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Roman Archaeology teaching for diversity and inclusion: or what a difference 10 weeks makes

Dr Zena Kamash FSA, Senior Lecturer in Roman Archaeology, Dept of Classics, Royal Holloway

Zena.Kamash@rhul.ac.uk

@ZenaKamash

In 2019 I was invited to give the keynote lecture at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference that would take place that year in Canterbury, Kent, UK. I immediately knew that I wanted to talk about diversity and inclusion in Roman Archaeology, so set about gathering some datasets to add numbers to my impressions of the field as a woman of colour. As well as gathering data relating to conference participation and conducting a survey into Roman archaeology teaching from lecturers around the world, I also wanted to understand how my own students viewed Roman archaeology and the ways in which we teach it (the other analyses from the keynote lecture will be published soon in the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal). In this, I was inspired by an experiment run by Dr Katherine Blouin in her course on the ancient Mediterranean where she surveyed her students at the beginning and end of the course to see how their understandings changed in response to her teaching (Blouin 2019). I decided to run a similar experiment with the first year students on our ‘Introduction to Roman Archaeology’ course. I sought ethical approval to undertake this study and all students who participated consented to do so; 39 out of 46 students in the class participated.

At the beginning of the course, I asked the students the following questions:

  1. What 5 words come to mind when you think about Roman Archaeology?
  2. Is this your first course in archaeology? Yes/No
    • If no, what other high school or university course(s) did you take?
  3. Do you speak any languages (ancient or modern) in addition to English? Yes/No
    • If yes, please list those languages.

In answer to question 1 (‘What 5 words come to mind when you think about Roman Archaeology?’) there were 156 entries (not all students gave five words) covering 76 individual terms (Figs 1-2).

Fig. 1: Survey 1 ‘five words’ (n=156).

There were some striking patterns, for example, there was not a single mention of any part of the Roman Empire, except Roman Italy and Roman Britain. Indeed, 14 out of 39 (36% of students) students made an immediate association with Pompeii, followed by Herculaneum from 8 students (22% of students). Mentions of Italy made up 26% of the 156 entries. There were also some highly specific answers, such as ‘western empire’ and ‘Europe’, which again suggest a very limited understanding of the geography of the Roman world. One response focused heavily on the militaristic aspects with the words ‘conquest’, ‘victory’ and ‘empire’. Terms like ‘multicultural’ did not feature at all.

Fig. 2: Survey 1 ‘five words’ by category of responses (%; n=156).

I am not in the slightest here saying that my students gave ‘incorrect’ answers. Indeed, one of the key aims of the survey was to find out what preconceptions the students were bringing with them into the classroom, so that these could be challenged and expanded. What is clear is that they were simply reflecting a bias towards a particular narrative and view of Roman archaeology to which they had been exposed before coming to university. This reflects their previous teaching in primary and secondary school, and the broader narrative that exists about Roman archaeology in the wider world in museums, on TV, in popular books and so on. What is worrying here is that this does not seem to have changed from 1995 when Simon James presented a paper at the Roman Archaeology Conference in which his abstract states: ‘To caricature a caricature: Roman civilisation, apart from Fishbourne and Hadrian’s Wall, was something that ‘happened’ in the city of Rome and at Pompeii between the time of Caesar and the eruption of Vesuvius. How has this arisen, and what can be done about it? The explanation, and the way to possible improvements, lie in scrutiny of how people find out about Rome, both at school and in adult life.’ We have clearly been aware of the problem since the 1990s, but have not yet been able, it would seem, to effect any clear change in that all-pervasive narrative. While I do not present any solutions to that particular thorny question, I do want to show here that at university level, at least, those preconceived ideas can be changed.

I will not dwell long on the other questions asked in the first survey, other than to point out that the answers let me know my students better. I found out, for example, that the students in the room spoke 12 different languages, not including English. These languages included Turi (a Ghanaian dialect), Hindi, Bengali and Vietnamese. I may not have known how multicultural this cohort was without asking this question, so it also gave me a valuable insight into their backgrounds and lives outside the classroom.

In the teaching that followed, my co-teachers – Erica Rowan and Dies van der Linde – made minimal changes to the topics that had been delivered in the course since 2015. What did change was the framing of those topics. In the first class, for example, I made it clear that the Roman world was multicultural and used the example of the Regina tombstone to show how people moved around the empire and that mixed race marriages occurred; the tombstone also opens up conversations about enslavement. You can see and read more about the Regina tombstone here and here. We also made sure that we used case studies and examples from the full geographical scope of the Roman world. Again, these examples were not necessarily different to ones used before, but we ensured that the students were aware when we were talking about, say, the Middle East, Asia Minor or North Africa. We did not cut out some of the more traditional or expected content – we still talked about Pompeii when it was relevant – but made every effort to find a balance between including those elements and introducing the students to the variety and complexity of the Roman world and our ways of understanding it.

At the end of the course, 10 weeks later, I asked the students to complete a follow-up survey with the following questions:

  1. What 5 words come to mind when you think about Roman Archaeology?
  2. This course has made me think differently about the Roman world.
    • Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree.
    • Please give reasons for your answer.
  3. I liked learning about diversity and multiculturalism in the Roman world.
    • Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree.
    • Please give reasons for your answer.

This time in answer to question 1, we received 178 ‘entries’ across 87 individual terms, so even at this broad level we can see that horizons had expanded from the first survey (Figs 3-4).

Fig. 3: Survey 2 ‘five words’ (n=178).

As well as an overall rise in technical vocabulary (a pleasing nod to the fact that our teaching works!) and the fact that temples were clearly on their minds as the session in which the second survey was circulated was on religion, there were also some other significant changes. In terms of places, Pompeii (5 responses) had been knocked off the top spot to be replaced by Palmyra (6 responses) and other places like Ephesos also featured (2 mentions). Italy’s dominance was not only diminished by an expanded understanding of the extent of the Roman world, including no more explicit references to western Europe, but also with a general focus that shifted from place to themes. Within those themes, there was a move away from a focus on ‘conquest’ towards more nuanced topics and issues like ‘Romanisation’ (5 responses), ‘multicultural’ (3 responses), ‘regional variation’ (1 response) and ‘diverse’ (1 response). There had been no hint of this kind of awareness in the first survey, demonstrating that a relatively small tweak in framing resulted in dislodging some of those entrenched views of the Roman world.

Fig. 4: Survey 2 ‘five words’ by category of responses (%; n=178).

In response to question 2, 34 of the 39 students agreed that the course had made them think differently about the Roman world, of whom 8 strongly agreed with that statement (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Responses to survey 2, question 2 (%; n=37).

Only three students said they disagreed and two did not answer the question. Some of the comments that accompanied these ‘strongly agree’ and ‘agree’ responses, included:

  • [it] made me realise that there is more to Roman history than just imperialism
  • [it] allowed me to see the variation of material culture across the empire
  • At first I thought that Roman Archaeology would purely focus on Rome + Pompeii, the course has made me realise the breadth of the Roman reach
  • I realised there’s more to the Roman Empire than just Rome: Palmyra, Petra etc
  • The idea of cities around the Empire being different because of local culture
  • It has made me think about the different kinds of culture in the Roman world
  • I have only learned about Roman politics and imperialism before
  • I have acquired a knowledge of the diversity of what was seen as Roman

As you can imagine, these comments were music to my ears and again demonstrated what impact some small adjustments to a course can make.

Of the 37 students who answered question 3, only 1 student disagreed that they liked learning about diversity and multiculturalism in the Roman world; they did not provide an explanatory comment (Fig. 6). The remaining 36 respondents all agreed, with 15 of these strongly agreeing that they enjoyed this element of their learning. If proof is needed that students respond well to this manner of teaching, it is provided here.

Fig. 6: Responses to survey 2, question 3 (%; n=37).

Again the comments shed further light on what the students found valuable about this learning experience with several drawing comparisons with the contemporary world:

  • I had assumed that there may not have been as much diversity as there was
  • Provided an opportunity to see a version of Roman world not always seen
  • Diversity is important in the modern age
  • I find it interesting how different cultures coexisted inside the empire
  • It’s important and interesting to know about diversity
  • It developed my understanding away from a stereotypical image of the Roman world
  • There were people with uniqueness and differences
  • Regina tombstone highlighted mixed relationships in the Roman world
  • It is interesting to see archaeology outside of Rome and how it differs due to cultural influences
  • It’s interesting to find out there were differences in Roman society just as there are today
  • It helped me understand the Roman world better
  • It is interesting to learn about the differing elements across the empire, instead of just thinking about it all as ‘Roman’
  • Allows the views of the empire being culturally ‘Roman’ to be challenged, opening the doors into the cultural and social diversity to be found.

This is a staggering set of responses demonstrating not only how much they valued the experience, but also a new found sophistication in their thinking; this made me more proud than any other set of student feedback. To hammer the point home again, it is clear that with some small and easy tweaks here and there, we really can make a difference with our teaching. And as testament to why we need to teach in ways that emphasise diversity and inclusivity, I would like the final words to be those of the student who made me do a happy dance in my office:

  • As a person from a BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] background diversity interests me and so to see it in the ancient world is welcoming.

[mic drop]

References

Blouin, Katherine 2019 The Ancient Mediterranean in 5 words or what difference does a course make? Everyday Orientalism. Available at https://everydayorientalism.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/the-ancient-mediterranean-in-5-words-or-what-difference-does-a-course-make/

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Working towards fairer access to Classical subjects in schools: the Advocating Classics Education (ACE) project

By Dr Peter Swallow and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson

Access to the study of Classical subjects in schools relies on ‘wealth or luck’ (Hunt and Holmes-Henderson, 2021). The availability of Latin, Greek, Ancient History or Classical Civilisation (the four subjects available as qualifications in English schools) at GCSE or A Level invariably depends on what kind of school you go to, and where you live. 8% of independent schools presented candidates for Latin A Level in 2019; only 2% of state schools did. 9% of independent schools offered Classical Civilisation A Level; just over 5% of non-selective state schools did. Only 0.2% of state schools offered A Level Greek, compared to almost 4% of independent schools. Ancient History shows more equity but still has a tiny market share; 1.3% of state schools entered candidates, and 0.9% of independent schools. In Scotland, the situation is no better. The Classical Association of Scotland found that in 2017, only 11 state schools were offering Latin, and only 18 were offering Classical Studies (the equivalent to Classical Civilisation). Access to Classical subjects in state-maintained schools in Wales and Northern Ireland is similarly limited (data collection in process).


The regional picture in England is stark:

This graph shows the unequal regional distribution of schools offering A Level Classical Civilisation in England; provision is concentrated overwhelmingly around the South of England and London, while access in the East Midlands and the North is particularly poor. The simple fact is that you are much more likely to be able to study Classical Civilisation if you live in the South. You can read more about A Level ‘Classics poverty’ in a report for CUCD here.

That’s why the Advocating Classics Education (ACE) project was established. Led by Prof Edith Hall and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, the project’s mission is to expand access to Classical subjects (focussing on Classical Civilisation and Ancient History) in state schools across the UK. Since its launch in 2017, we have engaged with more than 200 schools to inspire young people and support ongoing, or nascent, Classics provision. Visits have continued virtually during the pandemic. One of the main barriers to expanding provision is the limited number of Classics/Ancient History teacher training places available. We sought to fill this gap, and with funding from King’s College London’s Widening Participation Fund, the Roman Society and the Hellenic Society, we ran a 5 day summer school in 2019, which brought together teachers from schools across England for intensive training. There was a training session devoted to every single component on the OCR GCSE, AS Level and A Level Classical Civilisation specifications, led by academics and supported by a specialist in Classics education pedagogy. Many of these sessions are available to view on our website. And we’ve partnered with 16 universities in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland to support the local provision of public events, outreach and training days. You can explore ACE’s impact with this handy interactive map.

Our work with schools has made a measurable difference. Stephen Dobson started his teaching career as a Physics teacher, but was inspired to introduce Classical Civilisation and Latin at his state school, Redborne Upper School, near Milton Keynes. ACE has supported him to ‘upskill’ and to recruit students, and he now teaches around 70 students a year. Stephen is also now completing a part-time MA in Classical Studies at the Open University as the recipient of a teacher studentship from the A.G. Leventis Foundation. At independent Streatham and Clapham High School, Assistant Head Andrew Christie has been inspired by ACE to offer 34 students from five local state schools the opportunity to study Classical Civilisation GCSE via an independent-state school partnership.

