Second Workshop on Gender and Methodology

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One can only be in so many places at one time, and even though exciting conferences and workshops seem to be going on constantly, there will never be time enough to attend them all. But if you happened to miss the Second Workshop on Gender and Methodology in Barcelona, you are in luck: the organizers have taken the time to condense three days of intense activity into a small report for Mar Shiprim. Enjoy!

Collaboration, Discussion, Looking Forward

By Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Saana Svärd

On the evening of January 31, 2017, a wine tasting in a family-run wine shop gave a festive kick-off to the “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”. The workshop, which took place in Barcelona February 1-3, 2017, was hosted by IPOA, the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of the University of Barcelona, and organized in cooperation with the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions”, at the University of Helsinki. Responsibility for part of the expenses was also assumed by the project “Construction of Gender in Mesopotamia from 934 to 330 BCE”, at the Academy of Finland. The workshop in Barcelona was a continuation of the “First Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”, organized by the same two scholars at the University of Helsinki in October 2014 and hosted by the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.”

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The main aim of this second workshop, as for the first one, was to discuss different methodological and theoretical approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and to enable fruitful dialogue between these approaches. Moreover, for this second workshop, colleagues from neighboring disciplines were also encouraged to submit proposals in order to enrich these conversations further. As a result, the second workshop included colleagues from the disciplines of Assyriology, Archaeology, Egyptology, Phoenician and Punic studies, and Biblical studies. The full program can be viewed here.

This diversity enabled debates on wide-ranging topics (to name just a few): sexuality, the adequacy of the term “harem” when applied to ancient Near Eastern sources, gender studies perspectives applied to coroplastic studies, the construction of femininities and masculinities in diverse sources, the role of elite women in the administration as well as in worship and rituals, female scholarship, onomastics, the relationship between gender studies and kinship studies, as well as between gender studies and studies on food and commensality, and finally, Assyriology and virtual reality.

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Luckily, this diversity of disciplines, approaches and topics resulted in a rich exchange of ideas following each communication. The atmosphere was collegial and friendly, despite some healthy differences of opinion. These discussions continued during the several breaks and during the social program which was enjoyed by the participants. In addition to the wine tasting organized as a welcoming activity for those already in the city the day before the beginning of the academic program, all speakers and poster presenters were invited by courtesy of the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” to enjoy a dinner together at the Moritz Brewery, one of the hippest locals in town.

Along with the scheduled social program, an impromptu celebration was added to the last day of the workshop: the outstanding scholar Ann Guinan turned 70 on February 3, 2017. All participants were happy to sing together to congratulate Ann on her birthday and the organizers were happy as well to have the chance to thank her publicly for her unfailing support in their several joint ventures.

All in all, the conference lasted three days and featured 33 communications, a poster session where six posters were presented, and a projects panel where nine new and ongoing projects were discussed. The event was well attended and all in all included roughly 90 participants, including speakers and poster presenters. The speakers and poster presenters came from various universities in twelve countries, namely, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

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Both the number and diversity of scholars attending and the intensity of the academic and social program also guaranteed the strengthening of academic networks. The results of such a rich and diverse conference cannot be summed up in a short report, but in this respect we have good news for those who were not able to attend but are eager to know more. On the one hand, we were able to manage the recording of some communications held the first morning of the workshop (thanks to Àngel Fernández for volunteering!). To watch the videos, please follow this link.

On the other hand, the proceedings will be published in the series Barcino. Monographica Orientalia, the series published by the IPOA and Universitat de Barcelona Edicions. The editors will be (in alphabetical order): Stephanie Lynn Budin, Megan Cifarelli, Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Adelina Millet Albà.  

Finally, since both workshops have been well received and the number of participants has increased, the organizers decided to plan a third workshop in the series, hoping the initiative will have continuity as a biannual conference. Thus, the third convening of the meeting, co-organized in cooperation with Katrien De Graef, will be hosted by the University of Ghent in 2019. At the end of the workshop all participants were enthusiastic about meeting each other again in Ghent and it goes without saying we are already looking forward to it!

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