly South Asian, art and architecture. She employs the theory of "re-use" to show how different people reacted in a variety of situations of extreme dependency (frequently in very creative ways) to integrate the old and the new, to bridge divides and eventually to contribute to cultural processes able to heal and mediate between sometimes wide and violent disparities of cultural expression.
Adrian HermannProf. Dr. Adrian Hermann (Religion and Society)

As explored by F. Declich and M. Rodet in their recent article "African Slavery in Documentary Films" (2020), the historical investigation of transatlantic slavery through the medium of documentary film has become an important aspect of slavery studies over the last decade. But even more generally, one could say that throughout its history the documentary film has been an important medium of the exploration and documentation of relations of asymmetric dependency. An engagement with this history and with contemporary films that continue this legacy promises important contributions to our research perspectives at the BCDSS.

Documentary films are valuable as a tool of public history, but they can also serve to convey embodied knowledge and sensory experience and thus help us investigate, as ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall has stressed, the "social aesthetics" of particular circumstances. They enable a sensory ethnography beyond the text that explores social relations in light of aisthetic hierarchies and somatic experiences. The film A Woman Captured (Egy nő fogságban, Hungary 2017), for example, tells the story of Marish, a woman who for ten years has worked in a Hungarian family in what the filmmaker describes as "modern day slavery". It paints a haunting portrait of the scars that a decade lived in dependency inscribes on a person’s body and face. I hope that in the next couple of years I can investigate documentary film as a valuable research instrument for dependency studies. In addition, the BCDSS could explore this aspect by screening and discussing particularly relevant films among scholars and with the wider public. 

Christian HornungProf. Dr. Christian Hornung (Catholic Chruch History)

Christian Hornung focuses on dependency and dependencies in the History of Ancient Christianity. His interests are:
The general legitimation and authorization of dependency in ancient society in the view of ecclesiastical writers, especially since the fourth century.
The ancient church itself as an example of institutional dependencies between different groups (clerics and laypersons; clerics and penitents; clerics and catechumen). Despite many studies on church discipline and early canon law the history of the church was never analyzed by the focus of "dependencies": How is the process of ecclesiastical hierarchization and differentiation reflected and justified by the ancient church? Did the development of theology and of a hierarchical image of God influence the ecclesiastical thoughts and practices on this point?


Wolfram KinzigProf. Dr. Wolfram Kinzig (Church History)
Wolfram Kinzig focuses on agents, dependants and structures of dependency in the late antique and early medieval church in the Latin west (including North Africa). He focusses in particular on (1) authority and resistance among clergy; (2) doctrinal and (3) ethical norms and their implementation; (4) the church as social space; (5) the church, jurisdiction, and secular governance; (6) the church as economical agent. In these areas he devotes particular attention to the following agents and dependants: (1) bishops; (2) priests; (3) offices administering the church's economic resources such as deacons; (4) the role of women within the church hierarchy; (5) laypeople both as agents and dependants.
Hermut LöhrProf. Dr. Hermut Löhr (New Testament Studies)

Hermut Löhr's project seeks to investigate the relation between experiences, perceptions and imaginations of asymmetrical relationsships between two or more agents (individual or groups) and the description of the relationship between God and human beings in the sources of ancient Judaism and emerging Christianity. Names such as that of the "slave" or "servant of God", of the "son", and of the "children" of God, more generally of widespread family metaphors, or of (royal) anointed ones, some of the names of gods such as kyrios or despotês, or the structures of client-patron or power-powerlessness relationships are prominent examples of this.

