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Research Programme

Macht and Herrschaft – Premodern Configurations in a Transcultural Perspective

Since summer 2016, the Collaborative Research Center 1167, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), investigates premodern political and social forms of power and domination in Asia, Europe and Northern Africa from a transcultural perspective.
Power and domination have shaped human coexistence throughout all epochs. In order to better understand the processes subsumed today under the keyword 'globalisation', the focus is on the deep social structures of non-European and European cultural areas.
The aim of the CRC 1167 is to develop a comprehensive phenomenology of premodern power and domination by investigating a wide range of material, pictorial and linguistic evidence.


The cultural areas under investigation, from Egypt of the 4th millennium before today to Tibet and China of the 18th century, are not regarded as monolithic units, but as hybrid entities that are always subject to a variety of influences and themselves initiators of change. At the centre of the joint work are formally ruling persons, i.e. supreme rulers who were able to assert their position supra-regionally in various configurations, as well as the network of relationships surrounding them. These actors of different sexes are particularly suitable as a transcultural and interdisciplinary category of comparison. In this way, interdependencies between factually established orders on the one hand and their perception, representation and commentary on the other are revealed.

The negotiation of power and domination is examined temporally and spatially, along with the factors that make power and domination possible, that legitimise and condition them, and the significance of personal and transpersonal elements of political organisation. What influence did spatial aspects or gender-specific dimensions have on the exercise and visualisation of power and domination? What forms of representation of power and domination existed? Against what background were they staged? What were the possibilities and limits of criticism of those in power and the system of rule? How did discourse and communication about power and domination function?

In the context of the CRCʼs work, the transcultural as well as transepochal categories of analysis of power and domination will be re-examined. The aim is to overcome, or at least challenge, the hitherto ubiquitous Eurocentrism in the debate on these two concepts. This will be done by questioning the boundaries set by the subject cultures that have emerged in the European academic world and developing instead a transcultural approach to the description of power and domination.

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