Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Scalar Problems: From the Microscopic to Big Histories

The issue of scales and how we deal with them in our work has been the subject of increasing discussion in recent years. Debates range from the analytical perspectives adopted by scholars in their research to the unfolding of phenomena at different scales in past and present contexts. We may think of the microhistory vs. structural history debates or those that contrast long-term, large-scale narratives with micro-scale investigations in archaeology. While the large scale has been privileged as the site for understanding broad patterns and long-term trends – in recent years not least because of issues such as climate change – it has also been negatively connoted as the basis for master narratives that are unreflectively spread both within scholarly research and among broader publics. Emphases on the small scale have led to the critique that they “redefine all the big questions … to be little questions”, in the words of Robb and Pauketat (2013: 5). The importance of multi-scalar analyses, of the clash between quotidian experience and globalized institutions, has been widely intoned, yet such approaches remain undertheorized, and models for how to implement them are few and far between. It cannot be simply a matter of placing studies at different scales side-by-side; rather, multi-scalarity must involve rethinking both the content and form of our research, the narratives we produce, and even what we understand by causation (e.g. Esposito 2004; Hodder 2012, 2016; Robb & Pauketat 2013).

Due to current restrictions on travel and direct contacts the event will be held as a video conference via Zoom. Participants will receive an e-mail one hour before the event starts including all necessary information to join the meeting. The virtual waiting room will open at 2:30 pm.

Registration for the event is now closed.


15:00 – 15:30
Introduction by the organizers, introduction of the participants

15:30 – 17:00
Archaeological engagements with scalar problems, including presentations by J. Robb and S. Souvatzi

17:00 – 17:15

17:15 – 18:45
Scales and scalar issues in historical thinking, including presentations by W. Pohl and D. Smail

18:45 – 19:00
Wrap-up and outlook


Walter Pohl – Professor, Institute of Austrian Historical Research, University of Vienna and Director of the Institute for Medieval Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences
John Robb – Professor, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University
Stella Souvatzi – Adjunct Professor of Archaeology, Hellenic Open University
Daniel Lord Smail – Professor, Department of History, Harvard University