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Individual Research Areas

 

Individual Research Areas of the PIs of the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS)

 
The members of the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies who represent a unique set of disciplines specializing in non-European premodern societies have worked with a wide range of societies. To illustrate this array of expertise on individual and group dependencies in premodern societies, here comes a list of topics that our members are currently studying:
 
 
Prof. Dr. Christoph Antweiler (Cultural Anthopology)
 
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 the person wants to build a house, he hires one individual as a contractor who then organizes the building team and large parts of building planning and implementation. In doing this, he often uses relatives, people dependent on him or people who owe him from earlier dependent relations. This creates a chain of patron-client relations often involving semi-free work relations.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Martin Aust (Eastern European History)
 
At UoB, Martin Aust has continued his work on early modern Russia. The department of Eastern European and Russian History of UoB is currently working to establish 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. In regard to politics and society, it is remarkable that it was not only peasants who 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 16th into the 18th centuries.
 
 
Prof. 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 the subjects and the ruler. Thus, a relationship of obligation was formed in order to reduce the agency of the common people. Unfree persons were also obliged to take the oath. For them, however, the oath meant an improvement of their social status. This was a crucial element in the emergence of high and late medieval chivalry.
 
 
Prof. 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 highly depends on the exploitation and deportation of specialists out of the 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 war machines, engineers and parts 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.
 
 
Prof. 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. Particular attention is given 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.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Berges (Old Testament)
 
Ulrich Berges focuses on the biblical and especially Old Testament roots of dependancy and the 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 the different images of God strongly intervene in these antithetical strategies.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Elke Brüggen (German Medieval Studies)
 
As a specialist in language, literature and culture of the German Middle Ages, Elke Brüggen  focuses on literary constellations concerning opportunities to exert political influence and power. She gives particular attention to literary negotiations of counselling, an instrument which is central to the concept and practice of rule and social order. She therefore examines counsels given to rulers by dependent individuals from their entourage. In order to close a gap in research, particular attention is given to the relationships of female rulers and their confidants, 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 power to act. She also strives to explore narrated forms of dependency that are partially existentially threatening, depicted within constellations that display emotional proximity of various origin as well as social distance and hierarchy.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Stephan Conermann (Islamic Studies)
 
In his research¸ Stephan Conermann compares different forms of slavery in premodern societies. His starting point is different 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 (and less frequently other races) 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.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Nikolai Grube (Archaeology and Anthropology of the Americas)
 
Nikolai Grube focuses on the structure 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.
 
 
Prof. 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 have 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.
 
 
Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. theol. Manfred Hutter (Comparative Religious Studies)
 
Manfred Hutter focuses on the history of religions in the pre-Islamic Near and Middle East. As religions in these societies were closely linked to political and/or dynastic structures, forms of mutual interdependencies occurred. Religions, both collectively and individually, were agents that created forms of dependency for the individual who became a servant (“slave”) of his/her god. While this was also expressed by theophoric (and metaphoric) name-giving, an individual could also become directly dependent to a temple if he was working for the religious institution there.

Prof. 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). In particular, he focusses on (1) authority and resistance among clergy; (2) doctrinal and (3) ethical norms and their implementation; (4) Church as social space; (5) the Church, jurisdiction, and secular governance; (6) the Church as economical agent. In these areas particular attention is given to the following agents and dependants: (1) bishops; (2) priests; (3) offices administering the Church's eeconomic resources such as deacons; (4) the role of women within the Church hierarchy; (5) the laity both as agents and dependants.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Ludwig D. Morenz (Egyptology)
 
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 only work as “slaves or uneducated workers”, but instead had various levels of dependency and agency. We are able to analyze continuity and changes concerning these complex relationships over more than a millennium. Ludwig Morenz also examines other research areas, tackling questions of dependency within Pharaonic society from the field of economy to religion.
 
 
Prof. 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. However, the groups can be distinguished from the Inca elite by their specific forms of dependency, as well as by their specialized or non-specialized services. They are also characterized by the manner of their community involvement. The Inca activated cultural/religious differential criteria by the relations of the members of these social categories with the regions of origin and their representation in state rituals. Very little is known about the mitimaes and the other categories. Noack works to develop methods for an interlinkage of archaeological, ethno-historical and ethnological sources and approaches.
 
