nl en

LIAS PhD Seminar: Archives, Power and Memory


Admission requirements

In addition to LIAS and LUCSoR PhD students, this course is open to students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (research), and the MA Classical and Ancient Civilizations (research). Interested students from other relevant Research MA programmes are kindly advised to contact the co-ordinator of studies, Dr. Nicole van Os, before registering for this course.

Course content

Assembling texts and storing them together results in the production of the archive. But this act requires agency. Individual human beings decide which texts to assemble, which texts to preserve and which to exclude, and which texts belong together. How are archives produced? Who makes them, and for what reasons? How are they used? Such questions prompt us to reconsider the nature of our sources, as well as their potential and their limitations—and to question the seeming self-evidence of “what’s there” in any particular archive in any particular field. In this seminar, we will focus on the earliest literate societies in the ancient Middle East, but always with an eye to questions raised by notions and manifestations of the archive at large.
From the emergence of writing in Egypt and Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BCE, states, communities and households have produced archives as powerful sites of knowledge, control, identity and memory. Our discussions will address each of the three main functions of archives (selection, preservation, access) and their interplay with power and wealth. Case studies are placed against a wide comparative and theoretical background. We will work with a flexible understanding of archives as assemblages of texts as well as objects within their archaeological context.

Course objectives

Students attending this course will

  • Become familiar with theoretical approaches to the archive;

  • Improve critical reading skills;

  • Further develop oral and written presentation skills.


See timetable of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the timetable of the MA Asian Studies (research).

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed because of illness or misadventure. In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 5 EC x 28 hours 140 hours
Preparation (c. 10 hrs/wk), attendance (2 hrs/wk), assignments c. 70 hours
If the course is taken for credit: a research paper c. 70 hours

Assignments may include presentations and moderating the discussion.

Deadlines for paper submission are set by the convener, after consultation of the students. Papers must be submitted at a date that enables marking and administrative processing within maximally six weeks after the Seminar’s final session.

Assessment (ResMA students only)

ResMA students can take the course for credit, in which case they will write a paper worth about 70 hours of work. Information on the requirements for the paper will be provided by the instructor at the start of the course. The course will be graded as Pass or Fail.

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to the Blackboard through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.


Blackboard will be used for the distribution of course materials and for other communications


ResMA students taking the course for credit are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

Contact information

Dr Jonathan Valk