Ludwig Morenz focuses on different forms of dependency in pharaonic history and its expression in archaeological and textual material. He studies the relationship between the Egyptian economic expeditions organized by the Pharaonic state and the local Canaanites on various levels. Contrary to earlier assumptions, it has become clear that the Canaanite Bedouins did not work only as "slaves or uneducated workers", but on a number of different levels of dependency and agency. It is possible to analyze continuity and change in these complex relationships over more than a millennium. Ludwig Morenz is also engaged in other fields of research, tackling questions of dependency within pharaonic society from economics to religion.
Karoline NoackProf. Dr. Karoline Noack (Archaeology and Anthropology of the Americas)
Karoline Noack focuses on the categories of social dependency of the Inca Empire: resettled persons (mitimaes), specialists (camayoc), dependent employees (yanaconas) and "selected women" (aqllakuna). These categories do not designate social groups and there are no clear dividing lines between them. The groups can however be distinguished from the Inca elite by their specific forms of dependency, as well as by the specialized or non-specialized services they rendered. They are also characterized by the manner of their community involvement. The Inca activated cultural/religious criteria of difference in their relations to the members of the various social categories. These criteria were determined by each group's region of origin. They were performed in state rituals, demarcating the different categories of people. The mitimaes are not well understood, so that it makes sense to study them in conjunction with the other categories. Noack works to develop an integrated method that takes into account archaeological, ethno-historical and ethnological sources and approaches.
Judith PfeifferProf. Dr. Judith Pfeiffer (Islamic Studies)
Judith Pfeiffer focuses on the Islamicate intellectual history of the late medieval and early modern periods, paying particular attention to historiography, social, intellectual and religious networks, as well as to the circulation of knowledge in the wake of the conversion of the formerly Buddhist Mongol rulers to Islam at the turn of the 14th century. This knowledge ushered in a long period of experimentation in the Nile-to-Oxus Region (the predominantly Muslim Middle East). It is during this period that we witness the establishment of informal intellectual networks and the institutionalization of more formal socio-religious networks ("Sufi monastic orders"), as well as the gradual integration of the learned classes into state apparatuses. Dependencies in this context are ubiquitous, and include student-teacher-relationships in the field of traditional learning, master and disciple relationships with the full range of rites of initiation in Sufism ["mysticism"] and relationships of patronage that are often explicitly discussed as unwanted in the primary sources.
Markus SaurProf. Dr. Markus Saur (Old Testament Studies)

Markus Saur focuses on forms of slavery and dependency expressed in the Hebrew Bible. Forms of slavery and dependency are expressed in the Hebrew Bible by several words, most of them deriving from the verb cābad ("to serve"). The noun cabdūt for "slavery" or "dependency" can be found three times in the Hebrew Bible: While Ezra 9:8–9 reflects upon the dependency of the Judeans in the Achaemenid Empire, the use of cabdūt in Nehemiah 9:17 refers to the slavery of Israel's ancestors in Egypt. Both texts refer to the history of Israel and Judah as to a history of dependency.

Jochen Sautermeister focuses on fundamental theological ethics, theological-ethical theory of the moral subject (especially about identity), bioethics (organ transplantation, ethical issues at the end of life, reproductive medicine, human genetics, and new technologies), relationship, personality and sexual ethics, moral psychology, and on resilience, mindfulness, spirituality.

