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Transformative Pedagogies: The Connection between Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Social Justice

The Classics and Social Justice group invites abstracts for its panel at the SCS 2023 in New Orleans (January, 5-8). Many of us conceive of teaching as a form of activism since we encourage students to think critically and challenge received opinions. Stellar work has been produced recently on how to teach Classical Studies to foster equality, much of which has been shared at recent meetings of the SCS and other organizations, as well as in other online venues (see resources in the CSJ and WCC websites for a non-exhaustive sample of this innovative work).

In this panel, we would like to showcase examples of transformative pedagogies, approaches that are learner-centered and that combine ethics and critical theory. Transformative pedagogy acknowledges inequities and injustices in society, and it aims to enable learners to develop self-awareness and self-esteem and thus to grow despite past discomfort and suffering. It originated with work by Paulo Freire, John Dewey, and Jack Mezirow, to name a few, and further research is ongoing (e.g. in the work of Kashi Raj Pandey). This approach identifies how teachers and students can use educational practices for emancipation from oppression; educational strategies that both use personal experiences and engage with the social context; how to implement change towards equity, radical democracy, and solidarity in neo-liberal societies.

Firstly, we want to think critically about what it means to do this work in the current climate. Specific questions we would like to tackle include:

  • What are the risks and challenges we face in creating a transformative pedagogy?

  • How can we protect those without job security (e.g., high school teachers and contingent faculty) from the risk of trying less conventional pedagogies?

  • What is the relationship between the university and the current political climate when using critical pedagogies and progressive teaching philosophies?

At the same time, we are interested in conceiving of social justice as supporting individual students in their development, especially if they have come from any kind of marginalized background. In particular, students may have experienced unequal opportunities that lead them to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in our classrooms, or they are struggling with the class content or pace. How can we best address those difficulties?

Possible questions that speakers could address include:

  • How can teachers recognize inequalities, past pain, or violence exposure, and facilitate a more just and safe classroom, one where everyone learns with an equal level of opportunity and feeling of safety? What have you done to this end?

  • Is there a particular role for the study of the ancient Mediterranean (as languages, texts, myths, material culture) in helping students in developing reflective thinking and agency over their futures?

  • In what ways can professional organizations support educators without the time and funding to implement critical pedagogical approaches in their practice?

  • What are curricular changes you have used to? How could departments implement curricular changes?

We welcome case studies from different educational settings—high school, inside the university, outside the university (prisons, veterans’ groups, community centers). We would be delighted to have the perspective of students of any age represented on the panel. We are open to many kinds of interventions—please be creative! Each presenter should plan to speak for no more than 15 minutes.

Bursaries/stipends will be made available to cover membership and conference registration costs for those whose abstracts are accepted but who lack institutional funding.

Please send an anonymous abstract following SCS guidelines as an attachment (with your name and contact information in the email only)

to Elizabeth Bobrick ( by March 31, 2022. Please direct any question to Nancy Rabinowitz ( and Irene Salvo (


Dewey, J. (1981). Can Education Share in Social Reconstruction? In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), The Later Works of John Dewey, 1925-1953 (Vol. 9). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illi­nois University Press. (Original work published 1934)

Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (M. Bergman Ramos, Trans.). New York, NY: Con­tinuum. (Original work published 1970)

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey­ Bass.

Pandey, K.R. (2021). Theorising Transformative Learning. Leiden: Brill.