Cross-disciplinary approaches to the Hydraulic Landscapes of the Eastern Mediterranean, 1200-1900CE
International Workshop at the Orient-Institut Beirut and the University of Balamand, 21-23 April, 2016
Financed by the Orient-Institut Beirut, Balamand University and the Danish Institute, Damascus. Organisers: Astrid Meier (Orient-Institut Beirut), Stephen McPhillips (University of Copenhagen), Souad Slim and Elie Dannaoui (Balamand University).
Hydraulic Landscapes of the Eastern Mediterranean is an international Workshop which brings together specialists of various disciplines and periods in order to debate new approaches to integrating the rural worlds of the Eastern Mediterranean into our research agendas. Although historians often mention the importance of rural economies and communities in early modern and modern state formation, history has been, and still continues to be, written predominantly from an urban perspective. The lack of available sources may present one major obstacle to writing about rural worlds; yet when its variant strands are put into conversation with each other, the data available to anthropologists, ethnographers, historians, archaeologists and scientists (biology, geology, climatology etc.) can help to develop a decidedly non-urban perspective on the past and present of diverse landscapes. This cross-disciplinary approach promises ground-breaking insights into the workings of rural and urban societies as well as the state formation in the eastern Mediterranean and their historical trajectories, beyond easy but commonly held assertions of “dead zones”, agrarian stagnation and decline or ongoing desertification.
To achieve this aim, researchers need to learn to read landscapes from different angles, as ‘texts’ and ‘palimpsests’ that yield different readings to archaeologists, historians, ethnographers, scientists, specialists of migration or of visual arts and historical literature. To facilitate a shared debate between the disciplines, the focus of this workshop is on the use of water and water systems as constitutive elements of every landscape, ranging from the most arid, i.e. deserts, to those provided with plenty of water. Water is a means of connection as well as an object of competition and conflict. Focusing on water and the traces it leaves in the material world, as well as in texts, visual representations and in memory, provides glimpses into the making of social, economic and political spaces as well as that of performed spaces that we have labelled, borrowing from the terminology used by Tony Wilkinson, “hydraulic landscapes”.
Careful examination of the various types of material evidence – archaeological, historical, ethnographic, microfaunal – shows that the use of water resources in these landscapes remained a constant and locally developed technological know-how through-out the period under investigation. This included many complex aspects of water management (irrigation, storage, distribution) involving greater or lesser degrees of centralised organisation, and an increasingly present employment of hydraulic power.
Using cross-disciplinary methodologies in conjunction with the digital tools at our disposal, the workshop wants to map various examples of hydraulic landscapes around the eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, we invite papers that address the what, where and how of hydraulic arrangements and routines in specific landscapes in explicitly cross-disciplinary perspectives. Our approach also encourages researchers to include questionings about:
- the role of movement in the structuring of landscapes, considering movements of people, things, ideas and symbols, not only as vectors of contact between rural and urban communities, but more specifically in relation to the exploitation of water and other resources;
- demography, settlement (permanent/impermanent) and migration;
- the economic landscapes of agrarian and pastoral practices, innovation, local and outside investments (subsistence vs. cash crops such as cotton, silk, tobacco, etc.);
- the means to secure the distribution of water and other resources (legal and social arrangements, fortification, militarisation);
- the role of water and hydraulic landscapes in maps, travelogues, memoirs and other textual and visual representations
Proposals should include a title, a short abstract of 200-300 words, and a CV. Send by email to Stephen McPhillips firstname.lastname@example.org or Astrid Meier Meier@orient-institut.org no later than Friday November 13, 2015.
We have a limited number of grants to cover travel and accommodation that will be provided upon request. A peer-reviewed publication of selected papers presented at the International Workshop is planned for 2016-7.