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Rome's Imagined Africa

Dr Elena Giusti: Rome’s Imagined Africa (British Academy Research Fellowship 2022-2023)

This book project, funded by the British Academy, examines Roman literary representations of Africa (both Africa in the Latin sense of the term, and Ethiopia) and autochthonous African people at the turn between the Republic and the early imperial period. One of my aims is to show that a significant shift in the conceptualisation of Africa and of the whole oikoumene took place in this specific timeframe, especially in the ages of Augustus and Nero, and that the texts produced in this period bear commonalities with later European proto-colonialist and colonialist literature that allow us to bridge the gap between antiquity and modernity on the history of Western constructions of subaltern identities in the African continent. Africa emerges as a unique case study for understanding how histories of race, xenophobia, formation of the ‘Other’ work in (dis-)continuity between pre- and early modernity.

Since 2021, I have been delivering papers, in the UK and abroad, in connection to this project:

  • ‘Rome’s African Variety’, Homo varius: Humane Letters and Human Transformations: Conference in Honour of William Fitzgerald, King’s College London, 10-11 June 2024
  • ‘Rome's African Monsters: Myths of Persecution and Resistance’, Persecution Myths? Narratives of Violence, Community Identity, and Communicative Memory in the Roman World, University of Cambridge, 12-13 April 2024
  • ‘The Early Modern Re-Invention of Rome’s “African Monstrosities”’, Stvdio Seminar, Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick, 7th May 2024
  • ‘Nero’s African Quests’, Cambridge Philological Society, University of Cambridge, 7th March 2024
  • ‘Nero’s African Quests’, Warwick Research Seminar, 21st February 2024
  • ‘The Early Modern Re-Invention of Rome’s “African Monstrosities”’, Seminario de Tradición Clásica en las Culturas Hispánicas y Modernas, Instituto de Investigaciones de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – El Colegio de México, 8th February 2024
  • ‘The Early Modern Re-Invention of Rome’s “African Monstrosities”’, in the SEMR panel ‘The Challenge and Alterity of Early Modernity’, SCS Meeting in Chicago, 4-7 January 2024
  • ‘Rome’s Imagined Africans’, Colloquium Classicum, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, 16th November 2023
  • ‘Ethnographic Discourses: Rome’s Racialised Africa?’, in the co-ordinated panel Classics and Race, CAAS 2023 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, 7th October 2023 (awarded a US $700 prize for ‘Best Paper delivered at the CAAS Conference’)
  • ‘Virgil’s Sallustian Africa’, Vergil and the Roman Republic, Symposium Cumanum, Cuma, 27th June – 1st July 2023
  • ‘Africa’s Shifting Landscapes: Rome’s Imagined Geographies of Empire’, Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, 20th June 2023
  • ‘La “corsa all’Africa” nel Bellum Jugurthinum’, Tor Vergata University of Rome, 17th May 2023
  • ‘Rome’s Racialised Africa’, Global Classics and Africa: Past, Present, and Future, University of Ghana, 6-9 December 2022
  • ‘Rome’s Imagined Africa’, Reading Classics Research Seminar, University of Reading, 26th October 2022
  • ‘Seneca’s Africa and the Empire’s Last Threshold’, in the co-ordinated panel Seneca’s Geographical Boundaries: Spatiality, Philosophy, Ideology (B. Del Giovane, E. Giusti, K. Winter), Seneca 2022. International Conference. What More Can We Say About Seneca? University of Lisbon, 17-20 October 2022
  • ‘Lucan’s Magico-Medical Psylli’, Classics & Ancient History Research Seminar, Newcastle University, 2nd February 2022
  • ‘Dido’s Imagined Africa’, Virgilian Space and Places, Amherst College, 15th October 2021
  • ‘Haec de Africa. Rome’s Imagined Africa and the Limits of Fiction’, Cambridge Classics Literature Seminar, University of Cambridge, 17th February 2021

I have a number of articles and book chapters broadly connected to the project:

  • (forthcoming, 2025) ‘Ethnographic Discourses: Rome’s Racialised Africa?’, in R. Andújar, E. Giusti and J. Murray (eds) Cambridge Companion to Classics and Race, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • (forthcoming, 2024) ‘Haec de Africa. Rome’s Imagined Africa and the Limits of Fiction’, in K. Blouin and B. Akrigg (eds) Routledge Handbook of Classics, Colonialism, and Postcolonial Theory, London: Routledge
  • (forthcoming, 2024) ‘Lucan’s Magico-Medical Psylli’, in C. Blanco, A. Hahn and S. Martorana (eds) Body and Medicine in Latin Poetry, Supplementary volume of Trends in Classics, Berlin: De Gruyter
  • (2023) ‘Rac(ializ)ing Dido’, Proceedings of the Virgil Society 31: 53-85
  • (2023) ‘Africa and the Making of Classical Literature: On Decolonizing Greco-Roman Literature Syllabi’, in M. K. Okyere Asante, D. van Schoor and K. Ackah (eds) Decolonizing Classics in Africa: History, Strategies, Challenges, and Prospects, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 65.1, 67-78