Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Local Dynamics of Globalization in the Pre-Modern Levant


Already during the Bronze Age, the Eastern Mediterranean (the Levant) experienced the formation of secondary states and empires that promoted early forms of globalization. This development caught on, with the Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Abbasid and Ottoman empires as good examples. One often speaks about such empires as agents for cultural development. But, in reality, how profound were the changes they initiated for instance in people’s daily lives? What forces would pull in the direction of local change, and what counter-forces would work in the direction of stability? The aim for the researchers in LDG is to explore these and related questions in six different empirical contexts, to let findings in these six contexts elucidate each other, and to formulate theoretical models for studying the local dynamics of globalization in pre-modern societies. Professor Terje Stordalen, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, is the coordinator of the project, with project co-originator Øystein (Sten) LaBianca, Andrews University (archaeology), as the associate coordinator. These two together with Professor Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University (social anthropology), are responsible for developing the theoretical aspects of the project. The individual projects in LDG include Professor LaBianca’s work on local and global discourses as they are mirrored in the archaeological record of Tall Hisban, Jordan. Findings in excavations at this site go back to the Bronze Age and document a number of pre-modern as well as modern empires. They also indicate aspects of daily life having been less influenced by changing empires. This renders Hisban as a metaphor for the analytical perspective of LDG. Prof. Stordalen examines how elite biblical literature and archaeological material from localized contexts mirror different sets of religious practices in different social fields of ancient Hebrew society. Professor Diana Edelman, will investigate the formation of popular and elite identities in Palestine after the fall of the autonomous Israelite state. Professor Øyvind Norderval, University of Oslo, will research elite interpretations of various localized building programs of Emperor Constantine in the Holy Land. Associate Professor Marina Prusac Lindhagen, University of Oslo, will study how the multi-ethnic Jerusalem of Constantine was interpreted as a Christian program by later generations of elites. Eveline J van der Steen PhD, will research how the ideals and practice of honour and hospitality among 19th century Bedouin tribes shaped their politics and those of the wider region. And finally, Professor Bethany Walker, Missouri State University, will investigate migration as a counter strategy to globalization in the pre-modern Eastern Mediterranean, especially under the Islamic empires.


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