Global History, Frontiers and Borders in Antiquity


The crisis of Eurocentrism - understood as the cosmovision that places Western modernity as a model and a destiny of Universal History – was amongst the greatest cultural ruptures of the late 20th century, with a deep impact on global scholarship. Different areas of the Historical field reacted in particular ways: while Economic and Comparative History revisited the centrality of Europe in world history (e.g., the ReOrient), Social History highlighted the intertwining between structure and agency of subaltern groups. Cultural History focused on the tensions between the construction of identities and social representations such as ‘civilized’ or ‘colonial’ (as in post- and decolonial approaches) and Environmental History has reworked the relationships between societies and the environment beyond the discourse of ‘conquest of nature’ or the ‘lament of degradation’. In this context, the emergence of Global History reinforced these questions: its mission to criticize Eurocentrism and methodological internalism has oriented many new studies, from macro comparisons to the study of ‘microglobalizations’, from networks to world-systems, from travelers in contact with empires, from transnational processes to global environmental phenomena. Central to the Global History project is a critique of the projection of contemporary concepts onto the past – such as the idea of the nation-state – which decontextualize societies from their historical reality.

Ancient History has dialogued with these perspectives in multiple ways. As a result, three approaches have emerged: the history of ancient subaltern groups, the history of the reception and uses of Antiquity in the contemporary world, and the history of connections and contacts between various ancient societies in broader contexts. In this scope, the problem of borders - social and spatial, internal and external - emerges in a particularly acute way. How to define the boundaries between dominant and subaltern groups, or between segments of subaltern groups? How was Antiquity used in contemporary Western ‘frontier contexts’, such as contemporary Latin America? Furthermore, directly in relation to Global History: did the borders that constitute the ‘Roman world’, ‘Egypt’, and ‘Africa’ have an observable reality, or are these, something other than a conceptual projection of nation-states to the past? What were the contexts in which ancient societies developed and interacted? What was the relationship between internal and external borders? Did integration into larger contexts eliminate borders?

The objective of this issue is to reflect on the problem of borders and frontiers in Antiquity. In recent decades both concepts have gained new contours and have been discussed in several disciplines of the Humanities. In a globalized world, the effort to dissolve borders resulted in the strengthening of many others. If geographical barriers tend to disappear by the ease of displacement, communication, and exchanges, we also witness an effort to maintain old borders: linguistic, cultural, social, and political. We believe Ancient History has something to say about this.

We invite scholars to submit papers addressing the issue of social, geographical and/or disciplinary boundaries in Antiquity. By social boundaries, we understand the multiple forms of gender distinction, between rich and poor, owners and workers, free and slave, emphasizing the relational aspect of social actors in their various forms and manifestations. By geographical boundaries, we understand both the frontier between different societies (e.g. middle grounds) or between a society and the uninhabited space, settlements within others (such as colonies) or commercial outposts. By disciplinary boundaries, we understand the spaces of intersection between different areas, such as History, Geography, Anthropology and Archeology, or more specifically, between Classical Studies, Assyriology, Egyptology, Indology, Sinology, African Studies, Brazilian Archeology, Archeology Prehistoric etc. By its nature, especially in Brazilian universities, Ancient History can trigger multi/trans/disciplinary and truly collaborative work, challenging us to rethink the boundaries between fields defined in the last two centuries. In this sense, the very definition of 'Antiquity' needs to be revisited and expanded beyond the traditional frameworks of Mediterranean or Near Eastern societies. The publication aims to have papers discussing ‘frontier/border issues’ in multiple spaces, such as Afroeurasia and America, according to what each field defines as its own ‘Antiquity’. We invite to this dialogue studies on the Ancient Mediterranean, the Ancient Amazon or on Ancient China, which will help, we hope, to reflect on the multiple uses that the term ‘Antiquity’ has in an increasingly global context. We intend to contribute to the debate around the concept of frontier and borders, and to the post-Eurocentric, plural and collaborative Ancient History.


Instructions to Authors: