12. June 2023

Call for Papers - "Humans as Gifts: Historical and Anthropological Approaches" Call for Papers - Humans as Gifts: Historical and Anthropological Approaches

International Conference at the University of Bonn, May 2024

Why would someone give a human being as a gift? Who are the giver and the taker? How does the gift-giving affect the life and status of the gifted human? The two-day conference "Humans as Gifts" at the University of Bonn in May 2024 will bring historians and anthropologists together to find answers to these questions.

On the one hand, historical studies abound in cases where someone gives a human being to someone else as a gift: A father gives his daughter a slave as a marriage present, a king sends slaves to his foreign peers as a diplomatic gift, a warlord distributes war captives among his military, someone donates a dependant to a god or a temple, etc. On the other hand, anthropologists have tried again and again to examine the nature of the gift without ever focusing on humans as the object of gift-giving.

The organizer of the conference "Humans as Gifts" invites paper proposals that address the following questions:

1. Who are the giver and the recipient of humans as gifts?

2. What is their motivation to give and take? What is the context: a transfer or distribution of
wealth, diplomacy, exposure of unwanted dependents, religious practices, etc.?

3. How does gift-giving transform the life of the gifted individuals? What was their status before
and after the giving/donation: a slave, a free, or something in between?

Case studies from all regions—Eurasia, Africa, the Americas and Australia and Oceania—and periods are welcome. The ultimate aim is to clarify whether the giving of humans to other humans and deities "for free" was a universal phenomenon or a characteristic of certain types of societies or periods.


The international conference will take place on 16–17 or 23–24 May 2024 at the Bonn Centre for Dependency & Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany.

The Centre will cover your travel expenses, take care of your accommodation and provide catering and a conference dinner. 

A major scholarly press will publish the conference papers.

Interested scholars are invited to send a paper proposal (ca. 300 words) to the conference organizer Dr. Vitali Bartash (vbartash@uni-bonn.de) by October 31, 2023.

Please find the Call for Papers here. 

Dr. Vitali Bartash
Bonn Centre for Dependency & Slavery Studies (BCDSS)
University of Bonn
Heussallee 18–24
D-53113 Bonn, Germany

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