AH 522

Body, Performance, and Architectural Space in the Ancient Near Eastern World


School of Art & Art History

University of Illinois at Chicago

Spring 2015


Meets Mondays 9-11:45 am Henry Hall 303

Instructor: Ömür Harmanşah (, Associate Professor of Art History

Ömür’s Office Hours: Mondays 3-5 pm at Henry Hall Room 211B or by appointment.

Course Description

Bodies make space speak. This graduate seminar investigates the relationship between bodily practice, social performance, and the production of architectural space. Critical literature on the human body, its gender and sexuality, its materiality, and everyday life have flourished in the recent decades, while discussions of architectural space, place and landscape came to the foreground. Drawing on this corpus of recent scholarship in the social sciences and humanities, we will work closely with architectural, art historical and archaeological case studies drawn from the ancient Near Eastern world, and consider the impact of such new paradigms on the field. Neolithic figurines, megalithic monuments, rock reliefs, cave paintings, funerary rituals, urban festivals and festive spaces with visual narrative programs will constitute some of the case studies. Discussions of embodiment, embodied subjectivity, agency of objects, animism of architectural spaces and landscapes, gendered representation of the body, gender performance, multi-sensorial experience of the everyday world, spectacles of the state and biopolitics will play a central role in the seminar. While reading theoretical scholarship on body, performance and space, we will also be studying closely select case studies of archaeological sites, bodies of material evidence drawn from athe ancient Middle Eastern world from prehistory to the late Iron Age.

Course Requirements

The Monday meetings will be in the seminar discussion format which means that it requires the active participation of all students in the class whether they are taking the class for credit or auditing. Students are expected to complete the weekly readings listed below under each week before the seminar, come prepared to the seminar to participate. Ömür may circulate discussion points of questions prior to the meeting (to be posted on the Blackboard)- but there will be room for each of you to post your own questions. Participation, active involvement in the discussions, developing good note-taking habits as well as the contribution to the Blackboard page are the most vital aspects of this course. A Blackboard course page is created for the course to be used for discussions, posting of readings, announcements, assignments, and the like. Please familiarize yourself with the blackboard page, and make sure to check the site regularly, at least before each class meeting.

  1. Response papers: In the first several weeks of the semester, following each seminar discussion, you will be asked to write five short response papers (usually less than 1000 words) and post them on the blackboard. It is suggested that every member of the class focuses on one aspect of the week’s discussion that is critical to him/her, and provide a commentary. These response papers will be brief, creative and dynamic essays that are inspired by some aspects of your weekly reading and the discussion that ensues it.
  2. Short paper assignment: This is a 6-8 page paper assignment that will come out of the ideas you will have accumulated in your response papers. It does not involve new research but expected to be a crystallization of your response papers into a chunkier piece of writing addressing issues discussed in class in greater depth. (Due March 20th Friday, 5 pm hard copy)
  1. Class presentations: We will have weekly presentations of reporting about particular places and archaeological sites or bodies of material evidence, or simply summarizing particular readings. You will be asked to sign up for them on your own on the blackboard. Look for topics marked as “Presentation” in the Weekly Schedule page and sign up at least for two different weeks. The presenters will also be responsible to come up with discussion points and questions for the whole group to consider.
  2. Final Research project: Every student will choose a related research topic in collaboration with Ömür and turn it into a final project. The project should involve the theoretical concepts/issues relating to architecture, body and performance and its application to an archaeological case study, relevant to our seminar discussions. The research project’s presentations will include a 15-20 minute class presentation of the project (April 20-27th), and a 15-25 page final paper (due May 8th Friday). You are strongly encouraged to submit a draft of your paper (preferabley an 8-12 pages draft) on the day of your presentation, to receive timely feedback.


  • Class participation                 25%
  • Response papers                   15%
  • Short paper assignment 10%
  • Class presentations                10%
  • Final research project           40%


During the seminar, we will not be covering basic historical background to Near Eastern cultures and history. When preparing for class and for your presentations, you may occasionally need reference material for historical, art historical and geographical background.  The following volumes will be placed on reserve at the Daley Library for this purpose. If you need futher assistance for such resources, please don’t hesitate to ask Ömür.

