Thursday, March 12, 2009

Identity and Identification in Antiquity, Florida International University, Miami, 7 - 9 April 2009

Identity in modern society, especially over the last few decades, has once again become an increasingly hotly debated topic, engaging social scientists and historians, politicians and religious leaders, journalists and opinion makers - but also the general public. Much of the contemporary debate is focused on three key issues : race, religion and gender. Some of the controversies stirred up in these fields have spilled over into academic ancient history, where consequently the terms of the discussion have often been defined by the issues and trends in contemporary discourse. 

Ancient historians, more often than not, have adopted a reactive rather than a proactive stance, not only during the "renaissance" of identity in the late 20th century, but already during the inception of modern nationalism, when ancient history had first been pressed into service to shore up newly emerging identities. Some of the new and alien identity concepts imported into ancient history then, have proven to be surprisingly long-lined. It has taken until 2006 for instance of a major academic monograph (Walter Goffart Barbarian Tides) to explicitly state that there were no "Germans" in antiquity. The academic struggle to eradicate modern European national identities from the ancient world in which they were so firmly implanted by 19th and 20th century historians, responding to the imperatives of political opportunity and conviction, is far from over. 

More recently ancient historians have again been "wrong-footed" by the contemporary debate on identity. The discussion of race in antiquity for instance has been rekindled by Martin Bernal's 1987 publication Black Athena : The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, that is, by the works of a modern Oriental historian. Gender history in antiquity - from its invention a modern history concept - has received much of its early momentum from Sarah Pomeroy's 1975 Goddesses, whores, wives and slaves : women in classical antiquity. Pomeroy, no doubt, is a classicist, but her work is very self-consciously inspired by modern feminism. In the field of religion one could cite Peter Schäfer's Judeophobia : Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World, published in 1997, a work which explicitly sets out to find the origins of a modern religious conflict in antiquity. 

The conference proposes to revisit the question of identity in antiquity from the point of view of the ancient historian. Rather than following a contemporary agenda -- were Athenians sexists ? - did Romans hate Jews ? -- we hope to organise discussions which look at identity as a concept embedded in ancient societies : which types of identity are operational in Greco-Roman antiquity, and how and by whom are they defined ? As a second theme, however, we wish to advance our understanding of how and why especially ancient history has on various occasions served to supply modern identities with a distinguished past to which otherwise they could not aspire. 

Conference Programme
(All abstracts here)

Identity and the city
Shimon Epstein (Bar-Ilan University)
Solon's Telê and the socio-economic identity of the citizen of classical Athens
Maria José Martin Velasco (University of Santiago de Compostela)
Aristotle's response to 4th century Athenian society
John Karl Evans (University of Minnesota)
A tolerable servitude : slavery and urban identity in ancient Rome
Keynote address : 
Katerina Zacharia (Loyola Marymount University)
'Reel' Hellenismus : perceptions of Greece in Greek cinema

Christianity : shaping and bending identity
Valentin Petroussenko (University of Plovdiv)
Wulfila in Moesia : from Arian apostasy to the early Gothic Christian identity
Geoffrey Nathan (University of New South Wales)
Christianity and the reconfiguration of female identity in Late Antiquity

Women and men : navigating between genders
Judith Hallett (University of Maryland)
Literary fictions and erotic failures : authorial identity in Latin love elegy
Giulia Maria Chesi (University of Cambridge)
The political action of Aeschylus' Clytemnestra and the construction of female identity in tragic discourse
JoAnn Delmonico Luhrs (Brooklyn College)
Brides, prostitutes and the iunx : symbols of Eros

Race and ethnicity : the limits of a concept
Mark Thatcher (Brown University)
Thucydides and the politics of identity : Hermocrates and the Sikeliotai
Dominic Galante (University of Pennsylvania)
Douketios the Hegemon, Basileus and Dunastes : Sikel political culture and identity
Efstathia Papadodima (University of Texas at Austin)
Ethnic identity in Aristophanic comedy

New identities at the limits of the classical world
Fabienne Colas-Rannou (université de Bordeaux 3)
D'une mixité à une identité : les Lyciens et leurs images
Shelley Hales (University of Bristol)
'Masques de fer' : the face of Rome on the northern Frontier
Sviatoslav Dmitriev (Ball State University)
Identities and cultures of Justinianic Byzantium

Representations od identity
Michel Herland (Université des Antilles et de la Guyanes)
L'identité "ontologique" chez les Grecs anciens. 
Benjamin Lazarus (University of Oxford)
Aristophanes and the comic human
Corinne Le Sergent (Université des Antilles et de la Guyane)
Identités linguistiques dans Cicéron
Edmund Thomas (Durham University)
Regionalism and identity in the architecture of the Roman provinces

The state : shaping and constraining identity
Arthur Keaveney (University of Kent)
The trial of Orontas : Anabasis 1.6.
Christelle Fischer-Bonet (University of California, Berkeley)
Ethnic identity and status : comparing Ptolemaic and early Roman Egypt
Hannibal Travis (Florida International University College of Law)
Religious establishment and toleration in the Sassanian or New Persian empire