Decolonising Classical Studies

Module code: AH3085

This module is an experimental collaboration with Tufts University (Boston, USA) that seeks to interrogate current understandings and perceptions of Greek, Roman and other ancient societies and their impact on contemporary life in the UK and the US. The course will be run as a weekly seminar class bringing together by video link students and faculty at Leicester and Tufts to consider and debate together the traditional ways in which we reconstruct the Classical past. 

In recent years Classical Studies, especially in the USA, has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism for its elitism and its historical entanglements with colonialist and racist thinking (for example impacting debates on White Supremacist websites and Black Lives Matter). Discussion will focus on a number of these major debates about the need to decolonise the agenda of Classical Studies and looking at how some emerging agendas have the potential to transform the discipline. 

The general discussion of issues will be backed up by specific study of evidence from Africa in the Roman empire, to highlight problems with traditional perspectives and the potential of new approaches. The North African case studies will allow students to apply the general critique to specific evidence and to show the practical advantages of bringing alternative perspectives to bear on evidence pertaining to life in Roman provincial societies. The course will be taught by leading experts on Africa and Rome. 

The live seminars will be complemented by some pre-recorded lectures that you will watch asynchronously ahead of the seminars.

Topics covered

  • Critical Race Theory
  • White supremacy and ‘Western Civilisation’
  • Colonialism/Imperialism
  • Colonialist discourse in Classical Studies
  • Roman Provincial Life
  • Reception
  • Identity
  • Why scholarly vocabulary matters

Relevant North African examples will be reviewed in relation to each theme

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