Texts, Contexts and Powers
The Texts, Contexts and Powers research area is the outcome of the merger (June 2017) of the Textual Corpuses and The World Order research areas. It accommodates philological and historical research covering broad chronological and spatial scales from Ancient Greece to the late medieval worlds. It is open to researchers working on even earlier or even later periods, especially with respect to the way the objects of study that compose it are received and dealt with in modern times.
A. For an exploitation of textual sources: establishment, compilation and dissemination
The textual sources in which the members of the research area are interested have been handed down in various media: stone, papyrus, parchment. Each presupposes its own skill set, but that does not mean that philologists, papyrologists and epigraphists coexist without mixing, even if only because the three domains are complementary. For example, part of the textual tradition of Thucydides is on papyrus. Moreover, in all three domains, researchers pursue common objectives by different ways and means.
Compiling sources is one of the traditional focus areas of the Ausonius Institute. Bordeaux researchers, often in conjunction with foreign colleagues, publish corpuses and create benchmarks such as PETRAE (Programme d’Enregistrement et de Traitement Automatique en Épigraphie, currently the only base of its kind in France). This part of the research area continues this essential work while adapting to methodological and technological developments. The toolbox has been adjusted to the requirements of today’s computerized methods, where epigraphic texts are encoded under TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standards, ensuring they can be passed down perpetually.
So in establishing a text, it is essential to take account of its context, whether in the narrow (textual environment) or broad (geographical, historical, social conditions) meaning; compiling and disseminating in a way involve making what were previously isolated texts into mutually illuminating co-texts. This two-fold reciprocating movement connecting text and context is sustained if text and power are articulated together: a text is the product of a given political and social context that it can reflect and construct at one and the same time.
B. Forms, implications and images of power
Establishing, compiling and disseminating texts is not an end in itself. The researchers in this focus area also make a point of establishing a connection between the text and the ruling power. The text is admittedly not a faithful reflection of the exercise of power. When it emanates from the authorities, it conveys a pragmatic dimension: this is the case for instance of official epigraphic inscriptions; historians’ analyses and accounts were themselves guided by their own judgment of power as exercised by the actors of the past they take an interest in, but also by their conception of power as it existed in their own times. This is what the members of the research area try to show by looking at various ancient historians and in particular Thucydides, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Suetonius, Florus, Tacitus and Cassius Dio.
This historiographical exploitation of texts is not confined to delivering up the thinking of their authors. Such documents also make it possible to grasp the social reality of power by analysing the structures of authority and control of ancient and medieval societies, of their configuration and their agents. This implies understanding the nature and workings of relations connecting these structures on different scales (regional, national; connection between the metropolis and the provinces) to the groups and individuals that they control both in their specific relationship with authority and in their economic and social activities, or their religious expression.
Beyond this cross-cutting and not just vertical approach to power, several research themes stand out:
- rule-making activity and the formation of knowledge and practices specific to power,
Our reflections are concerned with everything that touches on the way people, their activities and their minds are organized and express themselves in the vast sphere of power!
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