Project Leader

Prof. Dr. Sonja Ammann

Research Team

PD Dr. Stephen Germany

Dr. Jenna Kemp

Anita Dirnberger

Aurélie Bischofberger (until January 2023)

Dr. theol. Helge Bezold (until March 2022)

Dr. Julia Rhyder (until June 2021)

External Advisors

Prof. Dr. Angelika Berlejung (University of Leipzig)

Prof. Dr. Andrea Bieler (University of Basel)

Prof. Dr. Sylvie Honigman (Tel Aviv University)

Student Assistants

Nora Hurter

Damaris Zaugg

Anna Lina Schneider


“Transforming Memories of Collective Violence” is an Eccelenza research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and led by Prof. Dr. Sonja Ammann in the Department of Old Testament and Semitic Linguistics at the University of Basel. The research team includes Helge Bezold, Dr. Stephen Germany, and Dr. Julia Rhyder, and the project is also supported by three external advisors: Prof. Angelika Berlejung (University of Leipzig), Prof. Andrea Bieler (University of Basel), and Prof. Sylvie Honigman (Tel Aviv University). 

Project Description

The experience of war left an indelible mark on the texts of the Old Testament. In these texts, the biblical authors reflect upon and cope with real experiences of collective violence. These texts do not, however, reflect a simple historical reality but instead depict an imagined violent history at a time when the Israelites were generally not in a position to conquer other peoples.
Some biblical texts recount a glorious past in which the Israelites conquer other peoples and are the agents of violence. This depiction of power in the distant past thus creates a contrasting foil with the experience of powerlessness in the writers’ present. Other biblical texts narrate the past from the perspective of the conquered and remember a history in which the Israelites are the victims of violence. This project investigates the construction of a history of violence between these two poles of conquering and being conquered, which are closely intertwined in the cultural memory of ancient Israel and Judah. It inquires how the emphasis along this continuum shifts over the course of time and in different historical contexts. In this regard, we are interested in how a group regulates its own potential for violence through an imagined history of violence as well as how it overcomes experiences of violence.
The project combines the historical and philological methods of biblical studies with a wider sociological perspective, taking up approaches used in trauma studies. Using biblical literature as our chosen data set, our aim is to illuminate the rhetorical structures, images of oneself and one’s enemies, and coping strategies relating to experienced and practiced violence. The results will be relevant to research on current discourses on conquering and being conquered. In this respect, the project makes a contribution to the interdisciplinary fields of trauma- and conflict studies.

Project publications (selection of collaborative publications; see also the publications of the individual project members):

2021: HeBAI 10 (1/2021): Transforming Memories of Collective Violence

2024: Collective Violence and Memory in the Ancient Mediterranean (ed. S. Ammann/H. Bezold/S. Germany/J. Rhyder; CHAN 135; Leiden: Brill)

Forthcoming: ThZ 79 (4/2023): Biblical Representations of Israel and Judah as Subjects of Collective Violence