Social Identities under Ancient Empires


The aim of this unit is to discuss social identities in the ancient world, particularly under ancient Near Eastern empires—which included Israel and Judah at different times. We particularly seek contributions that illuminate the shifting of these types of social identities under the aegis of the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Persian empires of the 1st millennium BCE. The presentations are expected to discuss especially the concept of

Social structure and habitus formation: Even without an explicit concept of identity, patterns of association and belonging are played out in the daily lives of individuals. These patterns in turn shape the available options for others in a given society. How can archaeology or texts allow us to reconstruct ways in which empires perpetuated or altered the habitus in their empires, and what effects for group associations and social structures can we see?


 Identity, Empire, Habitus, Social Roles, Neo-Assyrian



Joanna Töyräänvuori

University of Helsinki


Adrianne Spunaugle

University of Helsinki

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

Questions of social identity and identity formation have sparked intense scholarly interest in the study of the ancient world in recent years. Research has especially focused on the topics of gender and ethnic identity. With the ever-increasing source material and continuing advances in the methodological tools used by Near Eastern historians, the study of ancient identities is at an apt moment for examining the clarity and coherence of concepts, terms, and approaches. Given the complexity of the issues, this task requires a theory-driven and 3 interdisciplinary conversation. The organizers invite papers reflecting on particular aspects of social identity in the ancient world (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Anatolia, the Levant, ancient Israel, and others) that take into account their specificities, ambiguities, and interrelations. We especially encourage papers exploring identity based on habitus-formation and the stratification of ancient societies, i.e., questions of class and socio-economic status, and/or how such specific aspects of identity relate to other elements of identity.