image of W.E.B. Du Bois

“From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.” 
— W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of the Training of Black Men”

Classics is the study of the ancient Greek and Roman world. That world, centered on the Mediterranean sea, was a complex place with a vast diversity of peoples, languages, religions, and cultures spread over three continents—from India to Britain and from Germany to Ethiopia—as full of contention and difference as our world is today. Its medieval and modern influence is wider still. Classics today belongs to all of humanity.

The Carleton Classics department, therefore, strives to include all groups among those who study the ancient world and encourages understanding of antiquity by all. As scholars and teachers, we condemn the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a narrowly-conceived western tradition. All are welcome in our department and courses. (Adapted from the Public Statement of the Society for Classical Studies Board of Directors, November 28, 2016)

Specifically, we are addressing issues of systemic oppression and social justice in the following ways:

  • A newly-revised version of Classics 116 (Ancient Drama) focuses on the ways tragedy can speak to issues of social justice both in the ancient world and our own.
  • Ancient history classes are increasing their focus on ancient social justice movements and on the viewpoints of women and slaves – populations that have not often recorded their own stories.
  • Archaeology courses address issues of systemic, institutionalized inequality using the material record, including colonialism, constructions of “otherness,” and the creation of difference.
  • CLAS 100 analyzes and critiques the tradition of the Trojan Legend, and the cultural forces that have put this story at the foundations of “western” civilization, from antiquity to the present.
  • The department is adopting pedagogical practices throughout our curriculum that attend to the need for inclusivity and transparency, including social justice in the language classroom and anti-racist teaching strategies.

Three members of the department participated in a Summer (2020) Faculty Research Circle on ancient and modern constructions of race and ethnicity, as well as contributions of BIPOC scholars to the field of Classics. This research circle will continue to meet throughout the rest of the year.

By studying such issues in the ancient past we aim to better recognize and understand these practices in the present, and how notions of identity are used both to include and exclude.