The Ties that Bind: Mechanisms and Structures of Social Dependency in the Early Islamic Empire
As part of the ERC-funded project, “Embedding Conquest, Naturalising Muslim Rule (600-1000)”, at Leiden University, this conference aims to bring together both senior and junior scholars to present research which illuminates the structures and mechanisms that allowed the early Islamic empire to function. The period to be focused on at the conference is roughly 600-1000 CE.
Structures and mechanisms
The papers should describe the way that local and regional elites were both embedded in larger structures of power and dependency, and employed specific mechanisms to achieve their goals. By structures, we refer to frameworks such as administration, tax-collection, political networks, religious communities, legal systems, social conventions and patronage networks. By mechanisms, we refer to specific instances which establish relationships between actors, including documentary cultures, mechanisms of social integration and embedding (such as oaths, contracts, pledges, marriage, inheritance and succession conventions), mechanisms of social exclusion (such as ostracism, imprisonment, excommunication) and so forth.
Papers may deal with mechanisms and structures that hold the empire together, or examine the fissiparous and centrifugal forces that tend in the opposite direction. Moments of crisis and breakdown are understood as particularly useful both illuminating the precise nature of structures and mechanisms and they are contested, renewed or replaced.
Local and regional elites
In focusing on local and regional elites, we aim to understand how the authority and power of the caliphate were actualized within the daily lives of the empire’s inhabitants. This focus cements a shift in recent years to thinking about the caliphate as a multipolar entity, rather than a pyramidical hierarchy of power (Neff and Tillier), and as a set of relationships and interfaces between actors whose influence derives from being embedded in a particular local context, and power-brokers at the centre of the empire (Paul, Heidemann) . This conference aims to push the field further, by inviting participants to dissect with greater precision the specific structures, mechanisms, behaviours, strategies and conventions that enabled key stakeholders to achieve goals which shaped the lives of the inhabitants of the empire.
Source material will be open to presenters, but we particularly welcome papers that combine literary sources with documentary and material sources.
In addition to the presentation of papers, invited presenters will be encouraged to prepare visualizations of the structures and frameworks that they perceive in their materials, to be discussed in a separate session. These visualizations might be formed in terms of networks, hierarchies, blocs, or other models of conceptualizing the relationships between the diverse stakeholders in the empire.
One of the outcomes of the ERC project, Embedding Conquest, will be an edited volume which records the results of this and other conferences. Participants may be invited to submit their contribution as part of the edited volume. If you will be unable to contribute your research to this volume, then please signal that when you submit your abstract.
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