BCDSS Working Papers

Our "Working Papers" present results from ongoing research and contribute to current scholarly debate. They are conceptualized as "works in progress." The aim of this publishing series is to stimulate debates on the new key concept of the Cluster, strong asymmetrical dependency. They are subject to an internal peer review.

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Ludwig D. Morenz: El(-GOD) as “Father in Regalness”. Mine M in Serabit el Khadim as a Middle-Bronze-Age (c. 1900 BC) Working Space sacralised by Early Alefbetic Writing

This paper grew out of an archaeological field season conducted in southwestern Sinai by the Department of Egyptology at the University of Bonn during November and December 2022. It specifically discusses the social and cultural relations between Egyptians and Canaanites in southwestern Sinai during the Middle Bronze Age (the first half of the second millennium BC), focussing on the inscription S 357 which was carved into the rock face inside a large copper and turquoise mine. By invoking the god El, the inscription sacralized the workspace. This paper seeks to understand mine and inscription within a cultural-historical polygon made up of landscape, ethnicity, economy, religion, and media.

Die folgenden Überlegungen basieren auf einer archäologischen Feldkampagne der Abteilung für Ägyptologie an der Universität Bonn vom November und Dezember 2022 in den Süd-West-Sinai. Konkret werden die Sozial- und Kulturbeziehungen zwischen Ägyptern und Kanaanäern im mittelbrontzezeitlichen Süd-West-Sinai (erste Hälfte 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr.) diskutiert. Im Zentrum steht die Inschrift S 357, die im Inneren einer großen Kupferund Türkismine in die Felswand gemeißelt wurde. Mit der Anrufung des Gottes El wurde der Arbeitsbereich sakralisiert. Mine und Inschrift werden im kulturgeschichtlichen Fünfeck von Landschaft, Ethnizität, Ökonomie, Religion und Medien zu verstehen gesucht. 

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Lewis Doney: Dependency at the Centre and Periphery of the Tibetan Empire - Sayings, Doings and Interagency

This paper presents a microhistory of ninth-century asymmetrical social relations in the centre and on the periphery of the Tibetan empire (ca. 600–850 CE), as well as relations between the periphery and the centre. During the reign of the Yar lung dynasty’s Emperor Khri Srong lde brtsan (r. 756–ca. 800), official documents such as inscriptions represent him as a beneficent ruler of loyal ministers from elite families and as establishing Buddhism for the benefit of his rather non-descript but grateful subjects. The analysis of these rhetorical “sayings” then gives way to describing the “doings” in Dunhuang on the periphery of that empire, inhabited by mostly ethnic Chinese people who both perpetuated and worked within systems of asymmetrical dependency. Eighth- and ninth-century Tibetan emperors gradually introduced new rules for the Tibetan government of both monastic and lay organisations of Buddhists there, and they also employed many of the monks and laity as scribes to copy Buddhist works for the spiritual benefit of the rulers. Works found at the beginning of the twentieth century at the Mogao cave complex near Dunhuang, walled up in Mogao Cave 17 or the so-called “library cave,” offer unparalleled access to their “doings,” the relation of scribes with each other, with sutra editors, and with Tibetan imperial power right up to the emperors themselves. They thus fill out our image of the “interagency” between Tibetan subjects and their asymmetrical relations to the Tibetan empire—while problematizing the emperors’ self-representational “sayings” in, inter alia, the imperial inscriptions.

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Christian Blumenthal: The Power of Biblical Authors - A Risk Analysis of ‘Living’ Sacred Texts

New Testament authors claim immense (interpretive) power and generate strong asymmetrical dependencies between themselves and the communities they address. They are convinced that they have the resource of ‘salvation’, the authentic interpretation of the Christ event and access to the congregation. In research, this mostly hidden and sometimes even veiled establishment of pronounced power and dependency structures has hardly been systematically investigated. This is all the more surprising as biblical texts continue to be used in Christian churches worldwide to consolidate and legitimise structures of power and authority. Against this background, I inquire about the susceptibility of ‘living’ sacred texts to abuse, and I examine these texts with regard to their potential for risk and danger.