We have been producing research on both the history of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in British classrooms, and on the currency, value and status of these subjects in the contemporary curriculum. Forthcoming is our book Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in British Secondary Education with Liverpool University Press, by Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Edith Hall and James Corke-Webster, which will provide a concise analytical and descriptive overview of qualifications in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History, enriched by testimonies from ACE project partners and supporters. The book is aimed at politicians, journalists, policy-makers, educationalists and academics, as well as teachers, parents and secondary school pupils. 

We know that young people in the North of England and in the East of England experience more Classics poverty than those in London and the South East. For this reason, we are redoubling our efforts in this next phase, with AHRC Follow-on Funding, on collaborations in Liverpool and Cambridge to enhance access to the study of the ancient world for people of all ages in these communities. We are working with researchers, museum curators, outreach co-ordinators and exams professionals to build links between the Liverpool World Museum, the Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology, OCR and schools. We will be producing new teaching and learning resources for the A Level Classical Civilisation Greek Theatre component, including entirely open-source translations of the plays included on the syllabus. We will create British Museum gallery guides for students and teachers to support access to museum collections. And we are collaborating on a project which uses Classical bodies to explore the complex issues of body image with teenage audiences. Our aim is to increase access to the ancient world for geographically and socio-economically diverse communities.

Many famous advocates of a Classical education have spoken about the benefits of studying the ancient world while deploring the perception that it is an elitist discipline. Stephen Fry has opined about ‘how many great untried Hellenists and Latinists, how many potentially joyful lovers of the Classics have lived and died without ever having been exposed to Ancient Greece and Rome’. One of our patrons, the comedian and author Natalie Haynes, has called for a democratisation of the subject: ‘Classics can be, and has been, dismissed as being pale, male and stale … [but] it belongs to all of us. You’re depriving all of us of our collective cultural history if we don’t get to study this.’ The Advocating Classics Education has turned words into action. We know that the study of the ancient world in schools is fragile, patchy or non-existent. There are very few schools where it is thriving. Our aim is to enable all learners to have access to the study of the ancient Mediterranean world (broadly defined): Greece, Italy and their Near Eastern, Indian and North African neighbours), if that is their choice. It should not depend on school type or location. As readers will see from our website, we have accomplished a great deal since 2017 but there is ever-more to do.

You can find out more about our community and the work we are doing to on our blog, or you can join the teachers and supporters in our Facebook group. We’re also on Twitter. Our videos page provides a range of voices from the project, including school-based learners speaking passionately about what it has meant to them to study Classical subjects. Prof Edith Hall’s A People’s Classics YouTube channel is making a career’s worth of talks and lectures freely available, to everyone. And you can watch the award-winning short documentary we have made about Advocating Classics Education here.


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CUCD EDI Statement on the threat to close Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology

The CUCD EDI committee condemns the recent revelation that the Department of Archaeology in Sheffield is under threat of closure. Following an internal review of the department’s staffing needs, the University Executive Board informed the Department that a vote regarding its future would be held on 25th May. The following options are:

(A) support and invest in the department to ensure the future of archaeology at Sheffield.

(B) discontinue archaeology as a subject at Sheffield and make all the staff redundant.

(C) discontinue archaeology as a coherent and core subject, but retain aspects of archaeological research and education (human osteology and cultural heritage specifically to be merged into other departments), and make remaining staff redundant.

Sheffield is not the only department currently being threatened with redundancies and restructuring. Staff in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester are currently at risk; and scholars working on pre-modern language and literature in the Department of English at the University of Leicester have been targeted as part of an ongoing redundancy drive. In all cases, the restructuring or closure of such departments represents a huge loss for both academic and local communities.

Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology is a world-renowned institution not only for its research, but also its impact on and engagement with the wider community. For many years, the department has supported the student-led Archaeology in the City project, which provides free talks and workshops to local primary schools, community groups and the general public. Staff are also at the heart of many projects that have opened up the study of the pre-modern world to new audiences, such as the Roots of Iron project and Sheffield Castle Project.

The recent ‘A level Classics poverty’ report highlighted the existence of huge geographical ‘gaps’ in the UK where students face limited access to classical subjects at A-Level. Sheffield is no exception to this worrying trend: the report revealed that only 2 state-maintained schools entered candidates for A-Level Classical Civilisation in 2019 and none at all for A-Level Ancient History. The closure of Sheffield’s archaeology department and the ensuing disbandment of its outreach and public engagement programmes will only hasten the deterioration of opportunities to engage with the ancient world in both educational and community settings.

To protect the Department’s future, people are urged to take the following actions:

  1. Email the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Executive Board of the University, urging them to choose option A. You can take inspiration from or modify the following letter template, also adding your personal experience of the department where necessary.
  2. Sign the petition available on Change.org
  3. Show your support on social media. Use the hashtag #savesheffieldarchaeology (archaeology with an ae!) and direct people to their dedicated website and Facebook page.
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WYSIWYG Classics, Or: Making Roman diversity visible, audible, and accessible for 21st century audiences

image credit:  Fabien Dany – www.fabiendany.com 

Peter Kruschwitz

What do we want to see (and do we have a choice)?

WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get – is an acronym with a long history. It was especially important during the infant days of the computing age: programmes that allowed you to view and edit content in a way that it already resembled the finished product (rather than some code that then required processing and rendering) were a big breakthrough.

“What you see is what you get” captures with precision the way in which the curriculum in schools and universities, as well as in popular science magazines and programmes, shapes our attitude and approach to the ancient world: we get what we see, oftentimes blissfully unaware of just how much more complex, rich, and diverse things really were.

Would you like an example?

How may Roman poets can you think of, from the top of your head? 12? 24? (C’mon – let’s add some late-antique/Christian ones: do I hear 30? And what about those Greek authors of the imperial age?)

However many you just managed to think of, let us be honest: the number isn’t exactly impressive, is it, considering that the Roman empire was a complex system-in-motion whose ‘life’ spanned some 1,500 years and stretched from Southern Scotland to the Persian Gulf and from Morocco to the Black Sea.

And it is even less impressive, considering that poetry is the cheapest art form of all: all you need are words, and they come for free, ready for use and re-use, with new ones to be added, for anyone.

And poetry was created everywhere in the Roman empire, all the time. The evidence is there – hidden in dusty volumes and mostly rather unspectacular museum displays. Because verbal art is not exactly as eye-catching as yet another polychrome pot or fancy sculpture.

But that is not the only problem.