Martin SchermaierProf. Dr. Martin Schermaier (Roman Law and Comparative Legal History)
Martin Schermaier focuses on the legal framework of unfree labor in late medieval theology and jurisprudence. The setting of medieval labor law combines the Roman law texts enshrined in the Corpus Iuris of Justinian on the one hand and feudal relations on the other. Whereas in antiquity unfree labor shaded into slavery with barely a distinction between teh two states, medieval jurisprudence highlighted the contractual nature of dependent labor. Which impact did this have on the conception of labor itself? Additionally, late medieval theology, influenced by new concepts of property and contractual relations, caused a reappraisal of labor. Did this have an influence on the legal valuation of dependent work? In his research, Martin Schermaier uncovers the ideological and legal foundations of later discussions (in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) on freedom and slavery and the role of unfree labor.
Winfried SchmitzProf. Dr. Winfried Schmitz (Ancient History)
Winfried Schmitz focuses on many aspects of ancient slavery, especially in the Greek archaic and classical periods (between the eighth and the fourth centuries BC). During this time, slaves worked in ancient agriculture, crafts and commerce, as well as in mining (where living conditions were very difficult and many slaves died). Better conditions existed for slaves in crafts and commerce, where they operated in relative autonomy, paying their masters a daily charge. These slaves had a better chance to achieve freedom than slaves in households, agriculture and mining. Schmitz's additional areas of research include special forms of ancient slavery such as Spartan helotage, the klarotai in ancient Crete and the penestai in Thessaly.
Christian SchwermannProf. Dr. Christian Schwermann (Language and Literature of China)
Christian Schwermann focuses on the historical semantics of dependency in Early China (circa 1200 to 200 B.C.E.), paying particular attention to its economic aspects. Whereas previous research described ancient Chinese societies along the conceptual lines of "slavery" and "freedom", a closer look at the old Chinese lexicon reveals that there was no such polar conceptual dichotomy. Instead there was a wide range of terms designating various degrees of dependency, many of them referring to types of temporary forced labor and related to the punishment of crimes (punitive labor). It was probably only from the fourth century B.C.E. onwards that people could be bought and sold on markets. It was also very likely around the same time that a mode of production loosely resembling ancient slave economies emerged. However, even this mode of production is reflected in the sources as forced labor, and can be analyzed in those terms. That being said, this does not seem to have been the predominant mode of production in Early China.
Peter SchwiegerProf. Dr. Peter Schwieger (Tibetan Studies)
For several years, Peter Schwieger's research has looked closely at the political and social history of Tibetan societies from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. The various forms of rulership on the Tibetan plateau – covering parts of modern India and Pakistan in the West, to areas now belonging to the Chinese provinces Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai in the East and Northeast – included stratified societies with different balances between aristocratic and clerical elites. In all of these societies, the social hierarchy was held together by networks of mutual dependencies, and was based on an agricultural economy. No matter how remote some of these societies appear at first glance, all were embedded in a supra-regional network of political and economic relations.
Among Rudolf Stichweh's research interests are two subjects closely related to asymmetric dependencies: (1) Stichweh is working on a general sociological theory of inclusion and exclusion, with a special focus on global functional systems in contemporary society. From this perspective, he will look to forms of indirect inclusion (inclusions mediated by other, more powerful persons who sponsor or patronize the process) and to forms of inclusion into society that begin with an act of exclusion (inclusion via monasteries, hospitals, institutions of penal law). (2) Looking primarily at premodern societies, he studies persons who are perceived as strangers but are then incorporated into social systems. This then defines role sets for the participation of strangers in the society. There are many variants and forms of dependency related to these variants: guest roles in traditional societies, adoption and enslavement of strangers as a consequence of war, privileging or discriminating strangers as institutionalized forms of dependency, and marriage partners as dependent strangers.
Konrad VoessingProf. Dr. Konrad Vössing (Ancient History)
Konrad Vössing focuses on "dependency and militia" in the last century of the Western Roman Empire, in three areas in particular: (1) The Roman tenant farmers (coloni) who were increasingly tied to the land and treated by the landlords as dependents. Their precarious status was nevertheless subject to a wide range of developments, and the question arises as to what scope for action they had – other than desertio – derived from the fact that agricultural production depended upon them. (2) The power of landlords over coloni made it increasingly difficult for the Roman army to fill its ranks from this source. This led to the emperor resorteding to non-Roman fighters engaged under contract (foedus), which in turn eventually led to the formation of the late antique Barbarian gentes. These foederati were at first strongly dependent upon the Roman state, but quickly became autonomous powers. A comparison with similar phenomena in other periods and cultures has the potential to result in a better understanding of this transition. (3) Relations of (inter)dependency within the Barbarian gentes must also be looked at, as must the question of how these structures were transformed through contact with the political and social culture of the Late Roman Empire.
Bethany WalkerProf. Dr. Bethany J. Walker (Islamic Archaeology)
The agency of dependent social groups to negotiate advantages, carve out niches of autonomy and make decisions on a local level that had the potential to impact imperial regimes is at the heart of Bethany Walker’s research. The political focus is the Mamluk Sultanate, a Muslim state founded and maintained by a political elite of manumitted military slaves in Egypt and Syria in the thirteenth through early sixteenth centuries. In a system where a particular form of slavery, which has deep roots in the medieval Islamic world, created a ruling elite, peasants, the poor, foreigners, religious minorities and women could redefine their social class to their benefit by molding economic institutions and imperial policies and forming alternative socio-political networks.
Michael ZeuskeProf. Dr. Michael Max Paul Zeuske (Iberian and Latin-American History)
Michael Zeuske focuses on different forms of dependency in Atlantic slavery (1450–1886), in the global history of slavery and in different local slaveries and slave trades on a micro-historical level (life histories of enslaved people and slave traders). Dependencies in these different forms and levels between "Slavery and Freedom“ are fascinating to examine in the early stages of processes of enslavement, as well as in the relations among enslaved people (ritualized forms of kinship) and in romantic and sexual relations between enslaved women and male slavers (slave traders as well as slave holders). We do not know if these types of relations were also important between enslaved men and male slavers/holders (there are very few known cases of relations between enslaved men and slaveholding women). We also know extremely little about religious dependencies of enslaved children in the Eastern-hemisphere enclaves under Portuguese control.
Reinhard ZoellnerProf. Dr. Reinhard Zöllner (Japanese Studies)
Reinhard Zöllner studies the role of slavery and the slave trade in early modern East Asia. From the fivteenth to the seventeenth centuries, pirate activity and warfare resulted in the enslavement and trading of considerable numbers of Koreans and Chinese. Slavery was still a common institution in Choseon Korea until the nineteenth century, whereas it had become almost non-existent in China and Japan. Recent research findings indicate that fugitive slaves tried to escape to Japan by sea but were "repatriated" to Korea without the Japanese authorities inquiring into their status. However, Koreans who had been abducted to Japan in the wars of the late sixteenth century were used as forced laborers until their repatriation was negotiated between the two governments.
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