The conference theme is “Cultural Contact – Cultures of Contact” (Kultur–Kontakt–Kultur).
The Near East has always been an ‘open space᾽ in which the paths of many people have crossed in the course of time: Natural traffic routes channeled the movement of people and goods. Regions, which offered favorable conditions for human settlement, became both arenas of cultural encounters and conflicts. Urban centers with their markets and harbors constituted points of contact between people, objects and ideas.
Cultural contact involves many aspects and affects material culture, social practices and social structures to varying extents. Encountering ‘the other᾽ can have different effects, ranging from spontaneous rejection to adaption. Situations of cultural contact can also initiate a process of self-reflection, within the individual as well as with regard to a social or cultural group. Occasionally a single object ‘from another world᾽ has potential to induce cultural change.
Our conference also aims to address forms of contact not primarily defined by geographical but social distance. These can include encounters between socially marginalized groups and dominant strata within a given society, which lead us to new contacts of cultures opening up a wider field for discussion.
The RAI 66 will approach the overall theme of the conference through six sessions:
Session 1: Means and Routes of Contact
The session focusses on the means of cultural contact, such as trade relations, mobile lifestyles, migratory movements, military conquests, and deportations, as well as the routes of contact themselves. The latter include established trade networks, and important waterways and overland routes.
Session 2: Actors of Contact
This session is devoted to the actors of contact that is individuals and groups who established contact, and shaped economic and cultural exchange relationships over geographical distances and across socio-spatial boundaries, such as merchants, refugees, sailors, itinerant craftspeople, mobile pastoralists, emissaries, pilgrims, deportees, and mercenaries.
Session 3: Material Manifestations of Contact
With regard to material culture, cultural encounters can bring about adaptation processes and the desire to emulate, acquire and recontextualize objects, styles, technological knowledge or cultural traits. This session deals with the transformation of material culture as a result of trans-cultural relations.
Session 4: Manifestations of Contacts in Rituals, Cult and Society
This session deals with the impact of intercultural contacts on rituals, religious belief systems and other ideologies, such as with regard to kingship or the representation of communal institutions in ancient near eastern societies.
Session 5: Linguistic Contacts
The session focusses on discussing linguistic change such as the incorporation of loan words and shifts of dialects as an outcome of variant forms and degrees of cultural contact. Does linguistic change conforms to the above mentioned routes of contacts?
Session 6: Cultures of Contact
This section presents examples from the history of the Ancient Near East, characterized by intensified cultural contacts, such as the Late Bronze Age. Papers may discuss in particular and the circumstances in which societies became either more inclusive or more exclusive.
Sessions 1–3 will be held in Frankfurt, sessions 4–6 in Mainz.