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Redefining the Hyksos: Immigration and Identity Negotiation in the Second Intermediate Period


This project reconceptualizes how we conceive of Hyksos identity, primarily through the application of several recent theoretical approaches linked to identity negotiation in contexts of immigration and cultural contact. According to the rhetoric permeating the ancient Egyptian sources the ‘foreign’ Hyksos rule of the Second Intermediate Period was considered a stark deviation from the status quo, the shockwaves of which not only provided the impetus for the New Kingdom Empire, but ensured the vilification of these foreigners well into the Ramesside and Ptolemaic Periods. Furthermore, most Hyksos scholarship is firmly entrenched in this same narrative, duplicating outdated ideas while neglecting both new research on the period and current theory. I redefine the Hyksos, including both the malleability of Hyksos identity as well as the extent and character of Hyksos-Egyptian interaction. In order to fully utilize the sparse evidence available from the Second Intermediate Period, I employ a multidisciplinary approach wherein I analyze several distinct datasets through theoretical frameworks appropriate to their unique characteristics, and compare the results to establish a more nuanced understanding of the Hyksos.

Theories of immigration and cultural interaction stress that both groups involved in contact zones will mutually influence one another, resulting in new or modified aspects of culture, both materially and mentally. Identity in these cases is characterized as flexible and context dependent, as well as socially constructed by oneself and others. This theoretical approach is especially poignant given the current political climate, which is inundated with xenophobia in the face of immigration and forced migration. This mass mobility has created innumerable instances of hybridity and identity negotiation and maintenance in mixed communities. It is possible to study similar cases in the past, such as the Hyksos period, to better understand how this blending occurs, especially in cases of political crisis, and the corresponding effects on both the individual actors involved, as well as their broader societies. It also allows us to study how rhetoric can signal belonging or not, as well as political and ethical vilification of immigrants.

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