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Mesopotamia: Civilization, Archaeology

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Course Details
$315 3 seats left
Start Date:

Wed, Feb 01, 12:00pm - Feb 22, 3:00pm Eastern Time ( 4 sessions )

Online Classroom
Purchase Options
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.

Class Delivery:

This class will be held via Zoom unless otherwise specified

Teacher: Turkan Pilavci

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

Mesopotamia: Civilization, Archaeology, and Material Culture

What qualifies as a “civilization”? And why is Mesopotamia commonly called its “cradle”? Art, agriculture, and animal husbandry all pre-existed the settlements that dotted the “fertile crescent” between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. But it was there, amongst the cities of Uruk, Kish, Ur, and elsewhere, that the basic structures of civilization first took root: from irrigation to written language (Sumerian), formal law (the Code of Ur-Nammu), literature (the Epic of Gilgamesh), arithmetic, money (the shekel), class, state, monarchy, slavery, and—with the successive conquests of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians—military empire. Yet, if the material facts of Mesopotamia are well-known, how do we begin to interpret their significance, interconnection, and the forms of life that emerged with and through Mesopotamian material culture? We might even ask: does “Mesopotamia” correspond to an actual geography? Or, is it a fictional landscape, the colonial invention of 19th-century European archaeologists who saw in its artifacts both civilizational promise (ultimately realized in the West) and an essential savagery (latent in the subject peoples of colonized Eurasia and Africa)? What do we know about the historical region we call Mesopotamia—its origination, urbanization, processes of cultural and state formation, social structures, economies, daily life—and how do we know it ? How has its material culture been variously interpreted across time? And, how, in interpreting Mesopotamia, do we in some sense interpret ourselves, reiterating (while projecting) contemporary norms and relations in the attempt to make legible an ancient past at once strange and recognizable?

In this course, we will explore the history, and the historiography, of Mesopotamia, drawing on excavated remains, material culture, and textual evidence to answer major questions about the origins, structures, meaning, and legacy of Mesopotamian civilization. What made the region a suitable site for the Neolithic revolution? Why did settlements evolve into city-states, and what kinds of technologies and structures arose or were devised to organize urban life? How can we understand Mesopotamian class and social relations—and were they consistent across city-states? And, as we answer, we’ll attend to ways such questions were posed and answered in the past. In particular, we’ll seek to deconstruct the colonial discourse that surrounded early European scholarship on Mesopotamia. How did Orientalism shape the way Mesopotamian antiquities were received—and to what extent does Orientalism linger still? And finally, connecting past and present, we’ll examine the impact of invasion, civil war, migration, and climate change on Mesopotamian archaeology, recovery, preservation, display, and interpretation. How have governments, archaeologists, and artists (including Rayah Abd Al-Redah, Betoul Mahdey, Fatimah Jawdat, and Michael Rakowitz) responded to the manifold threats imperiling Mesopotamian sites and artifacts? How do contemporary geopolitics compel us to understand, interpret, and value Mesopotamia anew? 

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

Start Dates (1)
Start Date Time Teacher # Sessions Price
12:00pm - 3:00pm Eastern Time Turkan Pilavci 4 $315
This course consists of multiple sessions, view schedule for sessions.

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School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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