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CfP: “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World” (Deadline: January 1, 2020)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Keynote speaker: Johanna Hanink (Brown University)

The graduate students at Harvard University’s department of the Classics invite abstract submissions for the upcoming graduate student conference, “Class before Capitalism?: Social Structure and the Ancient World”.

Socio-economic status and the intergenerational structures which maintain it have been a persistent source of tension across the world and across history. In the influential tradition of thought following Karl Marx, class has been seen as a fundamental agent of socio-political change and an inescapable force that conditions the production of literature, art, and other cultural materials. The application of ideas formed in a post-industrial, capitalist age to pre-modern societies presents some significant methodological challenges, however, and has been the source of an intense scholarly debate which continues to this day.

The aim of this conference is to explore issues of class and social structure as they pertain to Classical Studies and related disciplines. This can include explorations of the evidence of class structures in ancient societies, their manifestations and representations in the literary and artistic imaginary, the afterlife of ancient ideas about social structure in later periods, and considerations of how issues of class and privilege continue to plague the Classics.

The following are some possible avenues for consideration:

  • the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of class and its historical specificity

  • whether a concept analogous to class existed in ancient philosophical discourses
  • questions surrounding the class status—or otherwise—of specific ancient social groups (e.g. freedmen, metics)
  • the relationship between class and citizenship
  • the nature of our surviving literary evidence and the types of questions that it prompts us to ask
  • approaches to the ancient world through archaeological and other methodologies that attempt to avoid the elite and urban perspectives of our written sources
  • the influence of the ancient world on later thinkers about issues of class
  • knowledge of the classics as a symbol of social status
  • the manifestation of class dynamics in recent and contemporary ancient world scholarship and academic departments

We welcome papers that engage with the ancient world from graduate students based in any discipline. Approaches can be archaeological, historical, literary, art historical, philosophical, theoretical, philological, or anthropological. We particularly encourage papers that are interdisciplinary or comparative in their methodology.

Please submit anonymized abstracts of 300 words or fewer in .pdf format to no later than January 1, 2020. Presentations will be 20 minutes long with time for questions to follow. Please include your name, the title of your paper, and institutional affiliation in the body of your email. Accommodation for speakers will be provided, but no funding is available to cover travel expenses. Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be delivered in the first half of January.

(Photo: "Handwritten" by A. Birkan, licensed under CC BY 2.0)