The term Resilience, originally from the field of material physics, is used in various disciplines (systems ecology, psychology, environmental studies, sustainability; political economy, etc.). In research, there is a controversial debate about using the term Resilience in cultural studies as a substitute for a physical phenomenon from materials physics (Walker / Cooper 2011, Olsson et al. 2015, Bröckling 2017 etc.). In a disciplinary perspective like archaeology, resilience proves to be a beneficial theoretical approach, specifically for large scales and for prehistory (Faulseit 2015; Russo and Brainerd 2021; Robert 2022).

Our Iranian Highlands research group is equally aware of the theoretical burden of resilience in a cultural studies perspective. In our international, i.e., intercultural and interdisciplinary research group constellation as a priority programme, we are deliberately on the lookout for possible solutions to relieve this burden at the theoretical level. Therefore, in our understanding of Iranian Highlands resilience theory, we consciously accept the risk of an in-between theoretical position close to the boundary concepts (e.g., boundary objects; connected/entangled histories). With our specific Iranian Highlands boundary concept of resilience, we are at the same time linking to broad theoretical debates, e.g., in the sense of principle openness and incommensurability of the fields of interaction and operations between agency and system, or system-environment relation in network theory, system theory and of course also theoretical directions of risk and resilience such as in ecology, economics, archaeology etc.

With our specific Iranian Highlands resilience concept, we thus represent an in-between theoretical position “as an approach to lifeways” (Bernbeck/ Pollock/ Eberhardt 2022). What does it mean to speak of “life ways” using the key concept of “Resilience” and at the same time regarding to the Iranian/Persian pre-modern history? Debating on Resilience as theory framework from which horizon of history, from which understanding of modernity and premodernity?

In order to clarify and justify this point of view of the “in-betweenness”, in relation to the theoretical burden of resilience, we would like to roughly address three crucial scientific levels:

  • Firstly, from the disciplinary point of view in the sense of looking back at the origin, and positioning archaeology between science and history (Snow 1959; Martinón-Torres/Killick 2013);[1]
  • Secondly, in referring to the current inter- and transdisciplinary epistemological and historiographical debates on methodsdistinguishing between history and memory, between “being-affected by an event” and “writing of history” (Ricoeur, 2004, p. 66 f.);[2] or linking to a conception of “interculturality” as phenomenology (Waldenfels1990; 2006); or following a critical anthropological point of view regarding questions of “othering” by going beyond eurocentrism: “How can one be a Persian?” (Latour, 1993 p. 104); [3]
  • Thirdly, in doing so (1, 2), finally we address the general question of knowledge in humanity research in relation to the gap between theoretical and empirical research, or metaphysical and sensual levels (e. g. Kripke 1980; Davidson 2005), or with another terminology between agency and patiency (Köpping et al 2009). [4]

To achieve the goals outlined above, we are proceeding on two tracks in the coordination programme: first in individual projects (PIs), and second in the CoPro in its responsibility as an umbrella structure. Our aim is to construct a viable theoretical basis for an analytical descriptive category with normative action orientation under the leading role of the archaeological discipline.

[1] Snow, Charles Percy, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, London 1959. Martinón-Torres, Marcos, / Killick, David, ‘Archaeological Theories and Archaeological Sciences’, in Andrew Gardner, Mark Lake, and Ulrike Sommer (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Archaeological Theory (online edn, Oxford Academic, 16 Dec. 2013:

[2] Ricoeur, Paul, Memory, History, Forgetting, London 2004.

[3] Latour, Bruno, We have never been modern, New York 1993. Chakrabarty, Dipesh, The climate of history in a planetary age, Chicago 2021.

[4] Kripke, Saul, Naming and Necessity, Cambridge 1980. Davidson, Donald, Truth, language, and history, New York 2005. Handlung und Leidenschaft: jenseits von actio und passio, Klaus-Peter Köpping; Burkhard Schnepel; Christoph Wulf (ed.), Berlin 2009.

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