Lecture tomorrow at Oxford

Reminder of the following paper to be delivered at the Interdisciplinary Workshop for Manuscript and Text Culture (WMTC) at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford

Please note the change of rooms.

Wednesday 11 June: Maria Khayutina (Munich University): Writing Agents in Early China (ca. 11-8 cc BCE): Secretaries and Makers of Slabs

In a recent publication, Joshua Englehardt and Dimitri Nakassis call for “examining writing systems and early texts through the lens of the agency concept,” as this, among other things, can aid “archaeological interpretation of the historically particular subjectivities of past social actors” (Englehardt and Nakassis, eds., Agency in Ancient Writing, Cambridge 2013). Secretaries shi 史 and Makers of Slabs zuoce 作册, whose occupations included producing and handling written documents, are often mentioned in inscriptions on ritual bronze vessels from Early China, mostly dating from 11-8 cc. BCE. Well observable especially in the contexts of royal rituals, administration, or, sometimes, legal matters, the shi and zuoce have been often approached by historians with regard to their functions as writing officials and the functions of writing in the Western Zhou state (1046-771 BCE). The present investigation acknowledges a dialectic, interactive relationship between structures, including states, and practice of individual social actors, by whose agency social, political and cultural realities come into existence and are being transformed. It also warns against presuming the primacy of the state in the ancient Chinese society, which sometimes leads to blending out its overall social complexity. Exploring the activities of the shi and zuoce, it argues that they should be understood not just as passive functionaries, but rather as active agents in the Zhou society, whose influence reached, but was not limited to the domain of the state, and whose actions were conditioned by a number of objective and subjective factors. Inquiring about social background and standing of the shi and zuoce, the author complements the data of epigraphy by archaeological and art-historical data. This approach may allow for a deeper understanding of the role of writing and writing specialists in social, political and cultural processes in Early China.

The workshop will take place at The Queen’s College, High Street (New Dining Room). Lectures are from 6-7pm followed by a discussion. All are welcome. (For more details, see: http://wmtc.queens.ox.ac.uk<http://wmtc.queens.ox.ac.uk/>)

The Workshop on Manuscript and Text Culture (WMTC) is an interdisciplinary research group that brings together specialists and students working on manuscript and text cultures of the ancient Near and Middle East, the Mediterranean, ancient East and South Asia, and medieval Europe. The aim of this workshop is to examine material aspects of writing and text production, as well as transmission and the interface between the oral and the written, across pre-modern literate societies. We offer a unique platform where international specialists and research students engage in close dialogue across their areas of expertise and inform each other about different approaches and theories.

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