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Antiquity & the Premodern World at Yale Libraries: 2013-2014 Exchange: Cultural & Economic

This interdisciplinary workshop serves as an important meeting ground for those who work on the ancient world at Yale, and is an important forum that allows sustained conversation over a semester or even a year about a common theme.

2013-2014 Theme

In the Workshop for 2013-13 we propose to take the topic “Exchange: cultural and economic.” We shall examine the nature human interaction in ancient societies, how did individuals and groups exchange commodities, ideas, beliefs, images and so on, what drove exchange and what effects did it have? We aim to strike a balance between theorizing of types of exchange (economic, belief systems etc) and their effects on one hand, and ancient case studies of exchange on the other.  Marcel Mauss, for example, in his famous work on the gift, suggests that the all "archaic socieities" had a notion of reciprocal exchange, reciprocity, as the binding moral (and economic) force. It was above all the moral imperative to reciprocate within a GROUP that determined the entire nature of society, from its economy to its moral and religious character. Mauss has had enormous influence across academic fields, especially in the historical social sciences. 

The question for us is, does this theory explain well enough ancient society, or is there more to it than that? What can ancient material: texts, art, archaeology, institutions, add to the debate about the nature of human exchange? Are there other or better ways to examine the interaction of individuals and groups and their consequences?

In conjunction with the workshop this year, a graduate seminar, open to graduates in any discipline, will be held in the Spring of 2014 to examine the concept of exchange in depth and across cultures. The seminar will extend far beyond economics, and examine other kinds of exchange, including Mauss' concept of "The Gift," and Bourdieu's work on "Symbolic Capital."

Ancient Societies Bibliography on Zotero

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Workshop Materials