Susan Kelly, Macqurie University
Receiving the 2018 Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies Research Grant was such an honour and I still feel humbled to have been chosen as the recipient. The funding was applied to travel expenses that allowed me to attend and present at the Women in Ancient Egypt: Current Research and Historical Trends Conference held at the American University in Cairo (31 October – 2 November 2019). My presentation Old Data – New Perspectives: Changing the Lens on Early Dynastic Womens’ History was very well received, and I proudly displayed the AWAWS logo and acknowledged their contribution in the opening of my speech.
The presentation incorporated my findings from my 2016 Master of Research thesis “Identifying the Women of Early Dynastic Egypt: An Analysis of the Women’s Funerary Stelae/Slabs from Abu Rawash, Helwan and Abydos”, in conjunction with some preliminary findings of my current PhD research which is now in its final year. My research aims to document the roles and agency of women and the extent of their participation and contribution to the ancient Egyptian society and state. The research analyses are conducted on iconographic, textual and burial practice evidence with the goal of raising the Egyptian women’s profile (Dynasties 1 – 6). The outcomes of the research will be achieved by re-evaluating the evidence through a gendered perspective that challenges dominant ethnocentric and androcentric accounts of Egyptian history. Previously, women have been represented as having subordinate positions. I am investigating the ways concepts such as harem women and concubines have disadvantaged and undervalued these women. These include how women have been omitted from general inquiries and representations of them as inferior and/or subordinate to their male counterparts. While outlining these omissions and biases, the aim is to illuminate women’s active and public roles within their society, thereby, clarifying women’s social power and status in Egypt’s first six dynasties. The diversity of women’s involvement and influence will be demonstrated by using their biographical details, mainly titles, to situate them in the social power domains of politics, ideology and economy.
The opportunity to hear and engage with the other presenters and discuss their current research on various aspects of women across all time periods of ancient Egypt was inspirational. The diversity of topics covered by women and men from across the globe illuminates the commitment the community of researchers has for increasing historical studies of ancient Egyptian women and showcased the multitude of approaches being undertaken in gender specific studies. The proactive and supportive environment of the conference aligned with AWAWS’ philosophy of “fostering gender equity and diversity”. The friendly environment encouraged engagement between rising scholars and experts in the industry. I have been invited to submit a paper for the upcoming edited volume on the conference presentations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Society, all its workers and volunteers for providing such a wonderful platform and supportive community. The Society should be commended for its goal of raising the profile of Historical Women’s Studies, aiding in the development of women in their academic roles through mentorship programs, and for providing much needed financial assistance to help researchers of all ages, and at various stages of their academic careers, to achieve their goals. Thank you again.
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