The Byzness, 29/12/2019

The Byzness, 29th December 2019





‘Collecting Africa: Before, During and After Colonial Overrule’, 27 April 2020, University of Oxford.

Deadline: 31 January 2020          

In recent years European and US museums and libraries have been facing mounting calls for the return of objects taken or acquired from Africa and other parts of the world during the Colonial era. The objects, the ways in which they are gathered and presented, and the institutions which house them have become contested, especially when they are tied to histories of violence and dispossession. The contestation is driven by a greater awareness of the relations between institutions and politics, but also by changes in society and the balance of power. These issues have become interwoven with calls for change in the geopolitics of knowledge which have been met with support and opposition, sometimes violent, as in the case of Rhodes University. The increased focus on these issues in the media indicates that these collections have come to embody competing interests and the struggles of individuals within modern societies, and that the debates about them are as much about the present as the past. Museums in the UK have been responding in different ways to these challenges while scholars and governments debate on the institutional actions or activities that should be undertaken to address these contested collections, especially after the Sarr-Savoy report.

This conference seeks to place these debates in a historical perspective and provide an analysis of materials from Africa in UK collections that focuses on the significances they possessed in the contexts from which they were taken and on the significances they assumed and assume in the contexts in which they were and are deposited and displayed. Throughout history, traders, museum representatives, travellers and missionaries from Europe and Africa collected objects, gathered botanical and mineral samples, and took photographs for a variety of educational and socio-political reasons, sometimes assisted in these processes by African interlocutors engaged in a series of political projects of their own. Taken as a whole, these collections can be viewed as historical records of choices, values or ideologies, while the processes which led to their creation and categorization bear witness to relations of power and knowledge. How did these interactions reshape respective concepts and categories about each “other”? Did these collecting patterns change over time? To what extent are the current narratives reliant on vocabularies and paradigms that need to be reassessed? Papers that consider the acquisition of material before, during, and after the age of new imperialism in comparative terms are particularly encouraged. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the acquisition of objects from different regions, including north Africa, and from different epochs, including the classical and late antique periods. Presentations that explore collections of natural history are equally welcome.

We invite paper presentations of 20 minutes. Please send the title of your proposed paper and an abstract of about 250 words to Jacopo Gnisci,, by January 31, 2020.

For further details, see here.

‘Worlds of Related Coercions in Work (WORCK)’, 16–20 September 2020, Budapest.

Deadline: 15 February 2020

The newly started EU COST-action Worlds of Related Coercions in Work (WORCK) will host its first annual conference at the Central European University in Budapest from 16–20 September 2020. The network aims at exploring interconnected histories of labour and coercion.

One of the defining features of global labour history has been the insistence on looking beyond wage labour. Much scholarship has therefore been directed towards labour understood to be informal or coercive. From this vantage point, historians have argued that in a global and long-term historical perspective wage labour in a stable labour market was rarely the norm. However, in conceptualizing wage labour as an exception scholars often maintain an analytical distinction between labour relations understood to be coercive, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, wage labour which is implicitly or explicitly understood to be a form of free labour. This conference aims to move past this binary by exploring the moments and logics of labour coercion within labour relations mediated by remuneration (of all kinds) and/or contracts (of all kinds) including ostensibly free labour. To this end, it also seeks to open up a discussion about whether concepts such as ‘hired labour’ can help historians reconceptualise historical links between wage labour and labour coercion.

The conference organizers are looking for contributions that expose the ambiguities of wage and contract across history. Contributions might address coercion in diverse contexts such as:

·         Ancient, medieval or early modern societies

·         Peasant economies, urban markets or industrial societies

·         Socialist or post-socialist societies

·         The global north or the global south

·         Contemporary capitalism

The organizers invite proposals that explore labour coercion from a wide range of perspectives including but not limited to those of gender, race, and class. They also welcome proposals that explore the linguistic, spatial and temporal dimensions and hierarchies of coercion.

 Proposals for papers (max. 300 words) can be sent to


‘Ideas in Motion: Arabia in Late Antiquity’, 26-27 August 2020, Leiden University.

Deadline: 10 January 2020

The Leiden University Late Antique and Medieval Studies Initiative in conjunction with the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies is hosting a two-day international conference on Ideas in Motion: Arabia in Late Antiquity. The conference will address key themes in religious, intellectual, and cultural history in Arabia in the period around 570-1000 AD. Central topics include:

·         Transmission of ideas and texts

·         Religious and philosophical doctrines and beliefs in Arabia

·         Devotional piety and theology

·         The Qurʾan, its history, and intellectual debates surrounding the text

·         Early Islam and other religiosities and intellectual trends

·         Holy men and holy places

·         Apocalypticism and eschatology

We particularly welcome contributions from scholars working on the intersection between intellectual-cultural history and religious studies, and whose primary concern is the history of ideas and thought.

