Fourth Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East (#GeMANE4_Helsinki)

Fourth Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East (#GeMANE4_Helsinki) will take place 3-4 June 2021 as a virtual event at the University of Helsinki, hosted by the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (#ANEE_Helsinki).
Thursday 3 June – Session 1 (4-5:45 pm Helsinki time)

“Labels and their impact on the present and future of gender research” chaired by Omar N’Shea and Allison K. Thomason

The choice of labels we use in our research is always significant. For each research project, we need to decide whether (and why) we use words like homosexuality, homoeroticism, heterosexuality, androgyny, third gender and even men/women, masculine/feminine to describe categories of gendered and sexual identities and behaviours. Some issues/labels/frameworks we will discuss are:

  • How do the "labels"/definitions that we use already limit, expand or direct our research?
  • How and when do we use anachronism? Which are the potentialities and the limits of this practice?
  • How does studying gender/intersectionality in the past relate to these issues in the present?
  • What are the challenges and possibilities of using dichotomies/binaries?

Christie Carr: “Seeing Straight: Considering Heterosexuality in the Sumerian ‘Love Songs’”

Martti Nissinen: “Desire, Agency, and Gender in Ancient Near Eastern Love Poetry”

Stephanie Lynn Budin: “The Problem with Prostitution”

Michael Moore: “When is a queen not a queen? An exploration of the relationship between the title MUNUS.LUGAL and queenship in Hittite Anatolia”

Shawna Dolansky: “Interpreting JPFs: A Polysemic & Multivalent Approach”

Neville McFerrin: “Beyond Binaries: Slippage and the Elision of Gendered Boundaries at Persepolis”

Cheryl Morgan: “Trans Terminology and the Ancient World”

Thursday 3 June – Session 2 (6-7:45 pm Helsinki time)

“Gender, Family Relations, and Intersectionality” chaired by Kristine Garroway and Brigitte Lion

Western family roles have had a great impact on the way people looked at women and men in ancient communities. The role of women within families has often dominated discussions about their identities, but intersectionality allows us to understand better the complexity of unstable and variable identities. In this session, we consider, for example, the following questions:

  •  How can we study gender in the past without imposing norms and assumptions from the present?
  •  How are roles/identities defined, and who defines them?
  •  How can we consider the interaction of gender, sex, age, biological relationships, class, and other affiliations in the construction of gendered identities?
  •  What are some of the challenges and possibilities of using an intersectional approach to the study of gender in the Ancient Near East?

Mireia López-Bertran & Agnès Garcia-Ventura: “More than family relations: Lullabies as work songs”

Luciana Urbano: “Marriage dissolutions as practices of resistance from the Old Babylonian sources of Mari. Notes for a theoretical-methodological debate.”

Kateryna Baulina & Yurii Homan: “The role of women in the succession to the throne in the Ancient Near East”

Ana Belén Rumi Gutiérrez: “From daughter and sister to a Ptolemaic queen and divinity. The case study of Arsinoe II Philadelphus”

Solange Ashby: “Ancient African Female Power”

Katrien De Graef: “Other than Mother. On Childlessness as Part of the Social Identity of Nadītu Women”

Maura Heyn: “The Ideal Housewife in the Tomb”

Mireia López-Bertran & Meritxell Ferrer: “Intersectionality and beauty in Phoenician-Punic world: a look from the hair”

Thursday 3 June – Social program (8-9 pm Helsinki time)

"Are you a woman?” performance, discussion & related cocktails


Introduction by Katrien De Graef


Talk by Jana Matuszak: “Are you a woman?!” Thoughts on how to communicate research on gender in the Ancient Near East to the public.

In this short introduction to the public performance of a Sumerian literary debate between two women staged in November 2020, I will reflect on the challenges and unique opportunities a live performance of an ancient literary composition presents. I will briefly summarise the contents of the text itself, which I recently published, explain how I chose to introduce it to a wider audience, and detail the modes of my collaboration with the artists, the storytellers of the Zipang collective. To conclude, I will comment on what I personally thought was successful and what wasn’t, and present some of the audience feedback I received.

Discussion & drinks

Friday 4 June – Session 3 (4-5:45 pm Helsinki time)

“Reading against the grain” chaired by Ann Guinan and Laura Mazow

Readings that challenge dominant gender discourse can be pursued from different perspectives.  One of the key challenges when studying gender in the ancient Near East is to recognize and counter readings of texts and interpretations of artifacts that have been shaped by the dominant discourses of contemporary culture and unwittingly imposed on the material by modern scholars. Traditionally, the most common and widely-accepted interpretations have favored a hegemonic—male, heterosexual, white—and Western point of view. However, the difference in cultural context that exists between the scholar and the ancient populations we study has often resulted in projections, distortions, and misinterpretations of our sources. While recognizing that we cannot pursue an emic perspective, we propose opening discussion to a larger diversity of viewpoints and evolving theories of gender. Such approaches may bring us closer to a more accurate reconstruction of the material remains and a broader, more nuanced understanding of the ancient texts. We also reflect on whether we can detect subversive voices in ancient texts and visual arts, in other words artefacts that challenge the dominant discourses or the power practices of their time. This can take the form of explicit dissent, but also of more subtle discursive tensions within the texts, such as internal incoherence or significant silences.

