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Book: Levantine Entanglements

Chapter: 4. Local Power and Social Discourse: Villages in Early Globalizations of the Southern Levant

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38441


This essay calls for a revaluation of the roles of basic local communities in the social matrix of the Iron Age Southern Levant, challenging conventions that prevented scholars from identifying such communities adequately and from recognizing their significance. It is argued that the basic local communities were villages (cast as clans), rather than families. While almost invisible in biblical literature, these communities conditioned the everyday life for the vast majority of people. Aiming for an analytical construct to help recover the social discourse of this silent majority from the biblical record, the essay collects and co-ordinates historical and social scientific studies related to village politics and the social production of space (and place). It then undertakes a reconstruction of local social discourse in villages in the late Iron Age Southern Levant, based on a fruitful tension between seeing villages as governed by social tradition (Bourdieu, Fei Xiaotong) and as produced in the interplay between conceived, perceived, and actually lived space (Lefebvre). The final part of the chapter considers how local social discourse may have worked to promote or discard changes initiated by trans-local forces or globalizing processes such as empires, state officials, soldiers, or merchants. Recent discussions on early globalizations tend to see changes as generated by intentional action in what Braudel calls l'histoire événementielle. This essay finds that the significant change in Levantine local communities was probably a slow transfer of social power and influence from local elites in communities into the hands of trans-local leaders or local traders, craftsmen, and experts. This transfer of power plays out in what Braudel sees as l'histoire conjoncturelle, and its end phase seems to be playing out in the current-day Levant, as exemplified at Tall Hisban.

Chapter Contributors

  • Terje Stordalen ( - TStordalen) 'University of Oslo'