Bethany Walker, Missouri State University, and part of the Tall Hisban excavations: Human Migration in the Pre-Modern Levant.

    This project scrutinizes the forces – political, economic, environmental, and spiritual – that pushed individuals and entire communities in the pre-modern Levant to physically relocate. As a form of adaptation, an act of political will, or the direct result of larger processes against which local society had limited agency, migration was a uniquely human and localized response to the global trends of the day. The abandonment of villages, in particular, will be investigated against the backdrop of normative patterns of rural mobility that were always part of traditional life in pre-modern societies (Vassberg 1996), a phenomenon increasingly described as “liquid landscapes” by scholars of pre- and early modern Greece (Sutton 2000; Forbes 2007).

    Walker’s efforts will focus on Greater Syria (Bilad al-Sham) during the post-plague era of the 14th and 15th centuries, a transformative period during which the region experienced important restructurings on social, economic, and political levels. The study will aim to explain why certain regions of Bilad al-Sham experienced greater demographic upheaval than others, in other words to differentiate between adaptational structures geographically. It will also attempt to assign meaning to peasants’ decisions, in particular, to migrate. The study requires intensive and exhaustive survey of the textual records of the period, including chronicles and biographies, tax records, court records, and juridical letters and treatises. The monograph that will result will ultimately interrogate a wide range of data (textual, archaeological, environmental) in its investigation of the complex interrelations among local society, global trends, and environment and climate. These are the kind of dialectics broadly focused in the LDG project. Walker’s project introduces an environmental dimension, in the spirit of the Annales school and recent ecological trends in Near Eastern archaeology (Henry 1995, Rosen 2007, cf. Braudel 1949).

Human Migration in the Pre-Modern Levant grew out of Walker’s recent monograph, which examined the Mamluk state in its complex and dialectical relationships with tribal societies on its eastern frontier, each transforming the other during a critical turning point in Mamluk history (Walker 2011). This book was in part inspired by the GML project (Manger and LaBianca 2009). It was also informed by the Exercising Power in the Age of the Sultanates project (Walker and Salles 2008) – a project that explored the ever-evolving dialogue between imperial and local societies on different chronological scales. The planned monograph expands on research Walker is doing in the Mamluk Empire in its ‘Global’ Context research cluster, hosted at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, University of Bonn (2012). Here Walker will be working with other Mamluk historians on many themes also investigated by the LDG. Research will begin in Bonn, and writing would be completed in Oslo during 2014-2015. Bethany Walker is thus bringing to the LDG project a portfolio of research projects and networks that are engaged in intellectual issues relevant to our project agenda.

Short CV

Bethany Walker is Bethany Walker is Professor of Middle East History and Islamic Archaeology, Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, since 2008. She is also Site Manager of the Virtual Lab of Islamic Ceramics; Director, Northern Jordan Project; Co-Director, Tall Hisban and Madaba Plains Projects in Jordan. Ongoing and recent affiliations: Member of international Islamic Working Group, Jordan Museum, Amman; 2011-2019: Research affiliate of Annemarie-Schimmel-Kolleg for the History and Society of the Mamluk Era (1250-1517); 2008: Ceramics consultant (medieval and post-medieval), Vasilikos Valley Project, Cyprus; 2005-2008: Research participant in the project Global Moments in the Levant (University of Bergen); 2004-2006: Research participant, Steering Committee, and Conference Organizer in French-American project Exercising Power in the Age of the Sultanates. As an archaeologically-trained historian of the medieval Middle East, Walker has been doing archaeological fieldwork in the larger Middle East for over twenty years. Her research is rooted in both the fields of textual medieval Islamic history and Islamic archaeology. In previous positions she was affiliated to i.a. Department of History, Grand Valley State University, Department of History, Oklahoma State University.

Publications relevant to the LDG Project

2011: Jordan in the Late Middle Ages: Transformation of the Mamluk Frontier. Chicago: Middle East Documentation Center, University of Chicago, Chicago Studies on the Middle East Monograph Series

2009 (editor): Reflections of Empire: Archaeological and Ethnographic Studies on the Pottery of the Ottoman Levant, Boston: ASOR, Annual of the American School of Oriental Research, 64, 2009.

2008 (editor with Jean-François Salles): Le pouvoir à l’âge des sultanats dans le Bilād al-Shām, Proceedings from the IFPO-ACOR Conference 13-15 May 2005, Amman; Published under Bulletin des Études Orientales 57, supplement (2008); Damascus.

2007 (editor): Mamluk Studies Review 11.1 (2007), special volume on the Mamluk provinces.