Akkermans, Peter M.M.G. and Glenn M. Schwartz; 2003. The archaeology of Syria: from complex hunter-gatherers to early urban societies (ca. 16,000-300 BC). Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kuhrt, Amélie; 1995. The Ancient Near East: c. 3000-330 B.C. 2 Vols. Routledge: London and New York.

Liverani, Mario; 2014. The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. Routledge.

Matthews, Roger; 2003. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches. London and New York: Routledge.

Postgate, J. Nicholas; 1992. Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the dawn of history. Routledge: London and New York.

Roaf, Michael; 1996. Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. New York; Facts on File.

Sagona, Antonio and Paul Zimansky; 2009. Ancient Turkey. Routledge: London and New York.

Van de Mieroop, Marc; 2004. A History of the Ancient Near East. ca 3000-323 BC. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Books ordered at the UIC Bookstore

  • Orbach, Susie; 2009. Bodies. New York: Picador.
  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne; 2000. Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World (The Routledge Series Integrating Science and Culture). Routledge.
  • Joyce, Rosemary; 2008. Ancient bodies, ancient lives: sex, gender and archaeology. Thames and Hudson.
  • Pearson, Mike and Michael Shanks; 2001. Theater/Archaeology.

Weekly Schedule

Week 1: Jan 12. Introduction: overview of the course.

Start reading:  Orbach, Susie; 2009. Bodies. New York: Picador: 1-32.

Jan 19: Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. No class.


Week 2: Jan 26. Body and embodiment in recent critical theory and archaeology

Mauss, Marcel; 1934. “Techniques of the Body” Republished in Incorporations, edited by J. Crary and S. Kwinter. Zone Books 1992: 454-477.

Shilling, Chris; 2005. “Introduction” ad “Contemporary bodies” in Body in culture, technology and society.London: Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE, 1-23 and 47-72.

Turner, Bryan S.; 2000. “An outline of a general sociology of the body,” in The Blackwell companion to social theory. Bryan S. Turner (ed.). Second edition. Malden MA: Blackwell, 481-502.

Joyce, Rosemary; 2005. “Archaeology of the body,” Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 139-158.

Meskell, Lynn M. 1996: “The somatisation of archaeology: institutions, discourses, corporeality,” Norwegian Archaeological Review 29(1): 1-16.


Week 3. Feb 2. Body, image and knowledge: rock art and shamanistic performance. Göbeklitepe and Nevalı Çori: early Neolithic sites in Southeastern Turkey.

  • First Response Papers due on Blackboard

Bodies: animal and human

Tilley, Christopher; 2008. “Body and image” in Body and image: explorations in landscape phenomenology 2. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 15-52.

Lewis-Williams, J. David; 2001. “South African shamanistic rock art in its social and cognitive contexts,” in Archaeology of shamanism. Niel S. Price (ed.). London and New York: Routledge, 17-39.

Turnbull, David; 2002. “Performance and narrative, bodies and movement in the construction of places and objects, spaces and knowledges,” Theory, Culture & Society 19 (5/6): 125-143.

Ingold, Tim; 2000. “Totemisim, animisim and the depiction of animals,” in Perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. London: Routledge, 111-131.

Göbeklitepe and Nevalı Çori: spaces of Neolithic performance (Presentation)

Dietrich, Oliver; Manfred Huen; Jens Notroff; Klaus Schmidt; Martin Zarnkow; 2012. “The role of cult and feasting in the emergence of Neolithic communities. New evidence from Gobekli Tepe, South-Eastern Turkey” Antiquity 86: 674-695.

Schmidt, Klaus; 2010. “Göbekli Tepe —the Stone Age sanctuaries. New Results of Ongoning Excavations with a special focus on sculptures and high reliefs.” Documenta Praehistorica 37: 239–56.


Week 4. Feb 9. Performance and performativity: towards an understanding of performed and embodied spaces, subjects, societies. Live performance and reenactment of the the past.

