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As an autistic classicist, one of the things I’ve always struggled with is social interaction. In class, I teach students about Bourdieu and habitus and cultural scripts, while all the time feeling that, whatever the cultural script of our time is, mine got lost in the mail. I’ve spent my life pretending (without much success) to understand people and the codes that underpin their actions. The easiest solution for me has always been to hide because, when I’m on my own, I’m not uncomfortable, awkward, or afraid.
But hiding sends the wrong message and models the wrong behavior, as I realized when my son was diagnosed with autism, too. How can you advise a child to pretend to be like everyone else, because difference makes them a target? How can you warn them that their honesty will make them an outcast, their sensitivities will make them vulnerable, and their hyperempathy will make them a victim? How can you commit to inclusion in your professional life while accepting exclusion in your personal life?
You can’t — or, at least, I couldn’t.
Like many educators, I have found myself in an endless loop lately of thinking and rethinking my teaching principles and practices — a loop caused by the unprecedented teaching conditions the pandemic has brought upon us. Though I consider myself a thoughtful instructor, I admit that I have never thought so extensively, carefully, and critically about the purposes and desired outcomes of my teaching as I have in the months between March 2020 and now. Each week of each semester involves calibrating and recalibrating my courses, as I hope to meet the needs of my students and help them balance their lives within the classroom and without. I have become more attuned to the extramural realities that bear on my students’ learning, and as someone who works at a Hispanic-serving Institution, a desire for inclusivity increasingly informs the way I teach. My own institution just recently offered its first workshop on culturally responsive pedagogy, which provided me with many new tools for teaching in inclusive ways. Among other things, I realized that any kind of responsive pedagogy involves constant conversation with one’s colleagues, to generate, refresh, and fine-tune ways of teaching with a view toward inclusion and accessibility.
To write about the Capitol Insurrection, as the one-year anniversary approached, I went back through my chat logs from January 6, 2021, in the interest of refreshing and confirming my memory. What I found, in lieu of any particularly meaningful conclusions, was a window into that day and how some friends and I were dealing with catastrophic events as they unfolded.
That day, I had a university meeting wedged between SCS panels, and I think I actually found the precise moment when I realized what was going on. That moment is a fairly profanity-laden series of messages with a very-online friend of mine, to whom I sent “So what the fuck is happening in DC?? I've been in meetings and the capitol building is being stormed??” followed by “i allegedly have another meeting right now and i am physically nauseous after having like a 5 minute break and seeing the news.”
In all my other group chats, things progressed about the same. Conversation about the SCS conference and pre-semester preparation, interrupted by a confused panic about what was happening on the news. A bunch of millennial classicists trying frantically to figure out where they can watch live news and wondering why all the afternoon panels weren’t canceled (though some were), processing anger and fear in countless group-chats and DMs.
At 2:00 pm on January 6th, 2021, a mob made its way up the steps of the U.S. Capitol following a morning of brinkmanship, speeches, and speculation. I sat in my office at home, logged into a Zoom session, watching Twitter and a streaming news channel on one screen, all while pretending to be engaged with the beginning of an SCS Panel, “The Powers and Perils of Solitude in Greek Literature.”
At 2:20 or so, I was slated to begin a talk entitled “Being Human, Being Alone” as the Capitol was evacuated and our legislators were put under protection. At 2:24 pm, President Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
What do you read for an insurrection? Classics offers plenty of material for revolutionary bibliophiles: compilations for the budding revolutionary, handbooks for coups both successful and failed. The Capitol rioters certainly had their Classics before their eyes, as Curtis Dozier outlined shortly after the event: Caesar and Xenophon, Vergil and Herodotus.
But in January 2021, I was reading Sallust—and an apt choice it was, too. Not because of what Sallust writes — Catiline’s attempt to overthrow the government or Marius’ attempt to change Roman institutions — but because of what he passes over. He was there at the swelling of the atmosphere that led to the burning of the Senate house on January 19th (what is it about Januaries?), 52 bce, during the funeral of Publius Clodius.
The year was 1971. In the lobby of a hotel in Cincinnati, OH, a small group of early career faculty and graduate students, mostly women, met and decided to form a caucus. Frustrated by the lack of transparency, mentors, and opportunities in Classics both for women in the field and for those who studied women in antiquity, they wanted something different, both for themselves and for future generations. At the next year’s Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) in Philadelphia, PA, they made it official. The Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) was born.
By phone, mail, and intermittent gatherings at regional conferences and the APA (now SCS), the founders and early members of this young caucus stayed connected and encouraged each other in its early decades to publish feminist scholarship and introduce to their departments new, revolutionary courses on “women in antiquity,” which received almost immediate backlash.
Fast forward 50 years, and it’s hard to imagine a time when women and feminist scholars were not a strong presence in the profession, whether publishing scholarship through the lens of feminist theory, teaching about ancient women at both the K-12 and university levels, or taking on leadership roles both in the SCS and in their local institutions.
Every year at the annual meeting we hold the Career Networking event, a meeting that gives academics access to former classicists, historians, and archeologists who have made career shifts into new fields. They speak candidly about their transition, and are there to offer advice to anyone looking to change career paths. This year we have more networkers than in any year previous, with a broad range of fields and experiences represented.
We will hold our annual Career Networking event at this year's virtual AIA/SCS Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 8th, from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
Please block off time to attend this extraordinarily helpful event. It'll be accessible through the digital meeting platform.
The AIA and SCS have made the difficult decision to switch our upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting to a virtual only event. We had high hopes to once again have an in-person component to our meeting, but the rapid rise in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants have made that impossible to do safely. While we are eager to see everyone in-person again, the overall health and safety of our attendees, staff, and hotel and meeting personnel take precedence.
Since we were already planning to hold our meeting in a hybrid format the transition to a virtual only meeting will not be difficult. We are using the same platform as last year and all sessions will be available through the virtual meeting platform. Details on how to access it will be emailed out to all attendees next Monday (January 3).
If you had been planning to attend in person, please contact the Hilton to cancel your reservation. We will be reaching out to all in-person registrants following the meeting regarding refunds for the difference in registration rates.
We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and look forward to seeing you online during our virtual meeting.
SCS is pleased to announce the following winners of the 2021 excellence in teaching awards. Please join us in congratulating the winners!
Excellence in Teaching at the K-12 Level
Jessie Craft (Reagan High School, WSFCS school district)
Mathew Olkovikas (Pinkerton Academy)
Margaret Somerville (Friends' Central School)
Excellence in Teaching at the College and University Level
Deborah Beck (University of Texas at Austin)
Richard Ellis (University of California, Los Angeles)
Wilfred Major (Louisiana State University)
Brett Rogers (University of Puget Sound)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that humor ages poorly. Jokes tend to be topical, and to be based on the social expectations of a particular group at a particular moment. The deterioration of humor over time is often a matter of changing contexts as well as changing tastes: ideas that once made a coherent joke cease to fit together.