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Call for papers: Materiality and immateriality of ancient law / SIHDA 2023

Feb. 6, 2023

SIHDA Conference in Helsinki, 22 - 26 August 2023

Deadline for Abstract submissions: 3 March 2023

This year's SIHDA Conference will treat the topic of materiality and immateriality of ancient law. The following Call for Papers has been published on the official website, where the call can be found in different languages, as well as the details of abstract submission.

The study of ancient law is distinguished from nearly all other fields of law in that its sources are divided sharply between sources that are intensely material, local and casuistic as opposed to sources that are transmitted almost exclusively through a textual tradition and which have spread over national boundaries and over time to have an almost global reach. For example, Roman law is known through documentary sources from all around the ancient world, from inscriptions and manuscripts, wax tablets and papyri, telling of the law of everyday life and how law was used in conflict resolution. On the other hand, the Justinianic compilation and other manuscripts have enabled Roman law to have an immense influence in later legal cultures, spreading far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, to places like Japan or America.

The aim of this conference is to explore the implications of this dichotomy. We invite papers that study how archeological excavations and the meticulous study of ancient sources have transformed our idea of ancient law, bringing with it ideas such as diversity or legal pluralism, but equally investigations on how the very act of reception and impact on modern legal cultures has subtly influenced our understanding of ancient law.

The key words are materiality and immateriality, the juxtaposition of a material object such as an inscription and the immaterial ideas of law and jurisprudence.   

Within the theme of the conference, we are especially interested in papers that engage:

  • the relationship between documentary and manuscript tradition on ancient law, for instance legal pluralistic analyses on disjunctions and contradictions between the two
  • new discoveries in e.g. the epigraphic or papyrological sources and their significance
  • the role of material, non-literary sources in understanding the ancient legal tradition
  • the application of themes of legal materiality in ancient law
  • the impact of writing and writing materials in law and legal practice
  • the material surroundings of law, such as spaces of creating and practicing law, legal archaeology and legal symbolism
  • the ways how materiality was conceptualized in ancient law, the law of things, substantiality and the notion of materia
  • reception of the manuscript tradition of ancient law and projections of modern ideas into the ancient materials

As is traditional, these examples are not in any way restrictive and we welcome proposals from a broad range of topics. As always, we welcome proposals that represent the entirety of the ancient world, from ancient Mesopotamia to Late Antiquity.  

 We invite proposals for complete panels and individual papers. As before, a basic panel consists of three papers of 20 minutes and discussion (with a total of 90 minutes), but we also welcome panels with a dedicated commentator or commentators. We encourage thematic proposals that transcend geographic or chronological boundaries.

We are also introducing a few new types of panels or forms of structured presentation for a 90-minute slot. They include the roundtable format (1-2 chairs, 3-4 presenters with 10-minute presentations) with emphasis on discussion, author-meets-readers panel proposals on important recent books (1-2 chairs, 3-4 commentators) as well as skills/pedagogical workshop (chair, 3-4 presenters) that engage in the study and/or teaching of ancient law.