For consideration, please send a 300-word abstract in English to by January 15, 2020. The language of the conference will be in English. Participants’ full travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the conference organisers.   



DPhil Scholarship, ‘Colophons, community, and the making of the Christian Middle East, 1500-1900’, University of Oxford.

Deadline: 10 January 2020

This project explores the role of scribal publication in the emergence of Christian identities in the Ottoman world from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. This period witnessed the conversion of several Middle Eastern Christian communities to Catholicism or Protestantism, and it prefigured the era of the so-called ‘nahda’, or Arabic literary renaissance, of the late nineteenth century. Both of these processes built on the momentum of thousands of manuscripts in circulation between communities spread across a wide geography including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. A distinctive feature of this world of scribal publication was the colophon, the marginal note, the seal of ownership, even the fingerprint—all of which acted as personal marks of authority, authenticity, and even religious orthodoxy.

Since 2015, Dr John-Paul Ghobrial has been directing a five-year ERC-funded project called ‘Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World’. One of the main objectives of this project has been to reconstitute a ‘lost archive’ of Christian Arabic and Syriac manuscripts, and the project has already completed the initial cataloguing of thousands of manuscripts. In doing so, the project has drawn on the momentum of critical digitisation projects that have made accessible manuscripts that long lay forgotten in politically sensitive areas of the world. The initial publications emerging from this project have drawn attention to a treasure trove of paratextual elements in Eastern Christian manuscripts and the role they played in the formation of modern identities in the Christian Middle East. The sources range from signatures and cryptic ego-documents scribbled into the margins of folios to poems and curses folded into psalters and Bibles. Using such sources, the doctoral student will be able to explore a wide range of questions about the history of Eastern Christianity at a particular moment of religious transformation, social mobility, and political rupture. Proposals will be considered across a wide range of topics in the social, religious and cultural history of the Christian Middle East.  For example, in what ways did manuscripts contribute to the creation of new Christian identities in this period? In a community characterised by mobility and diaspora, what part did manuscripts play in the ‘global consciousness’ of Middle Eastern Christians? How were status, authority, and kinship communicated in scribal modes of publication, and what impact did they have on the circulation of information and news? Indeed, what role did scribal publication play in the sectarianism that developed in the Middle East in the nineteenth century?

The successful student will have access to the project’s full database, the precious manuscript and resources of the Bodleian Library, and countless partnerships developed over the past five years.  The student will also benefit from working in the environment of a dynamic community of scholars with shared interests in Eastern Christianity including specialists in the Faculty of Oriental Studies and historians of Christianity in the Faculties of History and Theology & Religion.

Applicants should apply for the DPhil in History by 10 January 2020. Ideally, candidates applying for this studentship will be able to work with manuscripts in Arabic or Syriac. The scholarship will cover course fees and provide a living allowance at Research Council rates. Candidates from all backgrounds are welcome to apply, although the Leverhulme Trust has a preference for supporting Home/EU candidates.

For more details, see here.

Two Research Positions, ‘Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands’, University of Oxford.

Deadline: 10 January 2020

We are pleased to announce that two new research positions on the ERC Project, Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands, are now online for all who wish to apply.

Relevant research language skills for applicants may include any of these: Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, Bactrian, Sogdian, Pahlavi, OR other languages used in the pre-Mongol/medieval Islamicate East (eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan; or in medieval terms, Khurasan, Transoxania and Hind). Thematic areas of specialism / focus can include: legal, economic, social, cultural/religious, or literary history, and/or linguistics.

To view the job description and access the online application tab, please go to: , and then under ‘Department’ click on ‘Oriental Studies’ which takes you to the page listing the ‘Go Local’ research jobs and relevant links.

For any further questions, please contact Dr Arezou Azad at


VH Galbraith Junior Research Fellowship, University of Oxford.

Deadline: 10 January 2020

St Hilda’s College Oxford intends to elect a full-time Stipendiary VH Galbraith Junior Research Fellow for a period of three years from 1 October 2020 (or as soon as possible thereafter). The person appointed will be expected to undertake advanced research in Medieval Studies and the Fellowship is open to those who will have completed a PhD/DPhil or who will be near completion at the time of taking up the post.