Based on the canons of Roman times, teaching us what constitutes “good poetry”, the texts that survived through manuscript transmission were further regulated through the (partly state-mandated, partly privately created) curricula of all those various places of learning – and higher learning, with its trickle-down pedagogy from university to schools.

But poetry, just like music, was a shared practice of all the many ethnicities and peoples (and languages, cultures, social groups, etc) of the Roman world and those spaces (and times) that surrounded it.

We just never really get to see much, if any, of this.

WWDSWDG.

What we don’t see, we don’t get.

So – question: would you like to see just three examples of how incredibly diverse Roman poetry can be?

Then read on! (If not: thank you for your time, but, I promise, you WILL be missing out…!)

Damostrateia: a confident single mother in Rome’s migrant community

Let us go straight to the city of Rome.

No, not to well-trodden Augustan Rome, but to that rather less well-explored Rome of the later third century A. D.

Let us hear what a woman Damostrateia has to say about her deceased husband Rufinus, who was also known as Asterios (IG XIV 1976 = IGUR III 1321 = EDR126766, where you can find the Greek text; transl. G. H. R. Horsley):

This is the tomb of Rufinus, whom once they used to call Asterios. He left the land of Rome and went to the city of the Nile; and shining out in the progress he made, he provided many things for many people, causing distress to no one, but considered what was just. Yet he did not escape the thread of the triple Fates, but died and gave his soul back to the sky, his body to the earth. But even among the dead he had the judgement of piety; and once more he saw the light of day, although he was a corpse, and sailed the sea and came back to his own land. And he lies with his children, whose mortal end he did not witness; for he predeceased them. And the mother of twin children, a fine woman who loved her husband, sailed across the ocean and brought his body over the deep, and endured difficulties and continued in her grieving and laid him down in this tomb and bequeathed him to eternity. This monument is (testimony to) the wifely devotion of Damostrateia.

The individuals mentioned here are otherwise unknown. From the text it would appear as though Rufinus (a. k. a. Asterios) was a lawyer who was sent from Rome to (presumably) Alexandria, to serve as a legal expert in some administrative capacity or other.

So far, so unspectacular, some might say.

But is it really that simple?

The memorial was taken care of by a woman, or so the text itself claims. Which might well mean that the text itself was also the composition of a female poet – Damostrateia.

Damostrateia’s name, as well as her choice of language (Greek!), suggests that this woman belonged to the big, ever evolving community of migrants that inhabited the city of Rome: it is unclear whether she was born in Rome or not, but it would seem as though Greek was the language of her community still. Interestingly enough, the same is true for her deceased husband, Rufinus, known by his – again: Greek! – nickname (?) Asterios.

And Damostrateia is not only presented as a family person, as a matron. She confidently takes care of the memorial, she takes decisive action when she learnt that her husband died overseas: in fact, she travelled to Egypt to ensure that the mortal remains of her husband would actually be retrieved and buried back home, in the city of Rome. Oh, and she also raised two children (who appear to have died comparatively young, but outlived their father) …

One might, as some have done, see this as a piece that records a promising lawyer’s career cut short.

Or one could take this as a fascinating document that preserves the words of a confident woman, who took care of her children first while her husband was deployed overseas, and then alone as a single mother after her husband’s premature death.

It depends on what (and whom) we would like to see – and to make visible.

Damostrateia travelled, she took business decisions, she organised the return of her husband’s mortal remains.  And she proudly presents all this in a text that speaks from – and to – the Greek-speaking community of the city of Rome: a role model that is very different from the roles that we typically consider when we speak about the Roman Empire.

Olympia: a young female migrant stuck between her lover and her brother

A (presumably) second century epitaph for a young woman called Olympia draws us even deeper into the migrant community of the city of Rome (IG XIV 1890 = IGUR III 1287 = EDR125198, where you can find the Greek text; an image of the stone can be found here and here):

To the Spirits of the Departed.

Here I lie, Olympia, aged 25. Of Greek heritage, my fatherland has been Apamea, and I hurt no-one, neither in their soul at a young age, nor in their heart when older.

This stele, which I erected on this ground under warm tears, I, Sotas, have made for Olympias, whom I took (possession of? care of? under my tutelage?) when she was a young girl.

For the great love of the two persisted just like when the sweet light persists shining forth in its gleaming, and just like the sweetness of sweet honey (still dangling?) from the mouth.

Sotas, who loved you, made this stele. Share fresh water with your thirsty soul.

Her brother inscribed this.

A document of love and care, if taken at face value, this piece reveals a remarkable fate: Olympia (whose voice is allowed to speak of her origins), who was Greek by origin, specifically from Apamea. There are a number of places of that name, all of them in the middle East, and there is a good chance that here the place name refers to Apameia in Syria.

The Greek of this piece is far from standard Greek – in fact, it contains several elements that are closer to Modern Greek than to the standard Attic and Ionian taught in schools and universities today. In fact, in some parts, the text’s grammar is rather obscure, though its meaning is not.

Apameia, Syria, is situated by the river Orontes.

The Orontes is mentioned by Juvenal, the satirist, in his third Satire (Iuv. 3.58–65, transl. S. M. Braund):

The race that’s now most popular with wealthy Romans—the people I want especially to get away from—I’ll name them right away, without any embarrassment. My fellow-citizens, I cannot stand a Greekified Rome. Yet how few of our dregs are Achaeans? The Syrian Orontes has for a long time now been polluting the Tiber, bringing with it its language and customs, its slanting strings along with pipers, its native tom-toms too, and the girls who are told to offer themselves for sale at the Circus.

Juvenal’s interlocutor is so unhappy about Rome’s migrant community (who don’t even speak the nice Greek that he might grudgingly be willing to accept), that – oh the irony! – he moves away (thus becoming a migrant, of course!).

With Olympia and her commemorators we get to meet someone who in the estimation of this man was even below the “dregs” that were the Achaeans (the Latin term, faex, is rather bolder still).

And we get a deep insight into the realities of these communities.

We do not know how or why Olympia, sweet Olympia, came to Rome. Her identity, however, and her attachment to her native lands and culture are apparent. What we get to see is one possessive Sotas, who ‘took’ her – and took care of the funerary monument. Unforgotten – like sunlight still radiating after sunset, like honey dragging on endlessly long after the spoon has been placed into one’s mouth.

But there’s also some obscure, nameless brother, taking care of the inscription, hinting at chain migration and family ties in ways that are not altogether dissimilar to communities of our own day and age.

