Workshop 2: Performing Economies: Changing and Exchanging Goods in Pre-Modern Ritual Communities

Jun 29, 2018 | 09:30 AM - 12:00 PM

in the context of the Annual Conference of the Collaborative Research Centre 980 "Economies of Knowledge − Order and Transgression in Premodern Cultures"

The workshop sets out to delineate if and in what way and how far pre-modern knowledge circulations can be understood as ‘economies’. Pre-modern epistemic communities were often based on different, at times ritualized scenarios of trade, gift giving, exchange, and appropriation of objects and ideas that were discursively or artistically claimed, represented and/or performed. Traded goods, cult objects, tools or machines, medical items, and other objects of exchange constitute, contribute to and shape the circulation of knowledge. In processes of ritual and trade, knowledge is actualized, transferred and re-contextualized, and ultimately altered.

Socially performative practices of trade and rituals reflect – in the eyes of the workshop organizers – a consciousness for social and epistemic order(s). Ritualized practices, however, despite their aspiration for maintaining or (re)creating such regimes, also show/exhibit an innate/inherent transgressive momentum. The workshop will explore this dichotomy of order and transgression in pre-modern knowledge communities through various ritualistic practices from three different disciplinary angles.

Martin Gehlmann (Korean Studies) will look at the Oksan academy, founded in 1572, and its rituals for the scholar Hoejae Yi Ŏnjŏk 晦齋 李彦迪 (1491 – 1553) as an example for the expansion of a knowledge network and an economy based on ritual ceremonies and the role of its documentation. Especially, the relationship between the strictly regulated veneration of Yi Ŏnjŏk and the print and publishing activities of the academy will be discussed under the term ‘knowledge economy.’

Lennart Lehmhaus (Jewish Studies) studies anecdotes in the normative, learned Talmudic traditions as an arena for performing transfers of knowledge. The narratives depict a somewhat ritualized encounter of interaction and exchange of ideas between rabbinic sages and other non-rabbinic or even non-Jewish medical experts from different backgrounds (Roman noblewomen, Arab nomads/peasants, doctors, herbalists, midwives etc.). While traditionally seen merely as practical illustrations for the application of religious laws, the discussion will focus on the complex interplay between those medical anecdotes and other discursive elements in the Talmud and their function as an „epistemic genre“.

Falk Quenstedt (German Medieval Literature) examines representations of transfer and exchange of marvellous objects and creatures in German narrative texts from around 1200 – as connected to courtly practices of regulation and negotiation of power relations. Such an exchange establishes connections and communication precisely between power domains that are at the same time described as foreign and/or hostile to one another. Furthermore, these processes follow the logic of gift economy that is based on the principle of reciprocity, but also tends to breach this norm – for instance, through provocative symbolizations or the dynamics of outdoing. These texts provide ample examples to discuss interconnections between object exchange, knowledge transfer, ritual performance and the drawing/transgression of boundaries with regard to knowledge economies.

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Further Information

Conzept: Martin Gehlmann, Lennart Lehmhaus, Nora Schmidt and Falk Quenstedt

The workshop will be held in English.