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Review of Stephan Procházka, Lucian Reinfandt, Sven Tost (eds.): Official Epistolography and the Language(s) of Power. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the Research Network Imperium & Officium. Comparative Studies in Ancient Bureaucracy and Officialdom, University of Vienne, 10-12 November 2010, Vienna: Publisher of the Austrian Academy of Sciences 2015, XXIV + 344 pp.

Ceccarelli, P; (2018) Review of Stephan Procházka, Lucian Reinfandt, Sven Tost (eds.): Official Epistolography and the Language(s) of Power. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the Research Network Imperium & Officium. Comparative Studies in Ancient Bureaucracy and Officialdom, University of Vienne, 10-12 November 2010, Vienna: Publisher of the Austrian Academy of Sciences 2015, XXIV + 344 pp. [Review]. sehepunkte. Rezensions journal für die Geschichtswissenschaften , 18 (2) , Article 29125. Green open access

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Abstract

The volume under discussion aims at investigating what official, administrative letters can tell us about the cultural and symbolic structures that underlie their textual surface. In their rich introduction, Reinfandt, Tost and Jursa emphasize that this is not just a volume on letter-writing in administrative contexts: one of the questions to which contributors often return is how far distinctive communicative patterns may correlate with manifestations of 'bureaucratic rationality'. More specifically: communication tends to involve both the expression of symbolic power and the transmission of specific information - which raises the question as to whether we should assume that the latter prevailed in societies characterized by bureaucratic thinking, and that the performative aspect might have been uppermost in traditional and patrimonial forms of governance. Sensibly, no strict definition of 'letter' is given at this stage: as Sallaberger points out, there is no separate term for '(oral) word' and '(written) letter' in Sumerian (which closely matches the situation in archaic Greece); similarly, in the late antique period, petitions are a form of letter, and rescripts may overlap with them (Corcoran).

Type: Article
Title: Review of Stephan Procházka, Lucian Reinfandt, Sven Tost (eds.): Official Epistolography and the Language(s) of Power. Proceedings of the First International Conference of the Research Network Imperium & Officium. Comparative Studies in Ancient Bureaucracy and Officialdom, University of Vienne, 10-12 November 2010, Vienna: Publisher of the Austrian Academy of Sciences 2015, XXIV + 344 pp.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.sehepunkte.de/2018/02/29125.html
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Ancient history, Bureaucratic rationality, Patrimonial forms of governance, Epistolography in the Ancient Near East, Epistolography in the Classical World, Epistolography in Late Antiquity and Early Islam
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10043878
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