Workshop: Coping with and Preventing Collective Fear in the Ancient Near East: Perspectives from Texts and Material Culture

Fear is one of the strongest motivations and incentives for human actions. A basic or primary emotion, fear does not only govern reactions to immanent stimuli, but it also influences reactions and decisions that concern situations that are yet to happen. The human capacity to anticipate future events and to act prophylactically on them are considerably fostered by fear: Fear of what could potentially happen.


Collective fear is especially entangled with its sociocultural and historical embedding. It feeds to a large extent (also not exclusively) on shared social self-images, mutual ideologies and common values. Religious and political world views as well as current discourses and established power structures determine how fear is appraised and how strategies are developed to face it.

In past and present times, people cope with collective fear and anxiety on very different levels. In our days, state-run risk and hazard analyses, counter terrorist measures, and disaster control can be mentioned. Likewise, we observe engagements with dystopia in movies, literature, and the fine arts.  How fear and anxiety based on (alleged) knowledge of events of the past and their possible reoccurrence have been expressed, mastered, managed, exploited, or tabooed, is a desideratum for research in the study of the Ancient Near East.

In this vein, this workshop proposes to tackle these issues through the different and complementary perspectives of the text and material based sciences. It hopes to bring into focus such phenomena as coping with fear (e.g. laments and myth), preventing damaging incidents and situations (e.g. rituals, the construction of defense and protection architecture, building up stocks), and dispelling the instrumentation of fear and anxiety (e.g. threat of divine punishment and of losing divine favor).

By taking the different perspective of material and text studies and by looking at various socio-cultural circumstances, we hope to gain insight into the omnipresent relationship of humankind and collective fear that has been politically and ideologically (mis-)used until present times.

We are welcoming abstracts from scholars of the Ancient Near Eastern Studies and adjacent fields. An abstract of 300-400 words should be sent to the organizers of the workshop, with a short CV, before the February 10 deadline. The abstract should outline both topic and methodology. The papers of all sessions should last no more than 20 minutes, but a further 10 minutes will be devoted for discussion.

Workshop organizers:


Dr. Sara Kipfer:


Dr. Elisabeth Wagner-Durand:

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