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Dorothea Heuschert-Laage: Slavery in Eighteenth Century Mongolia - Transactions in People and Notions of Property according to the Qanggin Banner Archives

This paper investigates moments of transition in which people were forced into dependency, or had to change from one relationship of asymmetrical dependency to another. It is argued that these transitions were backed by state law, but were rooted in practices which predated the establishment of the Qing dynasty (1636–1911). In order to understand the social, legal and economic constellations in which people were recruited or transferred to other dependency relationships, the study draws on a micro-historical approach based on records from a local archive in Inner Mongolia (China). On the basis of these findings, it develops categories of transition, and discusses the meaning of property rights in settings of multi-leveldependencies.

Julia A. B. Hegewald: Dependency, Subjugation and Survival - A working paper on the Jaina Culture in Medieval Karnataka, South India

This paper investigates the changing position of the Jaina religious community in the south Indian State of Karnataka in premodern times. From the early fifth century onwards, the influence of the Jainas in the region had consistently increased. This situation changed significantly during the middle of the twelfth century. This was due in part to transformations which the Jainas themselves made to the structure of their society, religious practices and ethical standards; but also because Jainism became side-lined by the arrival of competing religious groups. As a consequence, the Jainas suffered a significant loss in power. From a former position of superiority, they dropped to one of extremely strong asymmetrical dependency. The persecution of the Jainas led to the destruction and annexation of their icons, temples and religious centres. This paper examines the changes this severe form of dependency had on Jaina art and architecture—and through the absorption of Jaina religious objects and spaces, also on the cultures of the newly dominant groups.

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Béla Bodó: The Numerus Clausus Law of 1920 - Asymmetrical Dependencies, and The "Twisted Road" of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz

This working paper examines the impact of the infamous numerus clausus legislation of 1920, which limited the share of Jewish students at institutions of higher learning to their proportion of the population, on incoming students, the position of Jewish graduates in the labor market, and the changing status of Jews in Hungary in the interwar period. It argues that the law not only reversed the process of Jewish emancipation in Hungary, but it also paved the way for the rise of a new form of relationship characterized by strong asymmetrical dependence, between the Hungarian elite and middle classes and their Jewish counterparts in the interwar period. The essay focuses on agency, the elimination of “exit strategies,” social marginalization, and the fate of university graduates during the Shoah.

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Christian Hornung: Die Entwicklung von Ämtern und Abhängigkeitensstrukturen im Frühchristentum

This Working Paper provides a window on Christian Hornung’s current research as part of the Cluster of Excellence “Dependency and Slavery Studies.” His research focuses on the history of early Christian offices and institutions in the third century AD in terms of structures of asym-metrical dependency. Representative texts and authors to be analysed are the so-called Syriac Didascalia and Cyprian of Carthage. This selection of texts offers insights into the origins and theological rationales of the ecclesiastical dependency structures that developed with the emergence of different offices and lifestyles. Central to the analysis are not so much the prac-tical aspects of how ecclesiastical offices developed, but rather processes of legitimation and derivation. The Working Paper concludes by pointing to further fields of research and current research gaps.

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Veruschka Wagner: "Free like Other Freeborn People" or Just Another Form of Dependency? Questioning the Situation of Manumitted Slaves in Early Modern Istanbul

This paper aims to present some thoughts and research findings related to my ongoing project on Ottoman slavery and dependency. The project, entitled “Spatial and Social Mobility of Slaves from the Black Sea Region in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul,” is part of the Transottomanica project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The project focuses on the mobility and agency of slaves and aims to give information about their legal and social status, their trajectories during and after enslavement, and their role in society. Based on the concept of asymmetrical dependency used by the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS), my focus in this paper is on the legal and social status of slaves after their time of enslavement in terms of dependency. Drawing on entries in Istanbul-area court records of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, I address the question of freedom, and present some preliminary results concerning forms of asymmetrical dependency that shaped slaves’ lives after emancipation.

