It is my pleasure to announce the organisation of an international conference entitled “Infecting the Ancient Mesopotamian Cosmos”, which will take place at the University of Oxford, Wolfson College on the 29th-30th April 2022. The gathering is generously funded by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, the Carlsberg Foundation, and the General Fund for Assyriology at Wolfson College, Oxford.
The aim of the conference will be to illuminate the effects of transmissible diseases in ancient Iraq via the study of cuneiform texts. More specifically, the conference intends to address how people in the ancient Middle East envisioned and described disease within the body and how it was believed to spread throughout society. These aspects of ancient medicine have gained renewed interest during the current pandemic, and basic analyses of terminology and concepts, as well as overviews and examinations of primary sources related to such questions are still needed. One part of the meeting will focus on which illnesses were considered communicable as well as how such diseases afflicted parts of a patient’s body or disrupted physiological processes. In a larger perspective, the conference would like to explore if inauspicious portents could accumulate and bring about sickness, and how ill omens as well as diseases were believed to spread between animals, humans, and households (e.g., as epidemics). Finally, it is of interest how communicable diseases were situated in a larger cosmic setting, and in which ways mythological or literary narratives provided etiologies for understanding what it meant to be ill and how contagion functioned.
In practical terms, the presentations should preferably be in English, and they should not exceed 20 minutes in length, leaving 10 minutes for questions and transition to the following speaker. On the second day, the conference will conclude with a final discussion addressing avenues for future research and where to publish the proceedings. The conference cannot offer any funding for travels or accommodation to speakers selected via the open call. However, there are no conference fees for speakers and the meeting will supply lunch, coffee, and refreshments to all speakers on both days. On a general note, it is sadly a concern whether or not it will be possible to have a physical gathering in Oxford because of the current rise in the number of infections in the UK due to the Delta variant. I will go to great lengths to host a physical meeting. Still, I would advise participants to prioritise flight options and accommodations that can be rebooked/cancelled in the ( hopefully) unlikely event the meeting has to be moved or hosted online.
Please send a title, an abstract of no more than 300 words, and your professional information in word or PDF format to: firstname.lastname@example.org before the deadline on Sunday the *24th of October 2021*. I will respond as soon as possible after to let you know if your paper has been accepted.