CFP: Society for Classical Studies 2019

Panel proposal: Classics and Social Justice Affiliated Group

Chair: Amy Pistone

Who “owns” classics?  Who is the field of classics for?  Defining the field/diversifying the field. 

Many initiatives, many possibilities come to mind when we think of Classics and Social Justice.  But as we pursue these initiatives, or even before, an important early task for us, is that of self-reflection. Classics traditionally has been the preserve of elites, and has served to exclude individuals and groups from power, institutions, and resources thereby perpetuating their definition as inferior.  Let us examine and confront this element of our history carefully, and more particularly our behaviors. Is Classics white? In the light of the appropriation of classical themes and motifs by the alt right, we need to think about how we ourselves have presented the field so as to render such (mis)appropriations possible.  At the same time “ownership” of classics has always been contested–and the classics deployed– by those very same groups who have been defined as outsiders. What are we doing when we say “classics for all” or teach these ancient materials to members of marginalized groups? Why do we do what we do?

We solicit 650-word abstracts by Feb. 20, 2018, for 15-20 minute papers. Paper topics might include but are by no means limited to questions such as the following:  the “gatekeeping” and imperialist traditions of classics; the pedagogy of canons and unchanging tradition; the challenges from perceived outsiders to the discipline, for instance working class individuals, people of color, women. How do such individuals fare in our national meetings? Or in our discipline?

Please submit anonymous abstracts of less than 650 words to Kaitlyn Boulding (boulding@UW.EDU).

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MRECC and Classics and Social Justice syllabus workshop CAAS 2018 (Philadelphia)

Calling for participants! MRECC and the Classics and Social Justice Affiliated Group are collaborating to put together a proposal for a syllabus workshop at CAAS 2018 in Philadelphia October 4-6. 

If you are interested in participating in this workshop and have experience teaching and developing syllabi for courses involving multiculturalism, race, and ethnicity in Classics, please email David Wright at djw167@scarletmail.rutgers.edu by February 15th. 

Include your name, institutional affiliation, and a brief explanation of how you would like to contribute to the workshop. The panel proposal is due on March 9, 2018.

Write-up: Classics and Social Justice at the 2018 SCS (Boston)

 

By Hannah Čulík-Baird.

The Classics and Social Justice group had a productive time at the SCS in Boston this year. Even though the Bomb Cyclone made it difficult for many to get to Boston, we nonetheless had a packed house for our open meeting on the afternoon of Thursday January 4th 2018. Thanks to Lindsey A. Mazurek, we can share the notes from that meeting with you — see the end of this blog post.

On Friday 5th January, we kicked off the meeting with an 8am panel organized by Jessica Wright (USC) and Amit Shilo (UC Santa Barbara). Elina Salminen (U of Michigan) began the panel with her paper, “At Intersections: Teaching about Power and Powerlessness in the Ancient World.” Salminen spoke about how she uses Community-Based Learning (CBL) in her pedagogy, describing a class on issues of equality in the ancient and modern worlds. Salminen had created this class with an audience in mind of students who couldn’t see how the ancient world connected to issues in their own lives. Community-Based Learning is any kind of learning that takes lessons outside of the traditional campus environment, through volunteering, organizing etc. One of the issues with CBL, according to Salminen, is that it requires greater planning up front to make room for both scholarly content and the practice of community work. Salminen also noted that the students who were attracted to this class on ancient and modern social justice were generally not Classics majors, the majority of them were women, and many of them identified as people of colour. Classics classes, Salminen said, which include this kind of diverse material and practice attract a more diverse selection of students who therefore end up taking a Classics class as part of their humanities requirement. One of the themes which consistently reoccurred in Salminen’s experience of teaching in this way was the fact that discussing modern problems of social justice alongside ancient texts allowed students to see more in the ancient material. Students learning about human trafficking in Michigan today, Salminen said, really changed how they viewed Aristotle’s statements about ancient slavery. Salminen included a student testimonial on her handout, which read:

“I feel like learning about slavery in ancient Greece is such a separate topic for me because it feels just like history of something that just ‘happened’ and was a ‘product of its time’. When I read Aristotle, these are the excuses I personally give him for his views on slavery. However, is this what future generations will say about our huge human trafficking problem nowadays? That we didn’t know better and are simply the product of our times?”

