Theses Doctoral

The Concept of Ethnicity in Early Antiquity: Ethno-symbolic Identities in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Middle Babylonian Texts

Shelley, Nathanael Paul

The dissertation investigates the concept of ethnicity and race in three related cultures from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean by analyzing key ethnological terms, in their original languages and contexts, in order to determine their similarity to and difference from a modern anthropological definition of ethnicity. It employs an ethno-symbolic approach to social identity in order to evaluate the similarity and difference of terms for so-called "ethnic groups" in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Middle Babylonian. The evaluation is carried out using a historical comparative approach, first in three individual case studies and then synthetically. The study attempts to provide a documentary foundation for the critical, theoretical use of ancient documents in social and identity research, and the results suggest that a named collective of people from the first millennium BCE or later could be an ethnic group in the modern sense of the term (an ethnie), but that such terminology is generally imprecise before 1000 BCE.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Anidjar, Gil
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 15, 2016