Dear All,


Please join us Friday, January 26 for the first Interdisciplinary Approaches to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (REECA) workshop of the quarter!



The paper topic is:


Alania: A State of Mind




This is the fourth chapter of a PhD project, entitled Political Authority in North Caucasian Alania, 800-1300. It examines the kingdom of Alania, the most powerful regional polity in the medieval North Caucasus. Alania’s regional hegemony was recognized by its Byzantine, Khazar, Georgian and ‘Abbāsid neighbors: for example, Constantine VII Porphyrogennētos’ De Ceremoniis (c.950) recognized its king’s independence from Byzantine overlordship, a unique honor among the Christian princes of the Caucasus. Furthermore, this kingdom was able to raise large military forces, conduct far-ranging military expeditions and diplomacy, and its elites sponsored major church and secular building projects. However, Alania lacked any centralized administration, and, as this chapter establishes, had no state structure in the generally recognized sense. This chapter analyses how Alania’s political complexity was possible in the absence of any state structure. It firstly establishes that whilst Alania was not a state in the generally recognized sense, it nonetheless contained numerous complex social hierarchies, for example urban authorities. It then analyses how its political system operated, through an analysis of written sources, later ethnography and folklore, and epigraphy. It concludes that Alan elites enjoyed an authoritative and unequal position in negotiating oral agreements with local corporate bodies, principally clans, due to their access to the wealth and prestige of outside empires, particularly Byzantium. This study both utilizes and critiques Gramscian concepts of cultural hegemony. On the one hand, this concept is a useful one in analyzing the power of Alan elites, but on the other hand this hegemony does not appear to have been dependent on state-centered domination. This study therefore helps us understand the importance of ideology and displays of the exotic in the formation of Eurasian complex polities.


Author: John Latham-Sprinkle, Visiting PhD Candidate in History (SOAS University of London)

Discussant: Michael Khodarkovsky, Professor of Russian History (Loyola University Chicago)


January 26, 2018

12:00pm-1:20pm in Foster Hall, Room 103

University of Chicago


Light refreshments will be served. You are welcome to bring your own.


The paper is available on our website under the ‘Papers’ tab.  Password: reeca18jls

For more information, visit our website:


Please contact me ( if you have any questions about this workshop or if you believe you may need assistance.


REECA workshop is an interdisciplinary scholarly forum where graduate students and faculty can explore different perspectives on area studies as they pertain to these deeply interconnected regions of the world. We invite topics of discussion from a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to Slavic studies, political science, social thought, history, intellectual history, comparative literature, cinema studies, sociology, philosophy, divinity studies, economics, anthropology, public policy, comparative human development, and legal studies.