  • Second Response Papers due on Blackboard

Guest: Rebecca Schneider, Professor of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University, will join our seminar discussion. She will also be giving a talk at the University of Chicago Campus at 4 pm.


What is performance?

Schechner, Richard; 2002. “What is performance?” Performance studies: an introduction. Routledge, 28-50.

Mitchell, Jon P.; 2006. “Performance” in Handbook of material culture. Christopher Tilley et. al. (eds.). London: Sage Publications, 384-401.

Carlson, Marvin; 2004. “The performance of culture: anthropological and ethnographic approaches” in Performance: a critical inttroduction. Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 11-30.

Live performance and reenactment of the the past

Schneider, Rebecca; 2011. “Foreword” and “In the meantime: performance remains” Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. Routledge, 1-31 and 87-110.

Dowson, Thomas A. 2009; “Re-animating Hunter-gatherer Rock-art Research,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19/3: 378-87.

Pearson, Mike and Michael Shanks; 2001. Theater/Archaeology. Routledge.


Week 5. Feb 16. A performative theory for prehistoric figurines, potent visuality and everyday life at Neolithic houses in Çatalhöyük (Turkey): the question of everyday performance.

  • Third Response Papers due on Blackboard

Beyond the goddess: Figurine studies and the Neolithic

Bailey, Douglas W.; 2008. “The corporeal politics of being in the Neolithic,” in Past bodies: body-centered research in archaeology. Dušan Borić and John Robb (eds.). Oxford: Oxbow Books, 9-19.

Tringham, Ruth and Margaret Conkey; 1998. “Rethinking Figurines: a critical analysis of Archaeology, Feminism and Popular Culture” in Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and the Evidence.  C. Morris and C Goodison, ed.. London: British Museum Press.

Joyce, Rosemary; 2008. “Goddesses, matriarchs and manly-hearted women: troubling categorical approaches to gender,” in Ancient bodies, ancient lives: sex, gender and archaeology. Thames and Hudson, 46-66.

Çatalhöyük figurine project (Presentation)

Figurines project website:

Hodder, Ian; 2006. “Materiality, ‘art’ and agency” The Leopard’s Tale: Revealing the Mysteries of Catalhoyuk. Thames & Hudson, 185-216.

Nakamura, Carolyn and Lynn Meskell; 2009. “Articulate bodies: forms and figures at Çatalhöyük,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 16/3: 205-230.

Çatalhöyük: architecture and everyday life (Presentation)

Hodder, Ian; 2006. “The spectacle of daily performance at Çatalhöyük,” in Archaeology of performance: theaters of power, community, and politics. Takeshi Inomata and Lawrenbce S. Cohen (eds.). Lanham: Altamira Press, 81-102.

Lewis-Williams, David; 2004. “Constructing a cosmos: architecture, power and domestication at Çatalhöyük,” Journal of Social Archaeology 4: 28-60.


Week 6. Feb 23. Royal tombs of Ur: Death rituals, bodily violence and burying the dead: transformed bodies

  • Fourth Response Papers due on Blackboard

Body, violence, power

Foucault, Michel; 2003. “…The birth of biopower, ” Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at College de France 1975-1976. Picador, 239-263.

Butler, Judith; 1989. “Foucault and the Paradox of Bodily Inscriptions”  The Journal of Philosophy 86/11: 601-607.

Bahrani, Zainab; 2008. “An Archaeology of Violence” and “The king’s head,”in Rituals of war: The body and violence in Mesopotamia. New York: Zone Books, 1-55.

Richardson, Seth; 2007. “Death and dismemberment: in Mesopotamia: Discorporation between the Body and Body Politic,” in Performing Death: Social analysis of funerray traditions in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. N. laneri (ed.). Chicago: Oriental Institute Publications, 189-208.

Royal tombs of Ur (Presentation)

Dickson, Bruce; 2006. “Public transcripts expressed in theatres of cruelty: the Royal Graves at Ur in Mesopotamia,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16/2: 123-144.