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Thomas Duve: Theorie und Methode der Analyse Asymmetrischer Formen von Anhängigkeit - Eine (Global)Rechtshistorische Perspektive

This working paper aims to contribute to the transdisciplinary debates on how to analyze asymmetric forms of dependency at the BCDSS from the perspective of a legal historian inter-ested in global legal history and working mainly on the “Iberian Worlds”. I will therefore first introduce traditions and methods of legal historical research, and show the specific achieve-ments and shortcomings of these traditions by giving examples of how legal historians studied asymmetric forms of dependency. In the second part, I will briefly show that legal history can be understood as a history of the translation of normative knowledge. This innovative approach can help to overcome some of the shortcomings of the research tradition in this field by opening legal historical research for practices and allowing us to integrate into its analysis modes of normativity other than those that resulted in the (Western) modern state. Building on this, I will in the third part explain the concept of “Historical Regimes of Normativity”, which is a form of observation of more or less stable constellations of normative knowledge.

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Hermut Löhr: "Divine Dependency" in Ancient Judaism and Emerging Christianity - Reflections and Case Studies

This paper provides insights into the author’s current project, which looks at “divine dependency” in texts of ancient Judaism (from the Second Temple period) and emerging Christianity. The first part identifies aims and research approaches before discussing fundamental aspects of the underlying categories and methodology. There are a number of reasons why the project requires a sophisticated set of tools for textual analysis and interpretation: in particular the fact that our sources are in numerous ancient languages, the multilingual nature of the period being studied, and the distinct, but terminologically and genealogically interconnected, orders of knowledge in antiquity and the present respectively. The second part of the paper will briefly outline three case studies with different but interconnected methodological foci: one semantic, one narrative and one discourse analysis.

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Bethany J. Walker: Peasant Dependencies in Medieval Islam - Whose Agency in Food Production and Migration?

Medieval feudalism, while it took different forms in different parts of the world, shared one common characteristic: the military, political, and economy foundations of society were constructed with peasant labor. The “state” could not exist, in this form, without a compliant peasantry. The everyday lives of peasants living in the pre-industrial world thus evokes images of immobility, servitude, and a legal and social status that remained static over time. The realities of peasant life in the Islamicate world, however, were quite different. This paper explores the marked inequalities of the mutually dependent relationships that developed between the Mamluk and Ottoman sultanates and peasant society, focusing on two areas of encounter and control that mattered most to both sets of actors: food production and peasant mobility in its many forms (relocation, dislocation, abandonment of villages, and mass migration). Land use and human migration provide us with a unique vantage point to study strongly asymmetrical dependencies on the scale of the village and over la longue durée. A joint archaeological-textual study of two villages in Palestine and Transjordan offer us a regionally comparative context. 

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Fabrizio Filioli Uranio: Embodied Dependencies and Valencian Slavery in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

The aim of this article is to investigate slavery in the Kingdom of Valencia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As we will see, slavery can be analysed in a perspective of both global history and micro-history, that is, the way the Valencian institutions played a precise role in the social control of slavery and in determining the price of slaves. Looking at some personal trajectories of these slaves will allow us to get closer to the Valencian reality of the Early Modern Period, showing us how the very concept of identification of these subjects, by means of brands and tattoos, was particularly important for local institutions precisely to recognize the slaves and possibly runaway slaves. In fact, one of the major concerns of the Valencian authorities was to avoid vagrancy phenomena, which could lead to petty criminal activities. Finally, those institutional mechanisms will also be highlighted by means of which slaves, without running away, could legally reach the much-desired freedom.

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Paulo Cruz Terra: Anti-Vagrancy, Punishment and Labor Relations in the Context of the Abolition of Slavery in Brazil and the Portuguese Empire (1870–1910)

Focusing on the Brazilian and Portuguese Empire contexts, between 1870 and 1910, this text aims to investigate how the slavery abolition process affected the different historical definitions of what constituted vagrancy and how those definitions related to categories such as class, race and gender; and the way punishments for vagrancy changed over time and how those changes were linked to the transformations associated to the new workers’ labor and production relations. This article first explores the effect that the abolition discussions had on the definitions of vagrancy, and what the previous definitions had been. It goes on to show how, in the post abolition period, the concept of vagrancy was expanded to criminalize workers’ practices and behaviors. An important innovation and contribution of this article is that it is the first comparative and connected analysis of the transformations in labor relations in the abolition context in those spaces with the persecution of vagrancy as its central focus.

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