With Damostrateia, mentioned in the previous inscription, we had met someone of apparent independence.

With Olympia we see someone whose life in Rome’s migrant community was deeply governed by other males. A reality, too, for many, in that melting pot that was the city of Rome.

The sweet sunlight’s shade turns spooky. The sweet honey leaves a bitter aftertaste. All the sugary sweetness leaves us afraid of diabetes.

And what the two gentlemen want to be an interminable celebration of Olympia may well be a document of ceaseless dependence, concealed in a language that speaks to a Greek-speaking community of the city of Rome that Olympia did not manage to escape (even if she were to have so desired).

Tineia Hygeia: born into slavery

Olympia may have come to Rome through a form of chain migration. But it would be misleading, of course, to think of Rome’s migrant communities as communities solely made up of first-generation foreigners. Individuals were born into migrant communities, and this is often concealed behind terms such as ‘home-born slave’ (verna, in Latin).

Being a home-born slave, i. e. being the offspring of enslaved parents in a household in the city of Rome, may have the fate of Tineia Hygeia, who died at the age of five, maybe in the second century A. D. (though the author of the relevant entry of the Epigraphic Database Rome thought that this piece ought to be datable to a later date).

Her inscription reads as follows  (IG XIV 2040 = IGUR III 1344 = EDR127714, where you can find the Greek text; transl.: A. Wypustek):

Immorally you abducted to the underworld, Lord Pluto,

a five-year-old girl who was praised by all;

as if a sweet smelling rose that in the springtime blooms

you had cut from the root before her time was due. But, Alexandra and Philtatos,

shed no more tears of grief over your lovely daughter,

for she was full of charm, and so was her attractive face,

and that is why she now resides in the timeless home of Ether.

Believe therefore the ancient tale: this noble child

has been abducted by Naiads for joy, not [sc. by] death.

To Tineia Hygeia, our most beloved ward, in memoriam.

The poem is certainly no less moving than that of Olympia. But, just like in Olympia’s case, the devil is in the detail.

In the prosaic ending of the text, Tineia Hygeia is described as a threptē.

Threptē is a Greek term that served a couple of purposes, most notably that of being the Greek equivalent of verna, ‘home-born slave’; but might also mean ‘ward’ (such as e. g. a foundling) as translated by Andrzej Wypustek, above. (Translations that, at least in the present case, see this term as a mere term to express ‘daughter’, however, would seem to miss the point.)

In the present inscription, however, the girl’s parents are clearly addressed directly. Their names were Alexandra and Philtatos. Names that suggest both servile status and an Eastern origin.

Did they address themselves in the third person? In an otherwise so very heartfelt composition?

Or was it, arguably rather more plausibly, someone who more rightfully than the parents would call Olympia a threptē? A slave-owner, into whose care Alexandra’s and Philtatos’ girl had fallen?

Was Olympia, the cut-flower rose, a precious, short-lived flower from a stem that was stuck, decoratively, in a garden where it originally did not belong, with a lot of unsavoury stuff piled onto its roots, to generate this short-lived delight, claimed by those who create artifice and call it nature?

Final thoughts

All three poems mentioned here give us a highly emotional, anecdotal glimpse into a reality that we, more often than not, choose not to see. They tell us of displaced individuals, speaking and communicating in a language that we do not even commonly associate much with the city of Rome herself. We are looking into what almost feels like a parallel universe of ancient Rome. And we find poetic beauty as well as narratives of real lives – lives that existed back then just as much as they exist now.

Much thought is currently going into the expansion and transformation of our curricula, to make them more inclusive, to decolonise them. All that is vitally important, not for reasons of political convenience, but because it is our duty, to ourselves, as human beings, and to our subject.

An important step towards achieving this has to be to acknowledge that our discipline itself covers substantial grounds beyond pre-defined literary canons, perpetuated bodies of evidence, and narratives of pure perfection and eternal glory.

Not all of these stories are pretty or easy. But neither is life, then as little as now. That does not mean, however, that one should turn a blind eye to these stories of diversity and hardship, then as little as now.

There is so much more to discover that would help us to make Classics a more diverse, more inclusive discipline.

If only we take a look beyond what we have always been forced to see by those who write our curricula.

Because, as I’ve said at the beginning, WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get.

Free online resources for further information

https://mappola.eu

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Working-Class Classics: Myths, Stories and Experiences

Lilah Grace Canevaro and Mirko Canevaro

‘Working-Class Classics: A Conversation’ took place on Thursday 22nd April. The event featured 10 speakers and was attended by over 60 people. The presentations were impassioned, the discussion equally so, and the sharing of war stories had a powerful impact. We heard from undergraduates, postgraduates, postdocs and academics at all stages of career and on various types of contract, and the barriers we talked about were evident at every step. Since the workshop, emails have been flooding in. Attendees were struck by how much the stories tallied with their own experiences, and in fact highlighted a significant feature of those experiences. They had felt they were on their own; the workshop helped to dispel that feeling.

Douglas Cairns opened the workshop with a myth. A myth about what EDI means in academia, a myth about how working-class classicists are faring. The myth that things are getting better. That Classics was elitist in the past, in the bad old days, but it is becoming less so. It was very clear from the accumulation of stories at the workshop that these are the bad old days. The bad old days aren’t in the past. The bad old days are now. The issue of class in Classics is now more critical than ever.

There is less and less Classics in state schools. There is less and less funding for teacher training (where it even exists), for graduate study, for postdoctoral work. The fees are greater and the assistance less. Gone are the days of assisted places, or full maintenance grants. The structures that allowed access to Classics in past decades no longer exist. The routes in are closing down all around us, and the gaps where we might fall out of the discipline are growing.

This first workshop focused on the Scottish context, and it was evident that Scotland has particularly pressing problems. There are numerically fewer Scottish students in Scottish universities than there were in 1999 (when the Scottish parliament opened again after nearly 300 years), despite the enormous expansion of those universities since then, so the percentage has dropped dramatically. As most working-class students in Scottish universities are Scottish, this in itself shows that the sector has become more and more dominated by the middle and upper classes. Furthermore, there are only a handful of Scots teaching in Scottish Classics departments, and those only at Edinburgh. The role models for local working-class students simply aren’t there. The impression they get, from the very beginning, is that they are in the wrong place, that they don’t fit in. Overall figures in all subjects in Edinburgh show a decline in the proportion of state-educated students enrolled in undergraduate courses, from 69.8% in 2015/16 to 63.2% in 2019/20 (St Andrews is similar, at 63.8%; Glasgow does much better, at 85.5%). The overall data for the Edinburgh School of History, Classics and Archaeology is even worse than for the university as a whole: in 2019/20, only 47.8% of enrolled students came from state schools. We don’t have the data for Classics alone, but we can be sure it is even more disheartening.

