Summary of Comments on Name Change and Further Discussion

As promised earlier, I have prepared the following summary of over 200 responses to my request for comments about the Board's proposal that we consider changing the name of the Association.  The Board now wishes to move to a public discussion phase that will inform its deliberations going forward.  Our Information Architect Sam Huskey has created a discussion forum so that all with an interest can exchange views and suggest or express preferences for specific names.  The forum can be accessed here after 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time) today (November 30).

The responders seem to a favor name change by about 3-1, though in many cases implicitly, with an opinion only about the two names suggested, and in some cases reluctantly.  Between Classical Association of North America and American Classical Association, CANA was only slightly more popular, and there were many alternative suggestions, as listed below.  I wrote separately to the boards of the American Classical League and the Classical Association of Canada: the ACL Board thinks that ACA would result in confusion for both organizations, especially from the perspective of the general public, while the CAC Board dislikes CANA for implying that it is in effect the parent association of the whole of North America and that all North American classicists claim membership in it.  Below are examples of arguments made to support various positions (indicated in boldface).

Against changing the name at all.  No name change can alter the underlying realities of our situation or likely increase our attractiveness to those not already aware of us; name changes can be branding and marketing disasters; though the practice of philology "no longer defines all that our association is about" it does, or at least should, remain at the heart of everything we do; we should not retreat from who we are and what we do but rather put our energies into revitalizing the use of the word philology; with the name goes a long and honorable tradition of scholarship and service on the part of colleagues, now deceased, who believed in its original aims.

In favor of the suggested names.  ACA: represents only a slight change from APA; "classical" more accurately encompasses the discipline in tune with similar organizations; ACA pleasingly mirrors CAC.  CANA: "North American" is properly inclusive and the acronym has positive associations.

Against the suggested names.  ACA: "classical" is broader than "philological" but not broad enough to represent all our disciplines, e.g. ancient history, archaeology, art history, philosophy; is becoming only slightly less mystifying than "philological," being more commonly associated with the likes of Shakespeare or Beethoven; has snobbish or elitist connotations; can no longer claim special status for its subject; valorizes (the idea of) a common intellectual and cultural heritage that is increasingly called into question; sounds like just another classical organization. CANA: the acronym has negative associations for some; sounds like just another regional association and too much like CANE.

Alternative suggestions.  Whatever the new name, a phrase like "founded in 1869 as the American Philological Association" should be added as a permanent subtitle; like the UK's Classical Association it should have no geographic or ethnic label; if it does, "United States / USA" is more accurate than "American"; some combination of Association / Institute / Organization / Society with Classical Studies (the simplest English expression of concept "Altertumswissenschaft"?), Greek and Roman, (Ancient) Greece and Rome, Greek and Latin, Greco-Roman (though also a form of wrestling), Ancient Mediterranean, Mediterranean, Study of the Ancient World, Antiquity, Classical Antiquity, Classics, Classicists, Languages Literatures and Cultures, Classical Literature and Civilization, and (Their) Pendant Traditions.

I look forward to the further discussion of this issue.

Jeffrey Henderson

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