Casey C. Moore (Ridge View High School) skyped into the SCS panel session to give her paper, “Engaging Minority Students: Modifying Pedagogical Practice for Social Justice.” Moore began by noting that even though she teaches in an area that has a large population of people of colour, Latin and Greek language classes remain majority white. Most teachers, Moore said, are far removed from the areas where their minority students come from, both psychologically and geographically, and must make an effort to speak to their students’ context. Invoking bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress, Moore noted that education is about freedom. Educators at all levels see educations as mastery of curricular content, but best the teaching has a student leave class having had the experience connect to their personal life. Moore has students write a weekly journal entry which can have anything to do with what the students are learning in class. The most valuable aspect of this, Moore said, was that it gave her a chance to establish a personal relationship with the students through their writing.

Rodrigo Verano (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) gave the third paper at the panel, “Reading Homer in and outside the Bars: An Educational Project in Post-Conflict Colombia.” Verano began by noting that an issue with Homer and other classical texts is that students, already familiar with the literature in some way, tend to skim read the text, bringing out the things they were already invested in, not new ideas. Colombia right now, Verano said, is going through a moment where it is transitioning from war to peace. In such a context, the Odyssey can be read in a new light. Verano showed the audience an image of Alex Sastoque’s Metamorphosis or La pala de la paz (Museo Nacional de Ejército, Bogotá, Colombia), saying that this image seems to emblematize how Colombia faces the classical.

With this in mind, Verano brought together university students and the incarcerated to meet and read Homer in post-conflict Colombia. In a piece written by Verano for the Universidad de los Andes, Verano wrote that the discussion focused on issues of justice, especially in the context of the process of seeking peace after conflict. Verano has put together a volume on this work with contributions from seven university students and one inmate, A Ítaca desde el Guaviare. Mirando el posconflicto colombiano desde los poemas de Homero. One of the issues that came out of the Q + A after this paper was the different ways in which the incarcerated engage in writing. Those in the audience who had also worked with the incarcerated noted that in some cases, inmates did not want to write; in others, the prison wouldn’t let written material leave the facility. A theme that wove its way throughout the panel is that social justice work is not the same everywhere: it has to happen where you are, with the resources and circumstances that are available.

Molly Harris (University of Wisconsin – Madison) was the fourth speaker at the panel, with her paper, “The Warrior Book Club: Advancing Social Justice for Veterans through Collaboration.” The Warrior Book Club began in 2016 at the University of Wisconsin – Madison as a discussion of war literature, classical and otherwise. Harris gave an extensive list of modern works which deal with working through issues of modern warfare through ancient accounts: Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam (1994), Odysseus in America (2002), Lawrence Tritle’s From Melos to My Lai, Peter Meineck and David Konstan’s Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks (2014), Victor Caston and Weineck Silke-Maria’s Our Ancient Wars (2016), Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives, Theater of War, Roberta Stewart’s reading group. Asked after the panel whether the group plans to read poetry, Harris responded: yes, women’s poetry  — Scars Upon My Heart, written by women warriors of the first World War; Powder, written by women in the ranks from Vietnam to Iraq. I have written elsewhere about how Harris’ presentation of a bibliography was an invitation for anyone interested to do this kind of work themselves. Harris noted that one of the early issues with the reading group is the status of the classical texts themselves: readers tend to think that the texts have been assigned (Odyssey, etc.) because we’re supposed to find the “answers” there. This means that the facilitators of such work need to make it clear that discussion and dialogue is the main goal, not to arrive at a specific conclusion (much like Moore’s invocation of bell hooks, who encourages teachers to have students stop seeing them as the center of all authority/knowledge production). Harris also brought up an important point when she described her own contact with the media as part of this project. Scholars often don’t know how to speak with journalists or the public at large. Being public facing isn’t easy, but it is important. In the Warrior Book Club, Harris said, the topic of translation was of great interest: obscenities in Lysistrata spoke to a veteran who remembered how his Iraqi translator deal with obscene graffiti.