  • How can we challenge prevailing views?
  • What tools can we use to read against the grain of our sources?
  • How can we challenge dominant cultural values and beliefs and reject the position the data appears to offer?
  • How can we engage in alternative or resistant readings of texts, artefacts, and archaeological data?
  • How can this add to the study of gender in the ancient Near East?

Thais Rocha da Silva: “Gender relations and domestic space in the Amarna Workmen’s Village”

Michaël Girardin: “Female tax-payers in Roman Judaea: what could papyrology tell us concerning the place of women in ancient households?”

Frances Pinnock: “Houses and Households: Where Were the Women?”

Gösta Gabriel: “Modern Ideas and Ancient Professions. The Case of Queen Ku-Babu, a Former Alewife”

Alison Manley: “Queen Puabi: A Rule of Her Own?”

Uros Matic: “Gender as the Frame of War in Ancient Egypt”

Omar N’Shea: “Absence that matters: eunuchs and gender liminality in the Neo-Assyrian sources”

Sophus Helle: “Mesopotamia and Modern Misogyny"

Friday 4 June – Session 4 (6-7:45 pm Helsinki time)

“Relationships and networks” chaired by Amy Gansell and Niek Veldhuis

The session discusses network analysis and Digital Humanities tools as applied to cuneiform material. The session also discusses relationships and networks more broadly, including studies on the material culture, such as seals.

Silvana di Paolo: “Women and Seals: Gendered Ideas about Female Roles”

Marta Ameri: “Visualizing Administrative Power: Women's Seals in Ancient Iran”

Lorenzo Verderame: “In the Interstices of Power: The Woman Cylinder Seals of the Neo-Sumerian Period”

Anita Fattori: “Gender Regimes and Kinship: Social Networks of Old Assyrian Women”

Anne Goddeeris: “Women’s invisible errands. Social network analysis and cuneiform administrative files”

Eleanor Bennett: “Age and Masculinities in the Neo-Assyrian Period: A Network Analysis”

Friday 4 June – Social program (8-9 pm Helsinki time)

We invite you to join us on the platform in the Royal Palace of Mari for discussion and drinks.

The password and information about the platform has been included in your workshop invitation.

Looking forward to seeing you all on!

Workshop Cocktails

Are You a Woman?! themed drinks

Mrs A: u ze’e munusmen?

Naturally virtuous, respectable and sophisticated, is that you? Eloquent and strategic are your middle names? Bring out that ideal and morally superior housewife and mother (m/v/x) in you with the Mrs A: u ze’e munusmen?


  • 2 cl pomegranate syrup
  • 4 cl vodka
  • 6 cl apple juice
  • pomegranate seeds
  • fresh lavender
  • sprinkling of sumac
  • ​​​​​​​crushed ice

Ninkusu: u ze’e lulumen?

A rough tongue, have you? Thoughtless and erratic as ever? Bring out that incredibly incompetent, wicked and slanderous shrew (m/v/x) in you with the Ninkusu: u ze’e lulumen?


  • 25 cl blond beer (Hoegaarden or the like)
  • ​​​​​​​5 cl gin
  • 6 cl apple juice
  • ​​​​​​​10 ml rose water
  • honey (to taste)
  • ​​​​​​​ice


Apollonian, prudent and impartial, is that you? Spice up your solidity and dullness with a pinch of bias and bring out that judgemental King (m/v/x) in you with the Lugalatte!


  • espresso
  • ​​​​​​​foamed milk (soy, almond, ...)
  • 2 cardamom pits
  • ​​​​​​​cinnamon stick
  • honey (to taste)
  • ​​​​​​​crushed pistachio nuts
  • pomegranate seeds
  • ​​​​​​​sprinkling of chili
Previous GeMANE workshops

1) Helsinki (Finland) October 27-28, 2014. Papers presented there (and other papers) were published in "Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East," edited by Saana Svärd and Agnès Garcia-Ventura (2018, Eisenbrauns/Penn State University Press).

2) Barcelona (Spain) in February 1-3, 2017. Papers presented there were published in "Gender and Methodology in the Ancient Near East: Approaches from Assyriology and Beyond," edited by Stephanie Lynn Budin, Megan Cifarelli, Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Adelina Millet Albà (2018, Barcino Monographica Orientalia 10 — Universitat de Barcelona Edicions).

3) Ghent (Belgium) April 8–10, 2019. GeMANE 3 proceedings are in preparation. Editors are (in alphabetical order): Katrien De Graef, Agnès Garcia-Ventura, Anne Goddeeris & Beth Alpert Nakhai. It will be published in the series wEgde of Zaphon.

Registration & contact

The event is free of charge, but registration is required. Please register before May 31st 2021. The Zoom link will be sent to registered participants on 1st of June.

Register for the workshop here.

Please address your questions to the email address of the workshop:

Scientific and organizing committee of GeMANE 4 in alphabetical order is: Megan Cifarelli, Katrien De Graef, Agnès Garcia-Ventura, Heidi Kovanen, Saana Svärd, and Evelien Vanderstraeten. Svärd has acted as the Chair of the committee.