The Oriental Institute and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago, announce a conference to be held October 5-7, 2016:

The Limits of Empire in Afghanistan: Rule and Resistance in the Hindu Kush, circa 600 BCE-650 CE

Organized by Gil J. Stein and Richard Payne

In the first millennia BCE and CE, successive empires sought to incorporate the archipelago of territories in and around the Hindu Kush and to install their structures of rule. The Achaemenians, Seleucids, and Sasanians endeavored -- and sometimes pretended -- to rule regions of Afghanistan from their courts located in the Near Eastern core, upward of 2500 km distant. The Kushans, for their part, made Bactra and Begram the bases of an empire that extended far beyond into India and Central Asia. Apart from distance, these empires confronted a political geography in the Hindu Kush that was -- like the Caucasus -- uniquely unfavorable to imperial governance, as well as populations with disparate cultures, social structures, and political traditions. Afghanistan thus provides a test of the capacities of ancient imperial regimes to overcome distance, verticality, and difference to integrate territories into their trans-regional and trans-cultural orders. As even a passing familiarity with the history of the region suggests, efforts at empire failed at least as often as they succeeded in a geographical and cultural landscape highly conducive what James Scott calls the “art[s] of not being governed.” The conference aims to focus on the limits of empire in Afghanistan, as a means of better comprehending the workings of the regimes that laid claim to its territories and the responses of its populations.

The conference convenes archaeologists, art historians, historians, philologists, and numismatists to debate current research in the context of ongoing theoretical debates concerning the formation, endurance, and limits of imperial systems within a highland political ecology.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - Franke Institute

Keynote Lecture

5:00: Thomas Barfield “Afghan Political Ecologies: Past and Present”

Thursday, October 6, 2016 - Franke Institute

8:30-9:00: Introductory Comments by Gil Stein and Richard Payne

Session 1: Achaemenids and After

9:00-9:45: Matthew W. Stolper “Achaemenid Documents from Arachosia and Bactria: Administration in the East, Seen from Persepolis”
9:45-10:30: Matthew Canepa “Reshaping Eastern Iran’s Topography of Power after the Achaemenids”

Session 2: Hellenistic and Greco-Bactrian Regimes

11:00-11:45: Laurianne Martinez-Sève “Greek Power in Hellenistic Bactria: Control and Resistance”
11:45-12:30: Osmund Bopearachchi “From Royal Greco-Bactrians to Imperial Kushans: The Iconography and Language of Coinage in Relation to Diverse Ethnic and Religious Populations in Central Asia and India”

Session 3: Kushan Imperialism: History and Philology

2:00-2:45: Christopher I. Beckwith “Vihāras in the Kushan Empire”
2:45-3:30: Tasha Vorderstrasse “The Limits of the Kushan Empire in the Tarim Basin”

Session 4: Kushan Imperialism: Art History and Archaeology

4:00-4:45: Robert Bracey “The Limits of Kushan Power and the Limits of Evidence”
4:45-5:30: Emily Hammer and Anthony Lauricella “Pre-Islamic Fortresses of the Balkhab River Valley (Northern Afghanistan)”

Friday, October 7, 2016 – Classics 110

Session 5: Iranian Imperialism: Numismatics and the Bactrian Documents

9:15-10:00: Nikolaus C. Schindel “Coins as a Marker of Empire in the Sasanian Period: Examples from Eastern Iran”
10:00-11:00: Nicholas Sims-Williams “The Bactrian Archives as a Historical Source”
11:00-11:45: Rhyne King “Local Power Brokers in Iranian and Post-Iranian Bactria: Aristocrats, Dependents, and Imperial Regimes”

Session 6: Commentary and Discussion

12:30-1:30: Clifford Ando and Kathleen D. Morrison

*All times and speakers subject to change

Co-Sponsored by the Oriental Institute and the Franke Institute for the Humanities