“At the Margins” is an interdisciplinary conference at Brown University bringing together scholars studying the Near East and Egypt to rethink the dichotomy between antiquated terms such as “core” and “periphery” and instead to explore lived realities in the margins of central authority. The borderlands of hegemonic entities within these regions pressed against each other creating cities and societies with influence from several competing polities. The peoples, cities, and cultures of these borderlands present a unique lens by which to examine how states controlled and influenced the lives, political systems, and social hierarchies of these subjects (and vice versa). Due to their inherently porous nature, frontier zones are difficult to define and often result in asymmetric encounters between polities. Additionally, the distinct traditions and experiences of areas beyond the core will be explored, for their own sake and their own distinct ways of life. It remains imperative that today’s historians and social scientists understand the ways in which these cultures developed, spread, and interacted with others along frontier edges. Such concepts to be examined are: terminology used when discussing empire, core, periphery, borderlands, and frontiers; conceptualization of space; practices and consequences of warfare, captive-taking and slavery; identity- and secondary state-formation; economy and society; ritual; diplomacy and the negotiation of claims to power.
As an intersectional approach between multiple disciplines, this conference will bring together professionals from archaeology, religious studies, history, sociology, and anthropology to work on new explorations of the frontier. We encourage participants to consider new frameworks for understanding such regions, applying concepts such as practice, identity, and postcolonial thought. Through this conference we aim to open new pathways in research, deepen already existing research, and promote wider collaboration among specialists. Furthermore, this conference will promote study of the ancient world in the field of frontier studies.