Strands of Power in Medieval Eurasia

Stefan Kamola (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Anne Broadbridge (University of Massachusetts)
Stefan Kamola
Anne Broadbridge
Posvar 3610
Start time:
27 October, 2018 at 11:00
Session slots:


It is understood that Western paradigms of the state are often inappropriate for classifying societies of pre-modern Eurasia. Non-state polities, whether predominantly nomadic or sedentary, were able to co-ordinate the activities of thousands of people, whether for economic or military purposes. It is therefore necessary to examine these alternative methods of social organisation, rather than seeing the lack of state structures as a fundamental absence. This panel will therefore examine the reification and reproduction of power in pre-modern Eurasia through the medium of networks, whether of kin, trade, or ideological connection. This panel will also aim to bridge disciplinary and national barriers, in particular between scholars working in Western Europe and North America, and those working in the countries of Central Eurasia. Alemany's paper will examine a fundamental issue of pre-modern Eurasian historiography: the lack of a comprehensive prosopography. He argues that the dispersed nature of the primary source base has led to the rise of unsustainable conjectures, but that this situation can be ameliorated by the creation of a networked, online source corpus. In this way modern technology can help us visualise pre-modern networks of power in Eurasia. Latham-Sprinkle's paper will examine a well-attested but understudied phenomenon in pre-modern West Eurasia: the ostentatious display of access to imperial networks of power as a source of political legitimation. This paper will concentrate on the ideological aspects of this practice, rather than its direct military or material implications. It will argue that this 'power of the foreign' suggests a long prehistory of a very contemporary idea: cultural appropriation. Specifically, it will argue that the ability to take on aspects of another culture, and to have that appropriation recognised, has historically been a powerful source of political legitimation. Nurulla-Khodzaeva's paper will examine one of the most famous cultural networks of pre-modern Eurasia, that of the Sogdians of Central Asia. She argues that the ramifications of this network can be traced far beyond the immediate cultural and economic contexts of the sixth to ninth centuries CE. This paper will argue that this cultural network retains power in the modern era, and can serve as a vehicle to question the national partition of modern Central Asian historiography.