Global Migrations, Socio-Religious Networks, and State Formations from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
Alexander Angelov, College of William and Mary
Bryan Averbuch, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Rachel Mairs, University of Reading
Jason Neelis, Wilfrid Laurier University
Roberta Tomber, British Museum
The powerful social and economic networks that developed and flourished in Afro-Eurasia before ca. 1000 C.E. offer critical perspectives on how cross-continental interconnectivity ultimately forged and sustained entire states and religious systems. Migration and movement, often en masse, were integral to the ancient and medieval world. Small polities and entire empires alike relied on regular migrants and nomadic groups not only for luxurious goods and expensive commodities like fragrant spices, exotic animals, and slaves but also for military labor, demographic stability, and territorial expansion. In many instances, migrants and nomads climbed to the top of a given political hierarchy to serve as generals or even emperors. When not accommodated, they not only disrupted states but also forged polities of their own. Thus, as nomads and travellers traversed regional and cultural boundaries, they proved pivotal in the making and shaping of entire states or ecologies. Even the founders and prophets of the global religions of antiquity and the Middle Ages like Buddhism, Manichaeism, Christianity, and Islam were at the mercy of the function and viability of the social networks that made their travels and travails possible.
Under the rubric of social networks and migrations, this panel therefore proposes to examine the complex relationship between the global and the regional, between sedentary and nomadic peoples, and finally between religious dogmatic traditions and the charismatic mystics on the road. In line with recent scholarship, the panel’s chief goal is to make clear the critical ways in which networks shaped entire interconnected societies, conventionally thought disparate because separated by vast territories. By bringing specific attention to the under-studied links and pathways among the communities of ancient and medieval Afro-Eurasia, we ultimately hope to open new venues of academic inquiry not only for specialists but also for those interested in global systems, state formations, and the forging of religious traditions and codifications.