Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Foreign Minorities in Babylonia in the 7th–5th Centuries BCE

This PhD project studies immigrant groups in ancient Babylonia and aims at investigating their identities, socioeconomic status, and integration into an ancient multicultural society.

These people had their roots in regions outside Babylonia proper and some of them had arrived in Babylonia as deportees while others worked there voluntarily as merchants or craftsmen. Even though their presence in Babylonia is widely acknowledged, minorities have received little scholarly attention. Research has mainly concentrated on collecting evidence of foreign names in cuneiform documents, whereas the exiled Judeans have been studied mostly from the Biblical perspective. 

In order to locate the minorities in Babylonian society, I analyze them from three different perspectives. First, I study their socioeconomic status, which involves questions of professions, wealth and social mobility. Second, I’m interested in connections between different minorities and connections between these minorities and Babylonian society. My third research theme takes further the question of interaction and aims at defining the modes of acculturation. Did the minorities remain isolated from the rest of society in order to maintain their identity? Did they integrate or were integrated into society in a way that enabled them to preserve their identity? Or were they assimilated and their identity suppressed in order to promote ideas of one nation or empire? 

It is evident that diversity is a key issue when it comes to minorities. It is impossible to treat minorities as uniform groups, but one sees great variety between minorities and among the members of one minority. This cultural diversity and the various ways to respond to it were everyday issues in ancient societies as they are issues in the globalizing world today. Accordingly, my project contributes not only to the study of Near-Eastern history but also to the current discussion of minorities, multiculturalism and immigration in Europe and around the world. 

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