Xenocracy on site
© FOR Xenokratie

Phenomena of territorial expansion and a permanent claim to rule over foreign, often distant territories were omnipresent from antiquity to the early modern period. However, given the limited administrative, military and economic possibilities of premodern statehood, the chances of centralized rule being comprehensively established in the new territories were limited. Although the early modern colonial empires, for example, make it clear that this by no means precluded massive oppression of the colonized.

The more limited chances of asserting rule correspond to the fact that foreign rule or xenocracy in the premodern era was by no means always associated with universal claims, an ideological doctrine of justification and the idea of the new rule's own cultural superiority. Rather, in many cases of foreign rule, it is an open question of research as to what role ideas of foreignness played both in the context of contemporary perceptions and for the concept of foreign rule.

This is where the research group comes in and, with a broad approach to premodern constellations, asks in what way ideas and attributions of foreignness were relevant for the constitution of foreign rule as well as for the perception and legitimization or delegitimization of power relations. We are particularly interested in the situations in which administrative action in xenocracies included foreignness as a category in social differentiation and thus created (new) distinctions or did not do so, and what consequences this had for the phenomenon of xenocracy in each case.

In a first step, we want to clarify for different constellations to what extent xenocratic rule in the provinces becomes tangible at all, who mediated and exercised xenocratic rule locally and who applied categories of foreignness.

Building on this, the second step will examine the significance of ideas and attributions of foreignness for the constitution of rule and for its perception and de/legitimization on the ground. This will be done with a focus on administrative processes and the inscription of administration in the space, as in this way not only the perspective of the rulers or their administrative personnel but also that of the ruled comes into view.

Based on the findings of the subprojects in the first project phase, the aim of the research group is to jointly develop a concept of xenocracy as a specific form of premodern rule and to distinguish it from the concept of foreign rule, which is tailored to (European) modernity due to its phenomenologically close connection with the nation state.