These are the bad old days. Yet people still feel they can brush class inequality under the carpet, even laugh at it. That they can ignore the lived experience of working-class classicists. Participants in the workshop talked about being the lone voice in a meeting, their demands for change falling on deaf ears. About raising these issues in fora that should be sympathetic and still being shot down. And the stories shared in the workshop made clear that it’s not just the demands for change that are being ignored, but the voices of the working-class classicists that make them. You notice people getting impatient as soon as you start to speak. Your ideas are glossed over until someone posher than you suggests the same things and claims them as their own. You feel you have to code switch to be heard and not to make others uncomfortable. Your identity blurs as your accent fades and you adapt to the language natural to your more privileged peers. One graduate student said that toning down his accent in order to fit in was one of his biggest regrets.

Class inequality exacerbates all other kinds of inequalities too. Another graduate student told us about her experiences as a disabled working-class classicist. About studying part-time while holding down multiple jobs, many of which are detrimental to her chronic health conditions. About the financial obstacles that become almost insurmountable when compounded by disability. We heard the stories of dyslexic working-class classicists struggling to play catch-up in the languages, the educational disadvantage connected to their class origins compounded by their disability. Of autistic working-class classicists spent by a culture of precarity and overwork. An undergraduate mature student spoke of his experience as a working-class trans man. An experience in which being transgender had led to challenges in his personal life but not as prominently in his educational journey; in which it was class that had been the biggest obstacle for him in his studies. We heard from working-class migrants attempting to pursue academic careers in Classics in the UK – PhD students and postdocs stuck in an endless series of casualised and precarious contracts. For them, the geographical space travelled is compounded by the social space they have had to cross. They are now two worlds away from their origins, doubly displaced. They lack a safety net and feel trapped – because of the spaces they have travelled, the very idea of going back (‘to what?’) is all the more daunting. These are the lived experiences of working-class classicists.

But one thing is getting better. The discussion is opening up. There are groups being established that are making the discussion open up. The 93% Club now has branches all over the UK, and an Edinburgh representative spoke at the workshop about her experience in Classics. She resists the ‘we’re all middle class anyway’ line of assimilation: she doesn’t want to be middle class, she is proud of being working class. The post-92 Classics network was also represented at the workshop. It is well-placed to target a lot of the issues raised – they are the ones that get most of the working-class Classics students, and can teach us a thing or two about how to make all Classics departments more inclusive. And because intersectionality is so important when talking about class, class can and should be part also of discussions of other inequalities, on the agenda of committees advocating for other marginalised groups. In this first workshop we found commonalities and shared experiences. In these initiatives we find safety in numbers and amplified voices. We are no longer the lone voice in a meeting. We are a network of working-class classicists.

If you would like to hear about future events and help shape them, please complete this form with your contact details and suggestions for the network: https://forms.gle/WVCaKZyTMw6CVvbS8

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Classical Association Inclusive Classics Panel 2021

Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis and Barbara Goff

In April 2021, the Classical Association opened its annual conference – held online this year due to the pandemic – with a panel on Inclusive Classics. Inspired in part by the ‘Towards a more inclusive Classics’ workshop held in June 2020, the panel was convened and run by the Inclusive Classics Initiative, headed by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis (University of St Andrews). The aim of this Initiative is to open discussions within the discipline about marginalised groups, both in terms of their experiences during antiquity and their interactions with the subject today. The Initiative also works to bridge the gap between Classics in higher education and Classics at secondary schools, thus bringing together more perspectives within the discipline.

The panel, entitled ‘Inclusive Classics and pedagogy: teachers, academics and students in conversation’, opened with a series of spotlight talks. These covered a wide range of topics, including disability in the Classics curriculum, examining the influence of race on Classical art, applying queer theory to Classics, equality of access to classical languages and highlighting the launch of Classics Caring Network (https://wcc-uk.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2021/02/18/launch-of-the-network-caring-in-classics/). A binding theme shared by the various speakers was the idea that inequalities in the wider world are reflected within the discipline. These spotlight talks, by early career classicists, will be available on the Classical Association website.

Following on from the spotlight talks, the panel moved onto considering the teaching and learning experience of Classics in relation to inclusivity, both at undergraduate level and in the context of secondary education. Participants were wowed by the eloquence of two school students (from Runshaw College in Lancashire and Pimlico Academy in London), who spoke about the perception of Classics as the subject of the privileged elite, with limited real-world application. Equally interesting was the insight from teachers from the same schools, who explained how they are reforming traditional approaches to Classics, such as by deemphasising the importance of masters and slaves and examining issues of gender in the ancient world.

Break-out rooms gave participants the opportunity to ‘meet’ and exchange responses about what they had heard. The final ‘closing remarks’ of the panel saw many other intriguing presentations – on topics like the initiative to find new unseen Latin passages representing a wider variety of perspectives and backgrounds, how institutions can make Classics more inclusive in terms of race and social class, the new EDI officers at the Classical Association, the weaponization of debates surrounding Classics in an increasingly polarised public forum, the ways in which academia could do more to support those with disabilities (particularly visual impairments), the contemporary social and political context within which the Inclusive Classics Initiative is operating and the need for a free and pluralistic discourse for academic inquiry to flourish.

The Inclusive Classics Initiative has organised a second workshop for the 1st and 2nd of July 2021, hosted online by the Institute of Classical Studies and supported by the CUCD teaching committee. Issues discussed will include ‘Planting the seeds of Inclusive Classics in school contexts’, ‘Embedding inclusive practices in institutions’, ‘Decentring Athens, Rome and the canon’ and ‘Lecturers and students in collaboration’. Until then, the Initiative’s heads would like to thank all those who (virtually) attended the panel and, above all, the speakers: Lauren Canham, Amy Coker, Tristan Craig, Hardeep Dhindsa, Katherine Harloe, Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Victoria Leonard, Claude MacNaughton, Justine McConnell, Neville Morley, Isabel Ruffell, Rosie Tootell, Joe Watson, Tim Whitmarsh, Bobby Xinyue and the two school students.

