Workshop « The Assyrian–Levant Experience: Postcolonial perspectives »

Interdisciplinary Workshop, Collège de France, 24–25 February

In recent years, scholars of ancient empires have turned their attention to the application of postcolonial theories, which insist on local agency, the multi-vocality of evidence, and power distribution. Not restricted to an actual post-colonial (“liberated”) situation, the field of postcolonialism investigates colonialism’s discourses, power structures, and social hierarchies; emphasizes liminalities and views cultural borders and their constant reorganization as fundamental in colonial interactions. Through these colonial interactions, social structures and identities are formed and altered. Scholars have proposed various models in their attempts to address the complex nature of the colonial experience and its transcultural character. Time and again, the common denominator among these models has shown itself to be the search for dialogues among the various groups—dialogues that primarily occurred through individual “agents.”

Accordingly, this workshop aims to draw together studies of the colonial interactions in given geographical niches, within a given time frame, and by employing a range of scholarly methods. The chosen case study is the interaction between the indigenous population of the Levant and the Assyrian state and its agents during the 9th—7th centuries BCE. The intrusive Assyrian activity in the Levant and its consequent hegemony was a transformative force that intensified and eventually terminated processes of social differentiation, state formation, and the creation of regional identities that had begun to form in the late second millennium BCE. Implemented across several phases, a superregional network enabled Assyrian control over extensive territories and restricted the sovereign rights of subservient local peoples. The Assyrian domination expanded, through force, incorporating smaller entities and transforming them into a single, hegemonic “Land of Assyria.” This imperial core crafted a dense network of topographical corridors, secured by hubs throughout the Levant, hosted by imperial agents alongside settlers from the imperial core, and displaced groups. These intrusive groups interacted with surrounding social groups through a range of political considerations, economic goals, and the cultural setting of the local population.

We anticipate that an interdisciplinary meeting of archaeologists, biblical scholars, and Assyriologists, using a varied range of theories, methods and sources, will burst forth into a dynamic fruitful discussion of the complexity of the “Assyrian experience” in the Levant.

We would direct our discussion at investigating the possibilities of such an approach while addressing the following topics related to the imperialindigenous interaction:

  • The image of the colonial forces in the mind of the indigenous individuals and groups;
  • Power distribution: patrimonial relations, networks of interactions, institutions, administrative system;
  • The location of interactions: Assyrian capitals, local centers, scribe schools, trade networks, Assyrian centers along the coast, the imagination of the scribe, etc.;
  • Character of interactions: contact, encounters, continuous exposure;
  • Agency: who interacts with whom? Elite, administrators, soldiers, subalterns vs. dominators, exiled groups, craftsmen, priests, etc.;
  • Transfer of knowledge and appropriation of « foreign » ideas and practices;
  • Actual post-colonial situation: what is remembered, why, and how?;
  • Imperial preconceptions in modern scholarship: the connection between scholarly interpretation and the evolving preconception of empires in the modern mind.

Workshop location: Fondation Hugot du Collège de France, 11 Rue de l’Université, 75007 Paris

For further information please contact


Friday, February 24th

  • 11:00 Introduction: Postcolonizing Assyria and the Levant, Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University) and Thomas Römer (Collège de France)
  • 12:00 The Levant and Assyria: The Assyrian Royal Inscription Perspective, Lionel Marti (CNRS)
  • 13:00 Lunch break
  • 15:15 The Aramaeans and the Assyrians: Some Aspects of Differentiation, Comparison and Interaction, Christian Frevel (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
  • 16:15 Double Assimilation in Sam’al? Local Elites between Home and Empire, Virginia Herrmann (University of Tübingen)

Saturday, February 25th

  • 10:00 Revenge of the Conquered: Paths of Resistance in the Assyrian City of Dan, Yifat Thareani (Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem)
  • 11:00 Jerusalem and Assyria in the 7th Century BCE: Imperial Concepts and Landscape Planning, Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University)
  • 12:00 Lunch break
  • 13:30 The Colonial Experience—Food and Animal Economy under Assyrian Domination, Lidar Sapir-Hen (Tel Aviv University)
  • 14:30 “Woe to the Bloody City” (Nah 3:1). The Image of Assyria in the Book of Nahum and Its Early Reception History, Jakob Wöhrle (Universität Oldenburg)
  • 15:30 Coffee break
  • 15:45 Concluding remarks and final discussion
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A propos Hervé Gonzalez

ATER, chaire « Milieux Bibliques » du professeur Thomas Römer.

Doctorant en sciences des religions à l’université de Lausanne sous la direction du professeur C. Nihan. Ses recherches et publications portent principalement sur la littérature prophétique de la Bible hébraïque, notamment les textes les plus tardifs des époques perse et hellénistique. Sa thèse analyse les représentations de la guerre du livre de Zacharie (chapitres 9-14) dans le contexte de la Judée sous domination lagide (IIIe s. av. n. è.). Il a travaillé et enseigné la Bible hébraïque pendant plusieurs années dans les universités de Lausanne, Genève et Strasbourg, et a également été chercheur invité pendant un an à l’institut d’archéologie de l’université de Tel Aviv.