Pollock, S.; 2007. “The Royal Cemetery of Ur: Ritual, tradition and the creation of subjects,” in Representations of political power: case histories from times of change and dissolving order in the Ancient Near East. M. Heinz and M. H. Feldman (eds.). Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 89-110.


Week 7. March 2. Embodied subjectivities: Constructions of gender and sexuality

  • Fifth Response Papers due on Blackboard

Sexing the body

Fausto-Sterling, Anne; 2000. Sexing the body : gender politics and the construction of sexuality. New York, NY : Basic Books, 1-44.

Joyce, Rosemary; 2004. “Embodied subjectivity: gender, femininity, masculinity, sexuality,” in A companion to social archaeology. Lynn Meskell and Robert W. Preucel (eds.). Nalden MA: Blackwell, 82-95.

Knapp, A. Bernard; 1998. “Boys will be Boys: Masculinist Approaches to a Gendered Archaeology” in Reader in archaeological theory : post-processual and cognitive approaches. D. S. Whitley (ed.). London: Routledge, 241-256.

Meskell, Lynn M.; 1998. “The irresistable body and the seduction of archaeology” in Changing bodies, changing meanings: studies on the human body in antiquity. D. Montserrat (ed.). London: Routledge, 139-161.

Naram Sin and the aspects of masculinity (Presentation)

Winter, Irene J.; 1996. “Sex, rhetoric and the public monument: the alluring body of Naram-Sin of Agade” in Sexuality in Ancient Art, N.B.Kampen (ed.), Cambridge: 11-26.

Bahrani, Zainab; 2008. “Death and the ruler,”in Rituals of war: The body and violence in Mesopotamia. New York: Zone Books, 101-130.


Week 8. March 9. Archaeology of the Senses: Sensorial approaches to materiality and representation. Towards a sensorial archaeology and art history

Hamilakis, Yannis; 2014. Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect. Cambridge and New York: University of Cambridge Press.

Laneri, Nicola; 2011. “Connecting Fragments: a Sensorial Approach to the Materialization of Religious Beliefs in Rural Mesopotamia at the Beginning of the Second Millennium BC” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21/1: 77-94.

Representing sexuality in the Old Babylonian Mesopotamia and Egypt

Meskell, Lynn M. 2000. “Re-em(bed)ding sex: Domesticity, sexuality, and ritual in New Kingdom Egypt.” In Archaeologies of Sexuality. R. Schmidt and B. Voss (eds.) London: Routledge, 253-262.

Bahrani, Zainab; 2001. “Metaphorics of the body: nudity, the goddess and the gaze,” in Women of Babylon: gender and representation in Mesopotamia. London: Routledge, 40-69.

Assante, Julia; 2003. “From whores to hierodules: the historiographic invention of Mesopotamian female sex professionals,” in Ancient art and its historiography. Alice A. Donohue and Mark D. Fullerton (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 13-47.


Week 9. March 16. The Mesopotamian Sacred Marriage ritual: Performance, sexuality, and drama

  • Short paper assignment due March 20th Friday by 5 pm. to be posted on Blackboard.

Gender performance

Butler Judith 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge, 1-27.

Perry, E.M. and Rosemary Joyce; 2001. “Providing a past for Bodies that matter. Judith Butler’s impact on archaeology of gender,” International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 6: 63-76.

Joyce, Rosemary; 2008. “Sensous figures, celibates and sex workers: thinking about sex in the past,” in Ancient bodies, ancient lives: sex, gender and archaeology. Thames and Hudson, 86-114.

Early Mesopotamian “sacred marriage” ritual (Presentation)

Bahrani, Zainab; 2002. “Performativity and the image: narrative, representation and the Uruk vase,” in Leaving no stones unturned: essays on the Ancient Near East and Egypt in honor of Donald P. Hansen. E. Ehrenberg (ed.). Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2002: pages 15-22.

Cooper, Jerrold; 1993. “Sacred marriage and popular cult in early Mesopotamia,” in Official cult and popular religion in the Ancient Near East. Heidelberg: Universtatsverlag C. Winter, 81-96.

