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Migration Narratives in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (1870 - 1930)

Jan 01, 2014 — Dec 31, 2016

So-called ethnic migrations have apparently always been deemed worth telling. They belong to the most popular motifs of fictional and factual stories from mythological traditions up to modern historiographic writing. The field of Ancient Studies is no exception. Since the 19th century, the various fields have used both real and presumed migrations as an explanation for cultural and historical change. They both serve as historical road markers and as central models in the contruction of geohistorical areas. This historical "migrationism" is particularly attractive since it is also easily recognizable. Historic migrations in diverse periods and regions as depicted in Ancient Studies show remarkable parallels and can thus be seen as narrative products.

Viewed from the narratological perspectives of the history of science and the history of historiography, we can recognize common narrative patterns still in use today to define historic groups as migrants or settled or to define geohistoric regions as either the source or goal of migratory movements. These narratives are often integrated into coherent historiographic depictions.

The project, supported by a grant of the German Science Foundation (DFG) for a period three years, is designed to provide an exploratory base for the study of the origins and developments of migration narratives in a particular historiographic context: The study of the Ancient Near East between ca. 1870 and 1930. There is no doubt that migrationism played a particularly important role in this context. Depictions of the history of the region from the 19th and 20th centuries devoted considerable attention to questions of the origins and migratory paths of "Semites", "Turanians," or "Indo-Europeans." The topic becomes particularly acute when read against the close links between Oriental Studies and geopolitics as well as the considerable role played by migration motifs in the the religious and cultural interpretations of the Near East, up to the antisemitic constructions of history. The projects is thus based ona  reading of both scientific publications in the narrow sense as well as school texts and museum displays. Research on the narrative variability in the modes of representation (texts, images, maps) in the source material will provide a synchronic and diachronic perspective on the development of central narrative patterns and their transformations.

Institution: Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies

Principal Investigators: Dr. Felix Wiedemann; Prof. Dr. Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum

Grants: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project Duration: 1.1.2014–31.12.2016