Workshop "The King as a Nodal Point of Neo-Assyrian Identity"

On December 4th-5th Team 1 of ANEE held a small, yet well visited workshop on the question of the king’s significance in Neo-Assyrian identity formation and maintenance.

The workshop was funded by ANEE, and received additional funding in form of a travel grant from the Austrian Embassy in Finland (who also promoted us on Twitter). We conducted the workshop in lovely ambience in the university’s Athena building in Siltavuorenpenger, receiving excellent coffee and buns support from UniCafe Olivia. The workshop’s atmosphere was very friendly and productive. The conference dinner at Salutorget and Helsinki’s many opportunities to have a refreshing beverage with friends contributed to the general success of our endeavor: to create and exchange knowledge concerning the king’s role in identity-formation.

The workshop focused on questions of “imperial identities”, but also took adjacent issues, e.g. of social marginalization, into account. We were happy that so many prominent speakers followed our invitation to Helsinki.

Keynotes were held by Simo Parpola (Helsinki) and Hannes Galter (Graz). Amongst our international contributors, we could welcome scholars from Estonia, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Japan, Great Britain and Germany. Renowned scholars as well as young researchers created a stimulating experience, touching upon many issues of Assyrian identity studies.

The workshop was divided into three larger sections. In Section one, we were tackling the relations between the monarch and the non-ruling “elites” of Assyria.  Research questions discussed in this section related to the historic background, composition and social networks of the elite groups in Assyria, to their role and responsibilities during royal absence and to the impact of dynastic succession practices on elite cohesion. In section 2, we moved on to questions regarding the king’s relation to the broader social spectrum and royal publicity: Talks held in this section discussed the interrelations between Assyrian citizenship and political and social identity, royal measures of ensuring good relations with the non-elite segments of society and the king’s significance in ensuring public health. The final section centered on Assyria’s opponents foreign and domestic, as the construction of identities often makes use of “the other” in order to establish firm borders between “us” and “them”. Issues addressed in the talks given related to the literary and pictorial construction of internal-external “good and bad”-dichotomies, to representational imitations of Assyrian kingship by non-Assyrian rulers and to the role of attributions of male gender features when representing enemies.

The workshop was closed by a concise view on the role of powerful elite women and the indispensable interconnectedness of queen- and kingship, delivered by ANEE’s PI Saana Svärd. We are planning to materialize our results in form of proceedings, to be published in Zaphon’s “Kasion”-series.  Finally we thank everyone who contributed to the success of this workshop!