The last speaker on the panel was Amy Pistone (Notre Dame), who skyped in to give her paper, “First Do No Harm: Responsible Outreach and Community Engagement.” Before appearing on the screen, she tweeted the handout to her paper:

Pistone began by laying out the best practices of social justice work, emphasizing the fact the classicists engaged in this kind of work should have a clear vision of precisely what their role is — why are you doing this particular work with this particular community? Where does Classics belong in this dialogue? Pistone reiterated a much discussed issue, that of the language of “outreach”, which suggests “in” groups and “out” groups.” When asked in the Q + A  what term she prefers, Pistone said that she like the words “community” and “connections.” Pistone noted that it is not enough to say that the world needs Classics. Like Moore, Pistone made the connection between education and liberation, this time invoking Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and ideas of critical pedagogy as concerned with “critical consciousness”, liberation as a transformational praxis. Pistone also noted that we need to rethink classical exceptionalism, invoking Rebecca Kennedy. Pistone also recommended Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all too, noting that “white folks” is distinct from the race of the teacher, but rather describes a eurocentric pedagogy which focuses on teaching hierarchies.

See below the notes from our open meeting on Thursday January 4th, compiled by Lindsey A. Mazurek. A pdf version is available here.

The CFP for our panel at next year’s SCS in San Diego (2019) is already available. Read it here and consider sending an abstract. 

CSJ meeting 1CSJ meeting 2CSJ 3CSJ 4

 

CFP: Society for Classical Studies 2019

Panel proposal: Classics and Social Justice Affiliated Group

Chair: Amy Pistone

Who “owns” classics?  Who is the field of classics for?  Defining the field/diversifying the field. 

Many initiatives, many possibilities come to mind when we think of Classics and Social Justice.  But as we pursue these initiatives, or even before, an important early task for us, is that of self-reflection. Classics traditionally has been the preserve of elites, and has served to exclude individuals and groups from power, institutions, and resources thereby perpetuating their definition as inferior.  Let us examine and confront this element of our history carefully, and more particularly our behaviors. Is Classics white? In the light of the appropriation of classical themes and motifs by the alt right, we need to think about how we ourselves have presented the field so as to render such (mis)appropriations possible.  At the same time “ownership” of classics has always been contested–and the classics deployed– by those very same groups who have been defined as outsiders. What are we doing when we say “classics for all” or teach these ancient materials to members of marginalized groups? Why do we do what we do?

We solicit 650-word abstracts by Feb. 20, 2018, for 15-20 minute papers. Paper topics might include but are by no means limited to questions such as the following:  the “gatekeeping” and imperialist traditions of classics; the pedagogy of canons and unchanging tradition; the challenges from perceived outsiders to the discipline, for instance working class individuals, people of color, women. How do such individuals fare in our national meetings? Or in our discipline?

Please submit anonymous abstracts of less than 650 words to Kaitlyn Boulding (boulding@UW.EDU).

Classics and Social Justice Meeting at CAAS, October 2017

Notes compiled by Maxine Lewis, University of Auckland.

Comments and themes emerging from the check-in and follow-up discussion:

1) Pedagogy, including making Classics a more racially diverse and aware field, emerged as a key priority for many people at the meeting that they want to work on either individually or collectively.

  • People suggested sharing syllabi, e.g. Ted Gellar-Goad (Wake Forest University) and Hannah Čulik-Baird (Boston University), perhaps via the www.classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com site. This is currently happening.
  • Eidolon and Diotima both also have syllabi up Diotima’s link is here: http://www.stoa.org/diotima/
  • Norman Sandridge (Howard University) has experience building collaborative syllabi. He can share/give some training. He uses a free platform (https://scalar.usc.edu/ )and has created a leadership course with different modules every week.
  • Rachel Lesser (Gettysburg College) knows of an LGBTQ website with syllabi. Contact her for information [rlesser@gettysburg.edu].

Some issues were raised around working with students in activist modes, including:

  • Student apathy (Nancy Felson, University of Georgia),
  • The difficulty of engaging students when classes are very large (Darcy Krasne, Columbia University),
  • Students who are very active on political issues but don’t see them as connected to their study of Classics (Norman Sandridge),
  • Lack of time for students preoccupied with e.g. making rent (Maxine Lewis),
  • Wider structural social/political issues governing students’ lives (Ted Gellar-Goad).

