Like many others, I'm trying to funnel the anger and frustration that I felt at our panel on the "Future of Classics" at the Annual Meeting in San Diego toward taking action that can make a difference, even on a small scale. At the panel Professor Sarah Bond and Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta promptly condemned the comments a speaker from the audience made about Dan-el as well as her intellectually and politically regressive defense of classical studies. My thoughts here are intended to carry forward their energetic advocacy.
It has now been a month since the SCS-AIA annual meeting in San Diego, and many have written evocative, emotional, and important pieces about the racist events that occurred there. Instead of posting each separately on our social media or blog, I have tried to compile as many as I could in this post.
In their own words:
Dan-el Padilla Peralta, “Some thoughts on AIA-SCS 2019,” Medium (January 7, 2019).
A recent surge of critical focus on pseudoscience and classics focused on issues from Hippocrates and scientific racism to the racial bias of Ancient Aliens sees scholars doing the work to convince our field that classicists, historians, and archaeologists ought to take action to address the dissemination of pseudoscientific views in popular media. Yet once we’ve accepted that we should confront pseudoscience in classics and archaeology, we find ourselves confronted with a rather different question: how can we best teach this in our classrooms?
As Benjamin Isaac concisely stated in a 2016 piece in Eidolon,[i] the “pseudo-scientific roots” of American racism can be traced back to Ancient Greek theories of human difference. A crucial text quoted at length by Isaac is Airs, Waters, Places . Preserved as a medical document in the Hippocratic Corpus , this treatise argues that climate has a strong influence on human biology and human society: some climates are conducive to bodily health and social flourishing, while others are conducive to disease and lack of ‘civilized’ society. Isaac cites this text as foundational for the later development of theories of race: