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Reading Groups

Starting with the Autumn term of 2020-2021, we plan to offer termly informal reading groups and discussions on issues of equality and social justice in Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. We shall begin by discussing issues of race and racism in 2020-2021. We welcome both undergraduate and postgraduate students and members of staff from the university. Please register contact Dr Elena Giusti directly for joining the sessions.

Third Session: Tuesday 4th May 11-12am (Week 2 Term 3)

Organisers: Dr Bobby Xinyue, Dr Elena Giusti

Guest: Dr Mira Seo (Yale-NUS College in Singapore)

This session is dedicated to Classics and Asia - Dr Mira Seo is joining us from Singapore to talk about her own experience of studying, researching and teaching classics both in the US and Asia, and of visions for a globalised future of the discipline.

If you have time to read before this session, you can check out Dr Mira Seo's article 'Classics for All: Future Antiquity from a Global Perspective'.

You can also have a look at the website of the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus

Further readings include Mathura Umachandran's 'More than a Common Tongue: Dividing Race and Classics Across the Atlantic' (which includes reflections on the fundamental differences between American and British Asians) and Nandini Pandey's 'How Foreign Women have been tokenized since ancient Roman times' (which attempts to connect Classical Rome's exoticization of foreign women with the recent Atlanta shootings)

Second Session: Tuesday 10th November 10-11am (Week 6, Reading Week)

 In this second Reading Group we will address the racist events that occurred at the SCS-AIA Annual Meeting in San Diego in January 2019 and look in detail at the paper presented by Dr Dan-El Padilla Peralta in the panel ‘The Future of Classics’ and at the intervention of Dr Mary Frances Williams. We will read both Padilla Peralta’s reflections about the event and Williams’ defence, together with the CUCD report of Prof Jo Quinn and an article by Prof Patrice Rankine.

If you don’t manage to go through all the material in detail, I would recommend to cover points 1) and 3): to see Padilla Peralta’s paper and Williams’ intervention (ca. 15 minutes in total) and read the article by Patrice Rankine.

Please note that I have structured the discussion in such a way that makes it clear that I take the episode as racist. When you read both Padilla Peralta and Williams’ afterthoughts it would be good to ask yourself what it means for the episode to be racist and how Padilla Peralta’s and Williams’ definitions of racism differ. If you aren’t yet familiar with the concepts of ‘structural racism’, ‘colorblind racism’ or ‘colorblindness’, ‘white fragility’, ‘white supremacy’ and ‘racecraft’, it would be good to take this seminar as an opportunity to reflect upon them.


  1. Watch the panel ‘The Future of Classics’, held at the SCS 2019 in San Diego here, though I am mindful it is very long! You may prefer to skip to Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s paper (ca. 10 minutes: from minute 32 to minute 42) and to the intervention of Mary Frances Williams (ca. 6 minutes: from minute 45 to minute 51). You can turn subtitles on if it is easier to follow.
    • What is your first reaction to Padilla Peralta’s paper?
    • What is your first reaction to Mary Frances Williams’ intervention?
  2. Read both Padilla Peralta’s after-thoughts about the event and Mary Frances Williams’s defence, together with Jo Quinn’s CUCD report, and think about the following:
    • Has your initial reaction to the event changed after these readings? If so, how?
    • Were you familiar with the concept of ‘white fragility’? Did you look it up? Can you recognize it at work in the 2019 SCS interaction?
    • Were you familiar with the concept of ‘racecraft’? Did you look it up? Can you recognize it at work in the 2019 SCS interaction?
    • Does Jo Quinn’s phrase ‘I saw for the first time how very comforting rigour and caution can be’ ring true for any other similar episode you may have witnessed? And what was the effect of rigour and caution on Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s experience?
  3. Finally, read the following article by Patrice Rankine: Rankine, Patrice D. "The Classics, Race, and Community-Engaged or Public Scholarship." American Journal of Philology, vol. 140 no. 2, 2019, p. 345-359, thinking about the following questions and the words highlighted in bold:
    • ‘our discipline is… at the core, concerned with language’. How do you take this opening statement? What are your initial reactions to it? And how does it inform the arguments of this paper?
    • What kind of understanding do you think is required for what playwright Luis Alfaro calls the ‘classical beats [that] harmonize in unexpected ways with the rhythms of modern life’? Can you provide examples for your own life, experiences, knowledge?
    • What is at stake for Rankine to describe ‘entitlement’ and ‘race-baiting’ as a miasma? Or our blindness to white supremacy as something that has to be confronted with an Oedipal zeal?
    • How does Rankine take philology’s obsessions with purity? Can we use similar critiques about academic rigour? How does his argument reflect upon academic objectivity and upon academic merit?
    • Rankine takes the first step to challenging white supremacy as ‘to embody different experiences, those that testify to the deeper truths beneath the surface’. How can we do that?
    • What happens when Classical Reception meets identity politics?
  4. Answer some final questions for discussion:
    • How does Rankine’s paper respond to Mary Frances Williams’s points about: languages, value of classical civilization, value of teaching ‘great authors’, objectivity, merit?
    • Has your initial reaction to watching “The Future of Classics” panel changed after the readings? If so, how?

First Session: Monday 7th September, 12am-1pm

Session organised by READS for Black Lives

Selections from "Concerning Violence" in Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth (1961) and Margo Hendricks' "Coloring the Past, Rewriting Our Future: RaceB4Race" (2019).