Applicants may be working on literature of any language in the area of Medieval Studies. The primary duty of the post is to carry out research; in addition to the potential supervision within the Department, the JRF will receive additional academic mentoring by a College Fellow.

The primary criterion for appointment to the Junior Research Fellowship will be research excellence. The stipend will start at Grade 7, point 1, which is £32,817 per annum and is pensionable under the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The Fellow will be provided with use of a shared office in College. Fellows are entitled to free meals, are members of the Senior Common Room, and may apply for research expenses (currently up to £1,800 per annum). They will also be eligible to apply for small project and event grants through the College’s Research Committee.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 10 January 2020. Further details, including information on how to apply, may be found here.

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto.

Deadline: 1 February 2020

The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies offers post-doctoral Fellowships to be used for research at the Institute in the medieval field of the holder’s choice. Mellon Fellows will also participate in the interdisciplinary Research Seminars.

The Mellon Fellowships are intended for young medievalists of exceptional promise who have completed their doctoral work, ordinarily within the previous five years, including those who are starting on their professional academic careers at approximately the Assistant Professor level. Fellowships are valued at approximately $40,000 (CDN).

Applications for the academic year 2020–2021 should be e-mailed in PDF format to the Institute Secretary at Reference letters may also be e-mailed directly by the referee to the Institute Secretary. Completed applications, as well as all supporting documentation, must be received no later than 1 February 2020. The awarding institution must send official confirmation that the PhD has been examined and approved to the postal address below. All documentation must be received by the application deadline.

Application forms and further details may be found here.

Addison Wheeler Postdoctoral Fellowships, Durham University.

The Fellowship is designed to attract the best early career researchers in the UK, Europe and beyond and across the full spectrum of science, social science, arts and humanities.  Our Fellows will help us build international networks of scholars with a common passion for today’s most important research challenges. I should be most grateful if you could draw this exciting opportunity to the attention of your colleagues.

Three postdoctoral Addision Wheeler Fellowships are available commencing no later than 01 October 2020.  These Fellowships have no residency restrictions.  The closing date for applications is 07 February 2020.  The normal period of the Fellowship will be 3 years with starting salaries in the range £33,797 – £40,322 p.a.  Full details can be found here.

Assistant Professor Position, ‘History of the Circum-Mediterranean/Islamic World before 1500’, Western New England University.

The Department of History and Political Science seeks applications for a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of History of the circum-Mediterranean world to 1500.  This can include classical and medieval Europe or the Islamic world. The primary qualification for this position is excellence in teaching. Teaching responsibilities include 12 credit hours of history courses per semester, including World History before 1500 and courses at the intermediate and advanced undergraduate level; breadth of fields is desirable.

The Department of History and Political Science has eleven full-time faculty members who oversee degree programs leading to a B.A. in History, International Studies, Law and Society, and Political Science. The Department also offers courses that serve the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering.

 The candidate must submit a cover letter, teaching statement, current curriculum vitae, and transcripts. After your application has been processed, you will be contacted to submit information for three references. Official transcripts of all higher education coursework will be required, but unofficial transcripts will be accepted for the initial application.

Review of applications will begin December 15, 2019 and continue until the position is filled. Applicants must have or expect to receive a Ph.D. in history by the time this appointment begins in August 2020.

To apply, see here.

Specialist Librarian, ‘Occidental and Non-European Manuscripts’, State and University Library Carl von Ossietzky, Hamburg.

The Hamburg State and University Library Carl von Ossietzky is seeking to fill the position of  Specialist Librarian (Referent/-in, m/f/d) for ‘Occidental and Non-European Manuscripts’ (TV-L 13).

The role involves:

·         Cataloguing of manuscripts as well as expansion, preservation and maintenance of the manuscript collection

·         Communication of the collection to the public and cooperation with the professional community, especially the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at the University of Hamburg

·         Application for and supervision of cataloguing and digitization projects

·         Professional guidance for visitors to the manuscript collection

·         Lectures in the field of humanities and cultural sciences

Requirements for potential candidates include:

·         University degree (master’s or doctorate) in humanities with historical orientation

·         Good to very good knowledge of Latin (Großes Latinum)

·         You have a good knowledge of the current and relevant cataloguing standards and methods, which you have acquired through at least one year’s work in a field of research or digitization related to handwriting, or you have demonstrably catalogued manuscripts independently for at least one year

For the full job description, please see here.

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