 
Prof. 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 fourteenth 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.
 
 
Prof. 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 consists of the Roman law texts enshrined in the Corpus Iuris of Justinian on the one hand and feudal relations on the other. Whereas unfree labor was hardly distinguished from slavery in Roman times, medieval jurisprudence highlighted the contractual nature of dependent labor. Which impulse did this have on the conception of labor itself? Additionally, late medieval theology (moved by new concepts of property and contractual relations) resulted in a reappraisal of labor. Did this influence the legal valuation of dependent work? In his research, MS uncovers the ideological and legal foundations of later discussions (16th-18th cent.) on freedom and slavery and the role of unfree labor.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Winfried Schmitz (Ancient History)
 
Winfried Schmitz focuses on many aspects of ancient slavery, especially in Greek archaic and classical times (8th-4th century BC). During this time period, slaves worked in ancient agriculture, craft and commerce, as well as in mining (where living conditions were very difficult and many slaves died). Better conditions existed for slaves in craft and commerce, where they operated quite autonomously and paid their masters a daily charge. The possibilities to become free were better for these slaves than for 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.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Christian Schwermann (Language and Literature of China)
 
Christian Schwermann focuses on the historical semantics of dependency in Early China (ca. 1200 to 200 B.C.E.), paying particular attention to its economic aspects. Whereas previous research has 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 likely only as of the fourth century B.C.E. that people could be bought and sold on markets. It was also likely around this time that a mode of production remotely resembling ancient slave economies emerged.However, even this mode of production is reflected in the sources and can be analyzed in terms of forced labor. That being said, this does not seem to have been the predominant mode of production in Early China.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Peter Schwieger (Tibetan Studies)
 
For several years, Peter Schwieger’s research has particularly dealt with the political and social history of Tibetan societies from the 17th to the early 20th century. The various forms of rulership on the Tibetan plateau – reaching from areas in modern India and Pakistan in the West up 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 connected through mutual dependencies and was primarily based on an agricultural economy. No matter how remote some of these societies appear at first glance, they were all embedded in a supra-regional network of political and economic relations.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Stichweh (Sociology)
 
Among the research interests of Rudolf Stichweh are two topics closely related to asymmetric dependencies: 1. He is working on a general sociological theory of inclusion and exclusion, especially with regard to the worldwide function systems of contemporary society. From this perspective, he will look to forms of indirect inclusion (inclusions mediated by other, more powerful persons who sponsor or patronize inclusion) 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 does research on 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 institutionalizations of dependency and marriage partners as dependent strangers.
 
 
Prof. 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 options for action – besides the "desertio" – derived from the fact that the agricultural production depended upon them. (2) The power of the landlords over the coloni made it increasingly difficult for the Roman army to fill its ranks from this source. As a consequence, the emperor resorted to non-Roman fighters engaged under contract (foedus), which 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 transition which can likely be elucidated more closely through comparison with similar phenomena in other periods and cultures. (3) Additionally, the relations of dependences within these gentes must be analyzed, and one must also question how these structures were transformed in contact with the political and social culture of the Late Roman Empire.
 
 
Prof. 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 13th through early 16th 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.
 
 
Prof. 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 on these different forms and levels between "Slavery and Freedom“ are interesting to examine in the beginnings of the processes of enslavement, as well as in the relations among the enslaved (ritualized forms of kinship) and in the relations of love and sex between enslaved women and slavers (slave traders as well as slave holders). We are unaware if these types of relations were also important between enslaved men and slavers/holders (and there are only very few examples 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.
 
 
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Zöllner (Japanese Studies)

Reinhard Zöllner works with the role of slavery and slave trade in early modern East Asia. In the 15th to 17th centuries, pirate activities 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 19th century, whereas it was almost non-existent in China und Japan. Recent research indicates that deserting slaves tried to escape to Japan by sea but were "repatriated“ to Korea without the Japanese authorities inquiring about their status. However, Koreans who had been abducted to Japan in the wars of the late 16th century were used as forced laborers until their repatriation was negotiated between the two governments.
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