Society and Morality in Eurasia: from Prehistory to the Present Day

Final Conference of the International Max Planck Research School for the Anthropology, Archaeology and History of Eurasia (IMPRS ANARCHIE)

MPI for Social Anthropology, Halle (Saale), 2–5 December, 2020

The moral/ethical/normative dimension of human social life has generally been considered unique to our species. But how did it originate, how does it function, and how does morality change/adapt in history? The questions have been addressed in general terms by countless philosophers, and more recently by Darwinian evolutionists; they can also be illuminated by empirical projects in disciplines such as those that make up ANARCHIE. Indeed, many of the projects of the four doctoral cohorts of ANARCHIE have already addressed normative issues, at least implicitly. The civilizations/cultures/ societies of Eurasia illustrate numerous forms of community social organization and belief, from prehistoric bands to postsocialist deindustrialization. This final conference of our School will address the normative dimensions of social life, reaching behind religious ideals of transcendence and secular notions of sympathy (Rousseau, Smith, etc.) to explore concrete institutions such as those of cooperation, punishment, charity and philanthropy. If different norms are applied to the treatment of strangers, how are the boundaries of “our” society drawn? How are notions of “the good” expressed by citizens and subjects in everyday life? How are they reflected in political hierarchies and interethnic relations, in economic exchange and provisioning, in legal codes, and in the reciprocal obligations of kinship and friendship? In short: we invite papers that explore the big questions of normativity addressed by philosophers and sociobiologists, in the light of empirical data. Possible topics of enquiry might include:

  • morality in prehistory (archaeobiology, archaeogenetics, etc.)
  • religion, salvation, legitimacy
  • moral dimensions of economic life
  • migration and transfer of ethical values
  • moral dimensions of social movements and revolutions

Other possibilities concerning roots and forms of social cohesion across Eurasia in all epochs are welcome!

Proposals (circa 250 words) should be sent by email to Chris Hann () before 17th January 2020. Scholars whose proposals are accepted will have all reasonable costs reimbursed. More information concerning ANARCHIE can be found at:

Call for Papers in pdf format

Distinguished lecture of the IMPRS ANARCHIE by the German historian Wolfgang Reinhard
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology on 13th of November 2019 at 18:00

The Representation of Power and the Power of Representation

The English queen rules, but she does not govern. But if she does not govern, what does “she rules” mean? Her power is only indirect and consists in representation. That means she symbolizes the stability of the political order. Throughout history, “political order” has generally meant monarchy based upon the quasi-religious faith of the subjects. No state without faith! Therefore, the papacy became the prototype of European monarchical domination, the incarnation of both spiritual and secular power (plenitudo potestatis). Loss of material power was compensated by ideological achievements. Popes were masters of the representation of power through architecture and ritual. Another major sacral and ceremonious society was the ancient Chinese empire. But whereas ritual performance in Roman Christendom was characterized by transcendence, Chinese rituals remained world-immanent. The Chinese monarchy was hereditary, but the Roman system had at least as much stability as any dynasty due to the systematic circulation of electing cardinals and elected popes. The culturally different strategic elites of these two systems were functionally almost equivalent. Today, however, power is represented not so much by monarchs as by nations. But national representation is still just as much the basis of political power as it was during the times of kings. (Speaker’s abstract)

The Distinguished Lecture opens the IMPRS ANARCHIE Autumn School 2019 on "Representing Domination" which takes place on the 14th-15th of November at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Go to Editor View