Final Conference of the REFEMA research program (Nanterre, 5-7 November 2014)

Travail et société: la part du féminin

The Role of Women in Work and Society



Final conference of the REFEMA research program

Nanterre, 5-7 November 2014

Scientific Committee of the Conference:
Francis Joannès (Université Paris-1, Paris),
Fumi Karahashi (Chûo University, Tokyo)
Brigitte Lion (Université Lille-III, Lille, organisatrice)
Eiko Matsushima (Hôsei University, Tokyo)
Cécile Michel (CNRS, Nanterre, organisatrice)
Ichiro Nakata (Chûo University, Tokyo)

French historians were concerned by women since more than twenty years with the publication of the five volumes under the direction of Georges Duby and Michèle Perrot, L’Histoire des femmes en Occident (History of Women in Occident). However, as the title suggests, this important work did not included the Ancient Near East. For this extremely large domain, there is now a great deal of limited studies on women and gender history, but few syntheses. Moreover, in these studies, the topic work has not been much addressed.

In Greek Antiquity, Xenophon (Oeconomicus) makes a gender division of labor: women are “adapted” to inside works, and men to outside works. Since the middle of the 19th century, work consists in having an activity and being paid for this activity. Census in France thus distinguishes active people from inactive people. Farmers’ wives, for example, were not, until very recently, recognized as wage earners. So, even if they do not get out of their home, women work, they have occupations that are not necessarily socially recognized and not paid for their work, as for example their domestic activities.

It seems indispensable to make a distinction between women at work and women’s jobs. It could be also interesting to see if women’s jobs are different from men’s jobs, and to study the gender-based division of work. Moreover, economic occupations depend on the status of people (slave or free, religious or lay persons), and on the milieu in which they are born and live (city or countryside, private household or institutional organization), so it is important to cross-check all these data.

The idea of the workshop is not to have a comprehensive approach of all the existing women economic occupations, but the choice must be representative enough to address issues depending on various domains: social, economic, religious, etc. from varied point of view: archaeological, historical, sociological, ethnological, etc. and if possible, with a gender perspective.

The various sessions could be arranged around several themes, for example with

  • Women’s jobs?
  • The activities of women at home
  • Women of power
  • Women in men’s milieu
  • Knowledgeable women
  • Seals and specific marks of women, etc.

This conference is the closure event of the French-Japanese (ANR & JSPS) research program the Economic Role of Women in the Ancient Mesopotamia (Rôle Economique des Femmes en Mésopotamie Ancienne: REFEMA, 2012-2014). The goal of this project is to use the ancient Mesopotamian written sources (IIIrd-Ist millennia BCE) to study the various aspects of women as economic agents, inside and outside of the family structure. Inside the family, women were essential for the preservation and transmission of wealth and heritage. They were also the main actors of the production of goods necessary for everyday life. In some instances, their activities exceeded the simple needs of the family unit and were integrated within the production of large organizations or commercial channels.

Why a French-Japanese program? We are not neutral in our study of the past: the manner in which a researcher produces the History, that is to say his/her reconstruction of ancient societies, of systems of production, of the organization of power, is a particularly important mechanism. It seemed all the more interesting to take advantage of possible alternative approaches depending on whether we consider the Ancient Mesopotamian situation from contemporary Japanese or French point of views. In this perspective, four workshops have been organized dealing with the economic role of women in the household, in the public sphere and in the process of constitution, conservation and inheritance of family assets.

B. Lion (Lille III) and C. Michel (CNRS, Nanterre)

Participation au colloque sur invitation. Les 29 participants prévus sont les suivants:

France (14 participants)

Catherine Breniquet (Professeur Université Clermont-Ferrand 2)
Philippe Clancier (Maître de Conférences, Université Paris 1)
Laura Cousin (Doctorante, Université Paris 1)
Sophie Démare (Professeur Université Paris 2)
Francis Joannès (Professeur Université Paris 1)
Bertrand Lafont (Directeur de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Camille Lecompte (Chargé de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Brigitte Lion (Professeur, Université Lille 3)
Cécile Michel (Directrice de Recherche au CNRS, ArScAn Nanterre)
Julien Monerie (Doctorant et ATER, Université Paris 1)
Virginie Muller (Doctorante, Université Lyon 2)
Violaine Sébillotte (Professeur Université Paris 1)
Nele Ziegler (Directrice de Recherche au CNRS, Proche-Orient et Caucase, Paris)

Japon (6 participants)

Fumi Karahashi (Professeur Chûo University, Tokyo)
Eiko Matsushima (Professeur Hôsei University, Tokyo)
Ichiro Nakata (Directeur du Musée d’Orient et Chûo University, Tokyo)
Daisuke Shibata (Assistant Professor Tsukuba University, Tokyo)
Yoko Wataï (Post-doctorante Chûo University, Tokyo, et ArScAn Nanterre)
Masamichi Yamada (Lecturer Chûo University, Tokyo)

Europe (7 participants)

Adelheid Otto (Professeur Université de Mayence)
Katrien de Graef (Assistant Professor Université de Gand)
Agnès Garcia-Ventura (Post-doctorante Université de Barcelone)
Josué Justel (Post-doctorant Université de Saragosse)
Saana Svärd Teppo (Post-doctorante Université d’Helsinki)
Maria-Giovanna Biga (Professeur Université La Sapienza, Rome)
Matteo Vigo (Post-doctorant, CTR, University de Copenhague)

Etats-Unis (2 participants)

Jerold Cooper (Professeur Johns Hopkins University)
Massimo Maiocchi (The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago)



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