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Outside the Gaze: Podcasting Ancient Rome as Woman Scholars

The Partial Historians ( is a Roman history podcast project which began in 2013 and continues today. The podcast was conceived as a project to keep the hosts in touch with ancient source material as we transitioned away from the precarity of the academy into different fields of labour.

Our personal impetus to podcast soon developed into a broader appreciation for the possibilities of the medium. We began to consider the role of podcasting as a public outreach platform for Classics and Ancient History and as a pedagogical tool for supporting secondary school syllabi. We were initially unaware of the gender imbalance in the field of podcasting, but it soon became clear that the fact that The Partial Historians is hosted and produced by two women serves to differentiate us. As our podcast evolved, we began to consider the value of offering a Roman history podcast from the perspective of women scholars.

An American report in 2013 suggested that the emerging popularity of the podcasting platform revealed a rapid take-up from men who were using the platform to create original content (…), and the question was posed, why aren't there more women in podcasting? Although there may have been some correction to these statistics in 2017 - figures cited suggests that anywhere between 22-35% of podcasts are now hosted by women (…) - there is clearly interest in a greater diversity of gender in the podcasting space and a particular interest in podcasts run and hosted by women.

When we turn to the field of Classics and Ancient History in podcasting, the numbers are even smaller at the top. An overview of the top ten podcasts on Roman history available through iTunes on the 1-3-2018 reveals a clear gender gap. Seven of the top ten podcasts are hosted by men (The History of Rome, Mike Duncan; Tides of History, Patrick Wyman; The Fall of the Roman Empire, Prof Bryan Ward-Perkins; Roman Emperors: Totalus Rankium, Rob and Jamie; The History of Byzantium, Robin Pierson; In Our Time: History, Melvyn Bragg; The Fall of Rome, Patrick Wyman), two are collaborative works where the hosts are not directed credited (History Extra Podcast, Immediate Media; The Roman Empire: introducing some key concepts, The Open University), and one is hosted by a woman (The Roman World, Dr Rhiannon Evans). Women in this field have a visibility problem.

Despite the lack of visibility and lower percentage of dedicated podcasts hosted by women, there are distinct advantages of podcasting as a scholar and as a woman. In this paper we examine the constraints and advantages. We explore how the aural basis of podcasting offers a safe space for conversation; how public engagement operates in the liminal space of the (male) gaze; the benefits of autonomy to decide the scope of our program as independent researchers, hosts, and producers; and the value of providing examining and analysis of Roman history in all its horror and glory from the perspective of women who are qualified in the field.