WORK-IT explores informal taxation, forced labor, and Levantine temples in a Bourdieusian frame.

WORK-IT departs from previous scholarship on the region in three ways. 

WORK-IT shifts focus from formal taxation—which are direct demands of the imperium or state—to informal taxation—which are the social structures that enable or are implied by imperial demands. This emphasizes the social structures enabling the imperial demands and the unintended consequences of them. This concept comes out of developmental economics. An example of this would be the king granting use of timber for construction, but not the labor to cut it and transport it, or for other aspects of construction, requiring the local community to organize their own responses. 

The project also shifts focus from a restricted view of slavery to the wider phenomenon of forced labor. Scholarship has mostly focused on emphasizing the relatively limited role of slavery in the Near East, but neglected the wide use of other forms of unfree labor such as corvee. This means analyzing all work done in and around temples, why it is done, and who profits from it. 

Most importantly, the project departs from the recurrent Marxian/Neo-liberal divide for a perspective that takes into account the social contexts of labor and its theorizing. For this the project adapts Bourdieusian Field Theory. 


WORK-IT officially launches in September 2024. More detail on members' research will be available then.