Research Area B: Embodied Dependencies

The Research Area B Embodied Dependencies examines primarily non-textual relics of asymmetrical dependencies that have been "inscribed" in bodies and artefacts. It builds on the "material turn" and body history. The aim of this research area is to correct the widespread imbalance in the academic evaluation of written and non-written traditions by taking into consideration pre-colonial perspectives and to establish archaeology, art history, and object-based anthropology on an equal level with those disciplines of the humanities that focus on textual sources. In this way, we give "voice" to actors operating in non-textual environments.

We approach the phenomenon of slavery and other types of strong asymmetrical dependencies by taking into consideration a pre-colonial perspective. We aim at establishing archaeology, art history, and object-based anthropology on an equal level with other disciplines of the humanities that focus on written sources.

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Avatar Grube

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Nikolai Grube

Who works in this research area?

Prof. Dr. Jan Bemmann
Research Topic: Prisoners of War and Forced Displacements in Nomadic Empires of Inner Asia

Prof. Dr. Martin Bentz
Research Topic: Forms of Asymmetrical Dependency in Pre-Roman Italy: Etruscans and Italics (8th-1st century B.C.)

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Nikolai Grube
Research Topic: Asymmetrical Dependency and Social Mobility among the Maya

Prof. Dr. Julia A. B. Hegewald
Research Topic: Artistic Communities and Patronage in Asia: Dependencies and Freedoms

Prof. Dr. Ludwig D. Morenz
Research Topic: Dynamics of Social Complexity in the Process of State Formation and State Collapse. Looking at Early Pharaonic Egypt, the First Territorial State in Global History

Dr. Dennis Mario Beck
Research Topic: Ancient Economy and Network Systems, Based on Several Forms of Personal and Institutional Dependencies

Prof. Dr. Sabine Feist
Research Topic: The Formative Role of the Christian Veneration of Saints in Late Antique and Early Medieval Societies

Dr. Petra Linscheid
Research Topic: Byzantium and the Franks: textile dependencies

Prof. Dr. Birgit Münch
Research Topic: Prostitution as a Central Field of Negotiation for Urban Modes of Female Dependency in the Early Modern Period

Dr. Sinah Kloß
Research Topic: Haptic Regimes of Tattooing: Body Modification, Sensory History and Embodied Dependencies in Indo-Caribbean Communitie

Dr. Christian Mader
Research Topic: Disentangling Dependencies: Resource Use, Social Stratification, and Complexity in the Pre-Columbian Andes of Southern Peru

Claire Conrad
Research Topic: Architecture of Dependency in the Inka Empire: Vilcabamba Through Time

Dita Auziņa
Research Topic: Landscapes of dependencies of Miskito Coast. The case study of creation, maintenance and shifts of dependencies based on human interaction with nature and access to resources from the pre-contact period to nowadays

Paul Graf
Research Topic: Asymmetrical Dependency in the Context of Resource Control and its Impact on the Social System in Premodern Tropical Societies: The Case of the Southern Maya Lowlands

Nolwenn Guedeau
Research Topic: Smoking in the Ottoman Empire, from Kurdistan to Algeria. Clay Pipes: Identity Marker and Instrument of Sociability

Lena Muders
Research Topic: Andean Skulls - Sensitive Bodies and Embodied Dependencies in Museum Contexts

Jahfar Shareef Pokkanali
Research Topic: Entangled Dependencies and Venerated Spaces: Islamic Material Culture in the Littorals of Pre-modern South India

Taynã Tagliati Souza
Research Topic: Embodied Dependencies among the Mebêngôkré-Kayapó

Tamia Viteri Toledo
Research Topic: Power and Status Differentiation in the Construction of the Body in Funeral Urns of the Amazonian Napo Phase

Patrick Zeidler
Research Topic: Social Inequality and Asymmetrical Dependency in Etruria (6th – 1st century BC) – an Archaeological Approach

What we do

Research Area B takes objects as its starting point and aims to capture human and non-human "bodies of dependency". We will establish an inventory of material evidence of asymmetrical dependencies and their range of expression and information equaling the written word in importance.

Relying on recent debates on environmental history and biohistory, this research area aims to relativize the Western focus on written culture from a pre-colonial perspective. Many societies that were not affected by Western colonization were oral societies. Here a verbal agreement could weigh heavier than a written contract – thus the normative or guiding effect of an object or image would be just as strong as that of a legal text elsewhere. The fact that many scholars tend to consider a lack of written traditions to be indicative of an inherently deficient source situation reflects a modern Western "inherited learning disability" in terms of reading artefacts.


Therefore, one aim of this research area is to correct the widespread asymmetry in the academic evaluation of written and non-written traditions. The deficit in terms of material evidence seems all the more crucial because social history has advocated giving back their voices to the "silent" actors of history, and examining the experiences of oppression and the scope of action within human communities. However, this research area will not concentrate on the "silent voices" but on the – supposedly – "silent bodies", which encompass written descriptions of bodies and objects of social dependency as well as purely material traditions.

We will examine "embodied dependencies" from archaeological, art-historical and anthropological perspectives as well as from the viewpoint of a praxeologically and body-historically oriented history and social science. Our goal here is expressly to foster the dialogue between object- and text-based disciplines and to render embodied dependencies "legible" (again) as multi-dimensional research objects. We therefore explicitly seek to examine dependent bodies not just as discursive constructs, but also as material, resilient and autonomous. They are not just regarded as objects of imagination and representation, but also as sites of social practices. We understand dependent bodies as "agents", "mediators", and "intermediaries" and analyze even dependencies between human and non-human actors as "agencements" and forms of "interagency".

Collaborative Project: Exhibition "Slavery in Context: Materialities of Asymmetrical Dependencies"

In cooperation with the various collections and museums of the University of Bonn and of the region, a touring exhibition focusing on "Slavery in Context: Materialities of Asymmetrical Dependencies" will be developed. A scientific companion volume and a digital atlas with an interactive depiction of the archeological sites of the artefacts and bodies that constitute part of the exhibition and have been researched will guarantee long-term safeguarding of the research results. Moreover, a digital learning management system will be developed for use in (university) museums as well as in schools in order to familiarize museum workers, visitors, teachers and pupils with the social history of artefacts. This research area will thus contribute to the dissemination of research results achieved within the cluster into society. It will be embedded in and further the digitalization strategy of the University of Bonn, which is connected to the University's collections and museums to a considerable extent, and increase the international visibility of research done in the humanities.

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