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Be Aware or Beware? The Pitfalls of Autism Awareness Month

By Cora Beth Fraser

T.S. Eliot got it right; April is indeed the cruellest month, for autistic people at any rate…

Oh, hold on – I’ve just been handed an Institutional Script in a Cheerful Font! Let me just adjust my tone…

It’s April, and that means it’s Autism Awareness Month (or Week, or Day, depending on which Handbook we’re reading)! Hooray [insert cheesy celebratory gif here]! This is a time for us to talk about people with autism, and about how we can be more aware of the needs of this small but challenging minority. We will be running training sessions, and encouraging people to share stories about dealing with the complex needs of our autistic students. So let’s Light It Up Blue! Let’s add the puzzle piece to our website banners, to show that we care about our students with autism! And let’s speak up for all those who need our help and acceptance this month!

Now, let me be entirely clear, because I’m autistic myself, and it’s often assumed that autistic people can’t comprehend humour, satire or sarcasm… Everything about the above paragraph is likely to infuriate autistic people. So if you belong to an organisation which is promoting any of these things in April, you might want to encourage them to think again.

Let’s start with Autism Awareness. Many autistic people don’t like this initiative at all; in fact many boycott everything relating to it, and others are saddling up for a month-long fight. Autism has been recognised for a very long time. We’re all aware of it, and quite frankly it’s time we moved on. Some people have suggested that this really should be Autism Acceptance Week/Month/Day… but as classicists with expertise in analysing language, I’m sure you can spot the uncomfortable undercurrents there. The feeling in the autistic community is broadly that, until we can turn this right around and make it a time for Autistic Pride, we might as well just abandon it altogether.

Pride is important: it’s perhaps the single most important thing to understand this month. Generally (and I am generalising here – more about the pitfalls of that later), autistic people are proud to be autistic. The term represents the challenges that we’ve overcome – and that makes it a badge of honour. It also carries a sort of flavour to it. To put it bluntly (we do that, you know), for autistic people, ‘autistic’ has a connotation of ‘not-boring’.

This leads to other points which are worth noting. One is that the overwhelming preference among autistic people is to be called ‘autistic’: not ‘person with autism’ or the euphemistic ‘on the spectrum’ (not everyone agrees, of course, so in individual cases you should ask). We are autistic; we’re not insulted by the word and we appreciate people who accept that without discomfort.

Another aspect of the pride thing is that the autistic community is … well, ‘prickly’ might be a good word. We’re inclined to be defensive. A lifetime of living in a world that wasn’t built for you will have that effect. One of the things which tend to activate our defence mechanisms is autism awareness events conducted by people who aren’t autistic. Sometimes such endeavours are excellent; but more often than not they perpetuate dangerous stereotypes because they tend to start from the assumption that autistic people are a problem to be handled by the rest of society. The disability activism slogan ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ is a pretty handy guide here (it even has a catchy Latin version: Nihil de nobis sine nobis).

An associated problem is the issue of generalisation that I mentioned earlier. Autistic people are all different; sometimes very different. Labels like ‘high-functioning’ and ‘low-functioning’ are misleading and to be avoided – but certainly there is a broad spectrum of strengths and vulnerabilities. Also we all have our own opinions, because contrary to rumour, we are people and not human computers. So when I say that autistic people don’t like person-first language (‘person with autism’), I’m identifying a majority view, not the view of every single autistic person. This is a truism in all representations of autism: but it’s also a gap in our defences. It means that whenever we make a claim we can be challenged by non-autistic experts, or parents, or therapists, who can say (quite rightly) that we’re speaking from our own experience, and that their observations tell them something different. In other words, we may be autistic but we don’t know autism. This is a criticism which is levelled frequently, particularly in online spaces, and it’s one of the reasons why so many autistic people go into hiding during April – and why others are getting ready to fight.

That brings me onto the thorny issue of organisations which claim to speak for autistic people. Some actually do (the ones run by autistic people). Others do not. So if you join in with the Light It Up Blue! trend on social media you may find yourself losing a lot of autistic followers, because the blue (there is a counter-movement known as #RedInstead) has some uncomfortable associations. The widespread use of the jigsaw puzzle piece logo for autism is also problematic: again, this was created for autistic people rather than by them. Some autistic people find it very offensive, seeing in it the suggestion that we are missing an important piece which would make us normal (‘a sandwich short of a picnic’, if you like, or ‘not playing with a full deck’); or maybe it indicates that we are a puzzle to be solved or something to be fixed. Whatever meaning you see in it, it upsets a lot of people, and so on an organisational level it’s best avoided.

If you’re looking for a logo, the rainbow infinity loop is widely accepted. It illustrates the spectrum of autistic differences, while indicating that we are all connected. There are other logos out there, but this one is possibly the most popular.

Images matter, and words matter – today, just as they always have done. But what matters most is who gets to speak. So in this Time of Autism Awareness, my single recommendation is to be aware not of autism, but of autistic people. Simply listen to us. We’re out there, writing books and blogs and Twitter threads. We’re being drowned out by well-meaning organisations and celebrities who are busily explaining our autism to us – but we’re still speaking, even though many of us are exhausted. Listen to us; read our words; boost us when you can; talk to us as people, not about us as problems. We may be proud, and blunt, and prickly – but we’re not boring!

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Teaching Latin in a Girls’ Grammar School

Lisa Farrell, Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls

Classics is something I’ve always been fascinated in and I keep returning to it at different stages of my life. I have an O Level in Latin and I persuaded my university college to let me study some Latin during my first year, despite not having an A Level. In recent years, I have undertaken two distance learning courses in Latin Literature with CSCP. But I’ve never had the opportunity to teach it….until this last year at my current school.

I teach at a girls’ grammar school in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, which caters for a variety of students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. As a selective state school with strong academic success, this should be a place where the Classics would flourish, although the school, as far as I know, has no recent history of teaching Latin.

Last year, I was approached by the Head of Year 12 with a proposition: a student in the year wanted someone to supervise her learning Latin as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award. So, armed with CLC Book 1 (the text I had learnt Latin from), I started lunchtime sessions with her. Seeing her utter enthusiasm for the subject, I wondered if there were others in the year who might also be interested and, after a nervous presentation in assembly, I acquired a lunchtime club of nine students who all had different reasons for joining (from a desire to gain a grounding in Latin to help with the pursuit of Medicine to a simple academic curiosity.) And so ‘geek club’, as the students affectionately called it, was born!

