AMME Seminar 23.01.24: ‘Ancient Ideology and Imagined Histories’

It is our pleasure to announce that the first Ancient and Medieval Middle East (AMME) seminar of the spring semester will be organised as a hybrid event on Tuesday 23 January 2024 (16:15-18:00 EET/Helsinki time).

The session will consist of two papers – by Emanuel Pfoh and Franco De Angelis – followed by a shared question round and discussion on the seminar specific theme of ‘ancient ideology and imagined histories’. The topics of the talks are:

‘Ideological Trends in the Contemporary Historiography of Ancient Israel’ (Dr. Emanuel Pfoh)

The history of ancient Israel, with its social and cultural expressions as narrated in the Hebrew Bible, has always been the main background of modern biblical studies, especially in Germany with the development of historical-critical studies during the nineteenth century. Apart from diverse theological perspectives drawn from textual readings of ancient historical realities, and especially present in American Biblical Archaeology, other—more secular—ideologies have been deployed to represent the past of the southern Levant region: from German nationalism and American “Manifest Destiny” in the nineteenth century to multiple expressions of Zionism in Europe and later on in the State of Israel during a considerable part of the twentieth century, and finally reaching more recent times truly reflexive and postcolonial positions in the field, although these are actually marginal and not currently hegemonic. This presentation shall survey, expose and analyse some of these trends and also discuss the current status of the historiography of the ancient past of the region, as well as some potential developments into the future.

‘The Ideological Underpinnings of Ex Oriente Lux Thinking’ (Prof. Dr. Franco De Angelis)

Anyone who studies the cultural histories of the western Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE before and during the early Roman Empire must deal with the strong forces of Ex Oriente Lux thinking, which maintains that various transformational jump-starts occurred involving eastern transfers of all kinds, most notably higher technologies, city life, and social complexity. In this paper, which forms part of a larger book project, I examine Ex Oriente Lux thinking in its western Mediterranean context by engaging in a Foucauldian archaeology that is attentive to diachronic stratigraphy. In particular, I focus on the ancient and modern ideological underpinnings of Ex Oriente Lux thinking, drawing attention to their features and original functions. In doing so, I underline how ancient and modern ideologies aligned and merged in the nineteenth century thanks to the convergence of several notable factors. Such a merger created a powerful package of academic and intellectual practices that haunt still today the fields of Classical and Near Eastern studies. In exposing such ideologies, I demonstrate that new questions and perspectives emerge from such a “genealogical” exercise, and I conclude by emphasizing the importance of all such exercises as more than simple preludes to “real empirical” scholarship.

Everyone is most welcome, so please share the invitation and join us in person or online!

Time: Tuesday 23 January at 16:15-18:00 EET (UTC+2h).

Live venue: University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 24, room 524.

Virtual venue: Zoom (Meeting ID: 678 8979 2118 /

Wonder what else is on the menu? Check out the AMME spring program on the ANEE news blog!