Some responses to those issues:

  • Where possible dispel the model of the teacher as authority figure,
  • Highlight connections between material in the classroom and contemporary social/power structures; the material is relevant to social justice (Melinda Powers).
  • There was robust discussion around the idea of “mentoring up”, where students from marginalised backgrounds work with academics from more privileged backgrounds so that the academics get a better idea of how to serve that student body. There was disagreement about the feasibility for students, who have enough to do; Norm Sandridge and Rachel Lesser report positive experiences at their colleges, Norm with Black students and Rachel where groups of trans students are doing education for non-trans staff.

2) Some people raised the issue that they do some social justice work but it is not connected to their work as Classicists. There was some discussion around this, including about what purpose the Classics and Social Justice Network is going to serve on this front (e.g. is it for people to network and share activist work they’re doing outside Classics, or inside, or both, or to plan joint collective actions, etc). This is a continuing topic (at SCS and elsewhere).

Classics & Social Justice at the 2018 SCS

We’re pleased to announce that we will have a panel at the 2018 meeting for the Society for Classical Studies (Jan. 5th 8-10.30am), as well as a general meeting (Jan. 4th 4-5pm). Any interested members are welcome and encouraged to attend both. See below for details.

The Classics and Social Justice Open Meeting is scheduled to be held on:
Date: Thursday, January 4, 2018
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Assigned room: Columbus 1+2
Location: The Marriott Boston Copley.

The Classics and Social Justice panel is scheduled for Friday, January 5th, 8am-10.30am

Session 1: Classics and Social Justice (Organized by Jessica Wright, University of Southern California, and Amit Shilo, University of California, Santa Barbara)
Elina Salminen (University of Michigan) “At Intersections: Teaching about Power and Powerlessness in the Ancient World”
Casey C. Moore (Ridge View High School) “Engaging Minority Students: Modifying Pedagogical Practice for Social Justice”
Rodrigo Verano (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) “Reading Homer in and outside the Bars: An Educational Project in Post-Conflict Colombia”
Molly Harris (University of Wisconsin – Madison) “The Warrior Book Club: Advancing Social Justice for Veterans through Collaboration”
Amy Pistone (University of Michigan) “First Do No Harm: Responsible Outreach and Community Engagement”

 

Congratulations to Professor Roberta Stewart, recipient of the 2017 Outreach Prize!

Professor Roberta Stewart, known to a broad audience for work reading Homeric poems with veterans, has been awarded the 2017 SCS Outreach Prize. See the statement of the SCS below.


The SCS Outreach Prize Committee has awarded the 2017 Outreach Prize to Professor Roberta Stewart of Dartmouth College for her work in developing book discussion groups on the Homeric poems with military veterans. Professor Stewart’s long-running initiative is now a major collaborative project of Dartmouth College and New Hampshire Humanities, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Award Citation

Even in today’s busy, noisy, and self-absorbed world, the passionate, quiet, and selfless work of the individual does not remain unnoticed. We are proud to offer the 2017 SCS Outreach Prize to Roberta Stewart for her tireless pursuit of healing and social justice (in New Hampshire and Vermont) through engaging veterans in reading and discussing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. By teaching them how to appropriate the two epics as living texts, she has given veterans, as one of them put it, the controlling voice in processing their experiences and their Odyssean stories of homecoming in particular.

Since she has taken Homer out of the classroom and into the book group more than a decade ago, Roberta Stewart has demonstrated that anyone can read Homer and that the figured world of the Iliad and the Odyssey cannot be overestimated in our own days. Teaching empathy, it enables veterans to create a self-narrative that helps them to overcome trauma, and it enables the community to negotiate reintegration.

Driven by her own empathy, Roberta Stewart first proposed book groups to her local VA. In summer 2016, helped by a grant from the NEH, she trained three-person teams consisting of a veteran, a scholar, and a clinician to co-lead a 14-week discussion of Homer’s Odyssey with veterans and service members in four parts of New Hampshire.

Though Roberta Stewart insists that the real work of the Homer book groups comes not from her but from the veterans themselves, we want to express our respect and gratitude for her truly inspiring work in the field of outreach. We are, again, delighted to present Roberta Stewart with the SCS Outreach Prize. Thank you for your admirable work, Roberta!

SCS Outreach Prize Committee

Barbara Weinlich, Chair

Daniel Harris-McCoy

Emily Allen-Hornblower