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Author Topic: Non-white perspectives on the classics  (Read 255 times)

Haptalaon

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Non-white perspectives on the classics
« on: February 07, 2021, 10:34:06 am »
I just really enjoyed this article - for discussion or reflection:

He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?


About a black classics academic arguing for bringing more non-white perspectives and ways of thinking into the Classics (for example, to better understand slavery or imperialism; or to focus more on Rome&Greece's links to Africa and the Middle East), as well as a bit on how contemporary fascists are mobilising the classics as a kind of "white culture creation myth".

A good read


(last edited by Morag to fix broken link.)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 04:41:49 am by Morag »
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Castus

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Re: Non-white perspectives on the classics
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2021, 03:13:48 pm »
I just really enjoyed this article - for discussion or reflection:

He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?


About a black classics academic arguing for bringing more non-white perspectives and ways of thinking into the Classics (for example, to better understand slavery or imperialism; or to focus more on Rome&Greece's links to Africa and the Middle East), as well as a bit on how contemporary fascists are mobilising the classics as a kind of "white culture creation myth".

A good read

I try as a rule to read all of an article before commenting on it, but found Padilla so nauseating I was forced away from that task. Putting aside the fact that the person who wrote the article practically fell over themselves to tacitly endorse his radicalism, I think it would be extremely difficult for any pious Roman or Hellene to embrace Padilla's theories without significant reservations.

I've always spoken against looking at the Roman empire through a racialist prism. As the article mentions however this is frequently a lost cause, but unlike blaming just the right for such a failing I would indict Padilla on the charge as well. The concept of race as we understand it in the United States, 2,774 years after the foundation of Rome, would be baffling to even the most educated of Romans -- whether or not the person explaining was a David Duke fanboy or an intersectional wingnut. Padilla is attempting to force entire civilisations into a Procrustean bed, solely to grandstand against the sins of those who came far after them; it isn't surprising but that doesn't make it any less aggravating.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta should be invited to sit down with Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Postumianus, one of the most prominent figures in the modern Cultus Deorum and, to the eyes of our forefathers, a Numidian. Or any of the many women who have now held the highest Roman honours. I'm not going to deny that the academic institution of "the Classics" has committed sins. That's not the point.  Regardless of anything else the Classical field was born of the same  recognition that birthed modern Roman revivalism -- that we were bequeathed something of value. The traditions of the Romans can be embraced by anyone and everyone; reprehensible attempts to shove them into a box of identity politics, and thereby dismantle them, are as misguided as they are doomed to fail.


(last edited by Morag to fix weird punctuation shapeshifting.)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 04:33:57 am by Morag »
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Re: Non-white perspectives on the classics
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2021, 06:24:04 pm »
I'm not going to deny that the academic institution of "the Classics" has committed sins. That's not the point.

That is exactly the point of the article though - it is discussing the academic study of the Classics and the biases therein.

Quote
The concept of race as we understand it in the United States, 2,774 years after the foundation of Rome, would be baffling to even the most educated of Romans -- whether or not the person explaining was a David Duke fanboy or an intersectional wingnut.

The problem is that hardly anyone today experiences the Classics directly, but rather through translations and commentaries, most of which were written by white men who were by no means unbiased (see also: Victorian archaeologists concealing or destroying Roman art depicting sex acts, or describing any building with such art as a brothel.)

Quote
The traditions of the Romans can be embraced by anyone and everyone

Can they, though? A lot has happened in the last 2000 years; it seems to me there are good reasons why some people don't *want* to embrace Roman traditions, and understanding those reasons is why it's worth considering the Classics in the context of race (or gender, or sexuality etc etc).

Quote
  Regardless of anything else the Classical field was born of the same  recognition that birthed modern Roman revivalism -- that we were bequeathed something of value.


Also debatable, but then I'm neither a Classicist nor a Roman recon. (Insert my usual rant about how Plato ruined civilisation :P)

Haptalaon

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Re: Non-white perspectives on the classics
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2021, 06:32:07 pm »
The problem is that hardly anyone today experiences the Classics directly, but rather through translations and commentaries, most of which were written by white men who were by no means unbiased (see also: Victorian archaeologists concealing or destroying Roman art depicting sex acts, or describing any building with such art as a brothel.)

It's this I was especially excited about; I have a degree in Classics, and find the way that post-colonial theory basically challenges people to say "let's take a step back and consider this from a totally new angle" invigorating. It doesn't necessarily destroy or undermine - it always takes you somewhere interesting, I find.

I liked the bit about questioning the validity of Rome+Greece as the locus of the classics. As opposed to, say, Rome+Egypt. I remember when I was at university, I didn't get to study Egyptian languages because I couldn't persuade my department to accept that ancient Egypt was a fit for my studies of ancient Roman and ancient Greek languages. Something I am still very sore about.

But there were big overlaps in literature, trade, politics at various moments, so what's with saying that looking at Egypt cannot be part of the Classics?

Another example would be, I'm studying the 4 elements at the moment - something I've always found rather charmless - but I've been very surprised to discover they're not just Greek, as I assumed, but there are strikingly similar four-element patterns in a tonne of ancient cultures. Seeing ancient Greece as this island limits possibilities to find new interconnections.
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Sefiru

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Re: Non-white perspectives on the classics
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2021, 06:31:21 pm »
But there were big overlaps in literature, trade, politics at various moments, so what's with saying that looking at Egypt cannot be part of the Classics?

Heck, why not throw in the various cuneiform-writing civilizations? It was all interconnected. To be fair, there is a small bit of sense in dividing them based on which writing system/language one has to learn, but that could be more of a post-grad specialization.

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