Black Lives Matter Statement and Mission Statement from the Classics & Ancient History Department at the University of Warwick
The Classics & Ancient History Department at the University of Warwick wishes to echo the statement of the University of Warwick in condemning the violent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and many other black Americans, and in standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in support of our black students and students of colour. We recognise that these are no isolated incidents, but the by-product of structural and institutional racist inequalities that are also very much embedded within the society of the United Kingdom.
We wish to restate our abhorrence of all forms of racism. We believe in the need to work for increasing diversity, and to support all individuals to reach their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, origin, language, age, religion.
We also realise that, as the 2018 Race, Ethnicity & Equality Report of the Royal Historical Society has laid bare, there are deep racial and ethnic inequalities that underpin the teaching and practice of History in the UK, including a worrying underrepresentation of Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic student and staff and a substantial level of bias and discrimination experienced by BAME historians studying and working in Higher Education.
We acknowledge that the situation for Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology has been equally problematic in terms of racial representation, inclusivity, and lack of curriculum diversity. We firmly reject, in line with the Society of Classical Studies, the use of our discipline to support dangerous ideologies and narratives, including white supremacist ideas and the superiority of Western civilisation, which we agree to be a pernicious construct. We have taken notice of Prof. Josephine Quinn’s CUCD report following a series of racist incidents occurred in San Diego at the 2019 joint meeting of the Society of Classical Studies and Archaeological Institute of America, and we support her call for a greater scrutiny of the extent to which institutional racism pervades Classics departments and Classical scholarship in the United Kingdom.
We believe that we have a long way to go, but as a Classics & Ancient History department we hope that we have taken some steps in the right direction, and we shall endeavour to take more concrete actions in the months and years that follow.
In our curriculum offer, starting with our core modules on Greek and Roman History and the Hellenistic World and continuing with many of our honours modules (e.g. Art & Architecture of Asia Minor, The Roman Near East, Receptions of Antiquity: East and West) we have long wished to provide a broad and diversified picture of the Ancient Mediterranean World. Our modules Principles and Methods of Classical Archaeology, Africa and the Making of Classical Literature and From Confucius to Constantine: Ancient Global History address directly issues such as the legacy and influence of colonialism in our discipline, the misuse of cultural heritage for political aims, the dangerous pitfalls of creating a myth around the legacy of Western civilisation, the applicability of critical race studies to Classics, the uncovering of conscious and unconscious biases in classical scholarship; The Vulnerable Body in Roman Thought and Literature engages first-hand with disability studies and feminist philosophies. Our research clusters in Medical Humanities and Graeco-Arabic Studies, Punic Studies and Connecting Classics continue to expand the disciplinary boundaries of the field. Moreover, the Warwick Classics Network has also been working hard with local schools to dismantle the elitist outlook of Classics and to make the subject accessible and welcoming to everyone. We have also recently created a dedicated page with resources for school teachers to address issues of race and ethnicity in the ancient world and expand the traditional boundaries of the discipline as it is currently taught in schools.
We are aware that the diversification of Classics curricula is only a small part of the job that lies ahead, and we would like to take further action in support of our student community:
- We have created a page with various resources on issues of equality and social justice in Classics, which include many anti-racist resources. Here you can find links to workshops and associations, reading lists, podcasts and videos. Note that this is work in progress and we will continue to update it: please feel free to email Dr Elena Giusti with suggestions. Here, we would like to highlight the existence of Sportula Europe, a mutual aid network of Classics graduate students, which provides microgrants to marginalised students who are experiencing financial difficulties, and has also started to hold virtual social encounters among Classicists of colour.
- We wish to offer termly reading groups on issues of equality and social justice in Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. These will welcome members of Classics and adjacent departments, both faculty staff and ug/pg students, and will focus on race and racism in 2020/2021. Please find information on these reading groups and register your interest here.
- We also plan to work out ways to hear the voices of students and staff anonymously as to their perceptions of discriminations of all kinds within our department. We will be working on a dedicated questionnaire to send out in 2020/2021. In the meantime, if you would like to raise any related matter please do not hesitate to contact Dr Elena Giusti.
Hoping that this is only the first of many steps towards constructive change, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and in support of our Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority students and colleagues.