Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be: a study of foreign musicians in the Mari archives
This thesis will focus on ‘foreign musicians’ in the textual evidence of Mari; that is, those who originate from places other than the courts in which they work. Alongside this discussion, however, I also examine the way in which Assyriologists understand and theorise about these individuals. In particular, the body of work surrounding ‘ethnicity’ and its identification in this period of the ancient Near East must be dealt with. Preconceptions on our (modern) part, derived from Western ethno-racial theory, have significantly influenced our interpretation of the political and social landscape of the second millennium, and this in turn has impacted how we understand the ‘foreign musicians’ present in many courts at this time. As well as presenting this investigation into foreign musical professionals, I will also discuss the social and professional positions these individuals occupy, and the way in which this is inextricably linked with the valuation of their musical skill as a commodity, and therefore their foreign identity/ies. I will also posit that, in discussing the aforementioned, there are ‘zones’ of foreignness in operation during this period, in contrast to the dominant understanding of this region as comprised of distinct cultural groups. Those from cities that are, at various points, linked with Mari, are considered foreign ‘enough’ that their origins are designated within the texts, but still comfortably ‘domestic’ enough that they could achieve very high positions within the Mari court. Those, however, from cities that are ‘unknown quantities’, from conquered regions, or from areas of disputed territory, whilst still maintaining the appropriate status as related to their (foreign) music, do not climb to the same social heights as their localised associates.