Getting a little less comfortable: Egypt and Mesopotamia

Posted on April 29, 2010


Each regional traditions segment moves further outside what students may consider their comfort zone. Each also includes articles selected to focus attention on specific contrasts and specific issues.

The second group of articles deals with Egypt and Mesopotamia, societies routinely taught in K-12 curricula in the US. I use three articles that all deal in some way with representations of unclothed bodies: two by art historians, and one by an archaeologist. In discussing the Egyptian example, I draw students’ attention to the emphasis on broader context, on architecture, and on features. The art historical works are helpful because they not only deal with different scales of representation, but with depictions of female bodies in one instance, and male bodies in another. All three articles also raise questions of sexuality: sexual desires, sexual actions, and implicitly to explicitly, sexual identities.

Articles discussed by individual student panels:

Meskell, L. M. 2000: Re-em(bed)ding sex: Domesticity, sexuality, and ritual in New Kingdom Egypt, in Archaeologies of Sexuality, R. Schmidt and B. Voss, eds., pp. 253-262, London, Routledge Press.

Bahrani, Z. 1996: The hellenization of Ishtar: Nudity, fetishism, and the production of cultural differentiation in ancient art, The Oxford Art Journal 19, pp. 3-16.

Winter, I. 1996: Sex, rhetoric and the public monument: The alluring body of Naram- Sin of Agade, Sexuality in Ancient Art, N. Kampen, ed., pp. 11-26, Cambridge.

Additional reading:

Lynn M. Meskell and Rosemary A. Joyce

2003      Embodied Lives: Figuring Ancient Egypt and the Classic Maya. Routledge, London.