Oystein LaBianca, Andrews University: A “Global History” Perspective on Four Millennia of Global-Local Interactions at Hisban and Vicinity, Jordan.

    LaBianca will interrogate the multi-millennial archaeological record of Tall Hisban and the wider Madaba Plains region in Jordan in order to ascertain deep-time interactions between imperializing and local discourses (www.madabaplains.org/hisban). . Stratigraphic excavations at Tall Hisban between 1968 and 1976, and again from 1996 to the present, have uncovered architectural remains and artefacts attesting the impacts of a succession of imperial cultural programs or “great traditions,” including those of the New Kingdom Egyptian-, Assyrian-, Neo-Babylonian-, Persian-, Hellenistic-, Roman-, Byzantine-, Umayyad-, Abbasid-, Seljuk-, Ayyubid-, Mamluk-, Ottoman-, British- and American empires. Through his study of animal and plant remains from Tall Hisban, LaBianca has been able to document the simultaneous role and persistence of “little traditions” at the site. These include the anciently derived survival strategies of Hisban’s local residents and their strategies for coping with often changing and contradictory demands of their powerful imperial masters (LaBianca 1990, see also a short film about his research at http://vimeo.com/14107807.)

    LaBianca’s research objectives are twofold. First, he would like to undertake (together with T. Stordalen and B. Meyer) a critical examination of Robert Redfield’s notions of great and little traditions; their deployment in anthropology, history, comparative religion, and elsewhere. L. Manger, head of the GML project, will also be consulted in this process. The investigation will take up the criticisms of Redfield’s framework by many scholars on the grounds that it fails to adequately address the power dimension of imperial-local interactions. In LDG we attempt to address these shortcomings in Redfield’s theory through importing especially the concepts of “discourse” as defined by Foucault and of “social field” as defined by Bourdieu. Additional potential linkages between Redfield’s and other frameworks that attempt to grasp the complex dynamics of local-global interactions will also be interrogated. The study, which will be the introductory chapter in the project volume, will benefit from previous research by Manger and LaBianca (2009) under the GML project.

    Second, LaBianca will work (along with Bethany Walker and Lawrence Geraty) on a book-length manuscript, Hisban and Global History, using the theoretical framework developed under this LDG collaboration to interpret and present the archaeological data from Tall Hisban. The source material for this writing project includes the six volumes of preliminary reports published by the original Heshbon Expedition between 1968 and 1978; the ten volumes that so far make up the “Hesban Final Publication Series;” numerous specialist studies dealing with discoveries from Tall Hisban published as chapters in books and journal articles; and the large corpus of raw data from Tall Hisban and vicinity digitized by both the original Heshbon Expedition and the subsequent Tall Hisban Cultural Heritage Project. The completed volume is intended as the final cap-stone volume in the 14 volume Hesban Final Publication Series.

Short CV

Oystein LaBianca is professor of anthropology and associate director of the Institute of Archaeology at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Mich. He is also founding co-director of the Madaba Plains Project, Jordan; Visiting researcher University of Bergen's Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion – AHKR; Member of board of trustees of ACOR in Amman Jordan; Member of the board of trustees and former vice-president of The American Schools of Oriental Research in Boston; Former member of the steering committee of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. His research has been supported by grants from, among others, American Schools of Oriental Research, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Geographic Society, the Research Council of Norway and the US Department of State’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Heritage Preservation.

    LaBianca joined the faculty of the behavioral science department at Andrews University in 1981. Born in Kristiansand, Norway, LaBianca attended Andrews University and Middle East College, Lebanon, for his undergraduate education in behavioral sciences and religion. He started his master's degree in anthropology at Loma Linda in 1971 and from1972 to 1973 he was a special student in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University studying zoo-archaeology. His PhD in anthropology was awarded in 1987 by Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. on the dissertation Sedentarization and Nomadization: Food System Cycles at Hesban and Vicinity in Transjordan. In 1990 he spent six months as a post-doctoral researcher with the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.

Selected Publications relevant to the LDG Project

(2007) Great and Little Traditions: A Framework for Studying Cultural Interactions through the Ages in Jordan. In Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan. Amman, Jordan: Dept. of Antiquities (with Kristin Witzel).

(2005) Ed. with S.A. Scham, Connectivity in Antiquity: Globalization as Long Term Historical Process. London: Equinox Publishers.

(2000) With G. Christopherson, G. et al., Forest that Refuses to Disappear: Cycles of Degeneration and Regeneration in Jordan. Report to the National Geographic Society, Research Grant No. 5758-96 (March). http://www.casa.arizona.edu/MPP/ngs_report/ngs_rep.html

(1995) Ed. with A. von den Driesch, Faunal Remains: Taphonomical and Zooarchaeological Studies of the Animal Remains from Tell Hesban and Vicinity. Hesban 13. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.

(1991) Food Systems Research: An Overview and a Case of Study From Madaba Plains, Jordan. Food and Foodways 4: 221-235.

(1990) Sedentarization and Nomadization: Food System Cycles at Hesban and Vicinity in Transjordan. Hesban 1. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.