You are here: Home Press Releases Violence, Punishment and Labour in Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East
Date: Dec 19, 2018

Violence, Punishment and Labour in Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East Workshop, January 15, 2019

Workshop: January 15, 2019

Pharao Smitting an EnemyThroughout history, various forms of punishment have played multiple functions in connection to diverse labour relations. For example, punitive practices have contributed to modify the composition of the workforce, both through forced recruitment and by the expulsion of undesired labourers.


At the same time, punishment has been instrumental in the control of labour within specific worksites and in disciplining the workforce at large through symbolic violence. As multiple legal regimes usually co-existed within one context (i.e. legal pluralism), punishments meted out under different legal regimes simultaneously acted upon labour, and expressed concurrent or complementary visions of justice and authority. Moreover, the entanglements between punishment and labour have additionally resulted in the production of durable personal, social and spatial dependencies.

Within this conceptual frame, the workshop intends to explore the connections between violence, punishment and labour in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The presentations will address the following aspects:

  • Violence/punishment against the internal population and "foreigners 
  • Violence/punishment as a system of labour control, in relation to different types of workers (slaves, servants, prisoners of war, etc) 
  • Punishment and legal pluralism
  • Real and depicted violence/punishment, including the symbolic and disciplinary roles of punishment
  • Pre-emptive violence/punishment
  • Violence/punishment as everyday experience (e.g. domestic violence)

The participants are also asked to engage with two broader analytical issues, namely:

  • Is the analytical distinction between violence and punishment useful in the historical context considered?

As part of this conversation, the differentiation between structural and non-structural violence (i.e. embedded in customs/norms or connected to individual manifestations of power and abuses) will also be addressed, as well as the plurality of the forms of violence and punishment.

  • How and under which circumstances did the interaction between violence/punishment and labour result in durable personal, social and spatial dependencies?
Document Actions