Steinkeller, Piotr; 1999. “On rulers, priests and sacred marriage: tracing the evolution of Early Sumerian kingship,” in Priests and officials in the Ancient Near East. K. Watanabe (ed.), Universitätsverlag C. Winter: Heidelberg, 103-137.

Jones, Philip; 2003. “Embracing Inana: Legitimation and Mediation in the Ancient Mesopotamian Sacred Marriage Hymn Iddin-Dagan A” The Journal of the American Oriental Society 123: 291-302.


March 23-27 Spring Vacation – No class


Week 10. March 30. The Production of Social Space: The making of Assyrian cities

Lefebvre, Henri; 1991. “Spatial architectonics” in The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 167-228.

Bourdieu, Pierre. “Structures, habitus, practices” in The Logic of Practice. Richard Nice (trans.). Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 52-65.

Urban Space In Late Assyrian and Late Hittite cities (Presentation)

Lumsden, Stephen; 2004. “The Production of Space at Nineveh,” Iraq 66: 187-197.

Gilibert, Alessandra; 2013. “Death, Amusement, and the City. Civic Spectacles and the Theatre Palace of Kapara, King of Guzana” Kaskal 10: 35-68.

Harmanşah, Ömür; 2013. “City and the Festival: Monuments, Urban Space, and Spatial Narratives” in Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East. Cambridge, 102-152.


Week 11. April 6. Body, movement and landscape: phenomenology of the “lived body” in the place-world. Site-specificity and the concept of place.

Moving bodies in the landscape

Tilley, Christopher with Wayne Bennett; 2004. “From body to place to landscape: a phenomenological perspective,” in The materiality of stone: explorations in Landscape Phenomenology: 1. Oxford: Berg, 1-32.

Casey, Edward; 2001. “Body, self and landscape: geophilosophical inquiry into the place-world,” in Textures of place: exploring humanist geographies. P.C. Adams et al. (eds.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 403-425.

Ingold, Tim; 2004. “Culture on the Ground: The World Perceived through the Feet” Journal of Material Culture 9(3): 315–340.

Kaye, Nick; 2000. “Introduction: Site-Specifics” in Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place, and Documentation. Routledge, 1-12.

Border Steles and Rock reliefs in the Ancient Near East (Presentation)

Volk, Lucia; 2008. “When memory repeats itself: The politics of heritage in post civil war Lebanon,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40: 291-314.

Shafer, Ann; “Assyrian royal monuments on the periphery: ritual and the making of imperial space,” in Ancient Near Eastern art in context: studies in honor of Irene J. Winter. J. Cheng and M. H. Feldman (eds.). Boston and Leiden: Brill, 133-160.

Harmanşah, Ömür; 2015. “Rock reliefs are never finished” in Place, Memory and Healing: An Archaeology of Anatolian Rock Monuments. Routledge, 83-119.


Week 12. April 13. Archaeology of Ritual Performance in Babylonia: Spectacles of the State at The New Year’s Festival at Babylon

Debord, Guy; 1967 (1995). Society of the Spectacle. D. Nicholson-Smith (trans). New York: Zone Books, 11-24.

Bell, Catherine; 2009. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford University Press, 1-20.

Demarrais, Elizabeth; 2014. “Introduction: the Archaeology of Performance” World Archaeology 46/2: 155-163.

Black, Jeremy A.; 1981. “The New Year Ceremonies in Ancient Babylon: ‘taking Bel by the hand’ and a cultic picnic,” Religion 11: 39-59.

Sommer, Benjamin D.; 2000. “The Babylonian akitu festival: Rectifying the king or renewing the cosmos?” The Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 27: 81-95.

Ristvet, Lauren; 2014. “Between ritual and theatre: political performance in Seleucid Babylonia” World Archaeology 46 (2): 256-269.


Week 13/14. April 20 and 27. Final Presentations

Final papers due: May 8th, Friday by 5 pm. Hard copy in Ömür’s mailbox (Jefferson Hall- Art History office) and on Blackboard.

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