One of the most exciting developments within the study of the Ancient World over the last decades has been the growing scholarly awareness that indeed “everything was connected”. Understanding and studying the Ancient World as a global oecumene, however, is notoriously difficult as we are kept hostage, so it seems, by our own reifying terminology which sees Antiquity as consisting of Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Celtic, Carthaginian, etc. peoples, identities and objects.

The current popularity, especially within archaeological studies, of the concept of “hybridity” well illustrates this state of affairs. Taking a Globalisation or network approach towards the Ancient World on board has, for many scholars, made “hybridity” into a kind of standard conclusion when discussing cultural dynamics. They often do not realize, however, that the use of the concept of “hybridity” in fact belongs to the reifying terminology they try to overcome.

In this Forschungsseminar I will, starting from a critique on the use of “hybridity” in recent (archaeological) studies, explore a concept that might be better suited to grasp global configurations in the Ancient World, and that is “translation”. Thinking in terms of “translation”, I will argue, is fruitful because it forces us to think about how the cohabitation of forms produces new contexts and how processes of negotiation, appropriation and transformation thus can result in innovation. I will thereby try to focus on objects and their affordances.

To illustrate both my critique on “hybridity” and my plea for a concept like “translation” I will draw on a wide variety of archaeological examples, most prominently the late Hellenistic “Greco-Persian hybrid” called Nemrud Dağ, and recent studies like the ground-breaking recent book by Denis Feeney entitled Beyond Greek. 

Participants are encouraged to present the “hybrids” they encounter in their own research in the final part of the seminar, also in order to discuss if there is any real value in my attempt to move “beyond hybridity”.

 Some relevant bibliography:

D. Bachmann-Medick (ed.), The trans/national study of culture. A translational perspective (Berlin 2016)
A. Bevan, Mediterranean Containerization, Current Anthropology 55(4) (2014) 387–418
E. Bielsa, Beyond hybridity and authenticity: Globalisation, translation and the cosmopolitan turn in the Social Sciences, Synthesis 4 (2012) 17-35
M. Bloch, Essays on cultural transmission (Oxford 2005)
D. Feeney, Beyond Greek. The beginnings of Latin literature (Cambridge MA 2016).
M.H. Feldman, Communities of style. Portable luxury arts, identity, and collective memory in the Iron Age Levant (Chicago 2014)
S. Palmié, Mixed blessings and sorrowful mysteries: second thoughts about “Hybridity”, Current Anthropology 54 (2013) 1-20
M. Pitts, M.J. Versluys, Globalisation and the Roman world. World history, connectivity and material culture (Cambridge 2015)
W. Stockhammer (ed.), Conceptualising cultural hybridization. A transdisciplinary approach (Berlin 2012)
M.J. Versluys, Understanding objects in motion. An archaeological dialogue on Romanisation, Archaeological Dialogues 21(1) (2014) 1-21