This panel (organized by Classics and Social Justice) focused on the question of who “owns” Classics and explored some of the implicit and explicit ways the field has marginalized specific communities. More importantly, the panel discussed the role that Classics can play in discourses about identity and offered suggestions about how classicists can promote inclusivity in their teaching and in the field more broadly.
Papers in this panel represented a range of marginalized perspectives and voices which are not often heard in discussions about “the field.”
Sonia Sabnis (Reed College, USA), The Metamorphoses in the Maghreb: Owning Apuleius in Algeria
The paper explores an Algerian “reclamation” of Apuleius in the country where his hometown, Madauros (M’Daorouch), is now located. The paper highlights how inhabitants of the Maghreb have begun to invoke Apuleius in the process of defending their own indigenous languages and traditions against outside forces. The paper takes begins with Algerian writer Assia Djebar’s praise of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses as “a picaresque novel whose spirit, freedom, and iconoclastic humor show a surprising modernity…What a revolution it would be to translate it into popular or literary Arabic, no matter, surely as a health-bringing vaccination against all the fundamentalisms of all of today’s borders.” By looking at Algerian receptions of Apuleius, the paper concludes that, by claiming Apuleius as their own, locals not only bolster their defense of their indigenous languages against Arabic and French but they also protect their indigenous traditions against powerful new currents of Islamic fundamentalism.
Clara Bosak-Schroeder (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA), Cripping Classics: Disability Studies and Realities
Write-up: Classics and Social Justice: Works in Progress, Working towards Progress – A Summary of the Classics and Social Justice Workshop at CANE 2019. By Dominic Machado.
On March 10, we held a workshop, entitled Classics and Social Justice: Works in Progress, Working towards Progress, at the Classical Association of New England annual meeting at the College of the Holy Cross. The event was a continuation of a series of earlier workshops on Classics and Social Justice at CANE and the CANE Summer Institute over the past two years. This year’s workshop sought to expand upon these earlier conversations by highlighting new projects that employ Classics as a means towards community building and social progress.
The workshop was very well attended, with roughly 50 people present, and lasted for 90 minutes. The meeting featured three short papers discussing a wide range of topics. Maia Lee-Chin (College of the Holy Cross) spoke first and described her experiences creating and implementing an Aequora program as a high school and college student. She discussed the differences that emerged in creating programs in both English and Spanish-speaking contexts. She also enumerated the difficulties and unanswered questions related to using Latin as a tool to aid students in underserved districts.
Dominic Machado (College of the Holy Cross) talked about the need to find new models for the public presentation of Classics. He argued that doing so was a necessary corollary to important work being done to delegitimize supremacist and misogynist appropriations of the Greco-Roman world. To provide an example of how such work can be transformative, he discussed Martin Luther King’s use of classical references in his sermons to create a narrative of inclusiveness and equity.
Roberta Stewart described recent work in the Troy to Baghdad/Homer4Vets program. She discussed how in an American society in which less than 1% serve and must return to the 99% civilian society a community book group program can harness world literature to create community for U.S. veterans within ‘home’ contexts. She argued that reading world literature provides veterans the opportunity to identify and develop a vocabulary for communicating and interpreting military experience as a premise for imagining or re-imagining their own personal life narratives of deployment and return.
These papers sparked much discussion about how we can continue to promote the advancement of justice in our field, particularly in the wake of the racist events at the SCS meeting in San Diego. Particularly notable was the mention of the potential of non-violent communication training as a way to facilitate difficult conversations about our field both inside and outside of the classroom.