Worries about buying texts for students and, more importantly, about my own feelings of inadequacy to teach the subject, led me to explore avenues that might yield funding and training. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received. The most amazing organisation which helps facilitate the introduction of Classics into state schools is the charity, Classics for All. They have been totally invaluable, offering initial support and advice, a wonderful summer school which helped me feel more confident in my knowledge of the language (revisiting long-forgotten mysteries like the ablative absolute!) and ongoing support through in-school training and a fantastic mentor at Birmingham University. Nothing is too much trouble for them: they have enabled me to feel more confident as a novice Latin teacher and have made suggestions about how I can develop the subject (which has included entering students for the Entry Level in Latin this summer). Advice from them led me to The Roman Society who provided me with a grant for the books I desperately needed.

This academic year has been a little overwhelming in terms of the growth of Latin at the school. One of the deputy heads suggested I might offer Latin as a Sixth Form Enrichment session. And so I duly presented to the cohort, expecting a similar sized group to my lunchtime ‘geek club’. When the numbers came in I was both astounded, and a little apprehensive, when I was told I would be teaching on the stage in the hall to the 87 students who had signed up! It was strange, gratifying, exciting and a little overwhelming to be standing behind the lecturn teaching Latin to so many. And amazing that there was such an interest in a subject that we are often told is ‘niche’ and ‘a dead language’. Numbers stayed high throughout the twelve week introductory course (which proved quite daunting in terms of feeling confident with my teaching, although again I was helped by Classics for All with ideas for delivery of the subject to so many students). I now have around 30 students entered for OCR Entry Level Latin this summer which, for a school with no background in Latin, is amazing.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience this year: I have felt daunted, challenged, energised and proud in equal measure. I really hope that my experience shows that, with little more than enthusiasm for the wonderful discipline that is Classics, anyone can find the help and support they need to introduce it in their school. As for me, I am really excited about the possibilities this might afford moving forward.

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Classics and the Unprotected Characteristic: Towards a Network of Working-Class Classicists

Lilah Grace Canevaro and Mirko Canevaro, University of Edinburgh


Class is not listed as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. Class is not necessarily visible, and it is not always talked about. But class plays a crucial role in both access to university and the university experience. The class divide is particularly evident in Classics. And it is particularly evident now, when ‘Classics poverty’ in state schools is becoming more and more critical, and trends towards increased university access for working-class students have stalled and in some instances even reversed, especially in elite institutions which still offer degree programmes in Classics. Widening participation and outreach initiatives seek to address the class imbalance in university admissions, but what happens when working-class students get to university? What do working-class postgraduates experience? How do working-class academics fare? Underrepresentation, lack of fit, imposter syndrome, being caught between two worlds, a sizeable class pay gap, even self-elimination from the discipline. Working-class origins affect not just getting in but also getting on.

The 2020 CUCD report on Equality and Diversity in Classics shows that more work needs to be done on challenging class bias. On creating more networks of support between under-represented groups. But how do we bring working-class classicists together, when supposedly ‘we’re all middle class anyway’ as soon as we enter the hallowed halls of university? This line of argument – one that many of us have heard repeatedly – is in fact one of the most insidious ways in which working-class Classicists are assimilated or misrecognised. Because it is not just about where you are; it is about where you come from. Your class origins cast a long shadow, not just in terms of your chances of getting into elite universities and then into elite professions like academia, but also in terms of how you fare once you get there.

When working-class students do get to university, do come to study Classics, they find an institutional ethos that kicks them back. And because they don’t find many working-class academics (both because there aren’t many, and because those that are there aren’t carrying their card) they feel alone, estranged, with no one to fight their corner (see Diane Reay 2017, chapters 5 and 6). Geraldine Van Bueren, Professor of international human rights law at Queen Mary University London and founder of the Association of Working-Class Academics, argues that it is essential for working-class students to have role models to make them feel they belong at university. In order for widening-participation initiatives really to be successful, these students need to see success stories, to find mentors, to relate to someone and have their own circumstances understood.

And the struggle doesn’t end there: for those that do go on to postgraduate study and embark on academic careers in the discipline, the barriers are many (see Teresa Crew 2020 and Carole Binns 2019). There’s the lack of financial resources to navigate precarious contracts (no ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’). There’s the imposter syndrome and a nagging feeling of not fitting in. There are the demands to ‘tone it down’. There’s the lack of role models and mentors from a similar class background. And there’s the sense of social displacement and estrangement that comes with our new lives. We no longer fit in where we came from, yet do not quite belong where we have arrived. This is the price of the ticket of so-called social mobility. The result of all this is that working-class Classicists often fare far worse than middle-class colleagues even when they become professional, academic Classicists. Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison, in their 2019 book The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged, demonstrate that there is in fact solid evidence for a very sizeable class pay gap (some 16%) in the elite professions (Friedman/Laurison 2019:21), including academia: ‘the class pay gap – at its most extreme, at least – is as large as or larger than the gender and racial-ethnic pay gaps’. [1]

So we need to talk about class. We need to make class visible. And we need to build a discipline in which class assimilation, ‘leaning in’, is not the only way for working-class Classicists to get on. In which they are welcomed, acknowledged and celebrated, rather than made to feel like outsiders in need of being ‘civilised’.

And here’s the sticking point: as Van Bueren has noted, while many kinds of diversity are now celebrated in academia, there is no equivalent celebration of working-class intellectuals. Why is this the case? Why do we not talk about class, and why do we not talk about it alongside the protected characteristics? As Friedman and Laurison have shown, an intersectional lens that acknowledges the importance of class is key also when looking at gender, race and ethnicity. Working-class women are at a far greater disadvantage than middle-class women, for instance.[2] Working-class black women are at a triple disadvantage.[3] The EDI agenda needs to look at the whole picture – and it can’t do that until we have class firmly on that agenda.

These are some of the reasons why we are setting up a network of solidarity and support for working-class Classicists. School teachers, students and academic staff will be represented, and we understand Classics in its broadest sense (including Classical Studies, Ancient History, Classical Archaeology and all kinds of joint programmes). The focus of the network will be on mutual encouragement and practical support, as well as on advocacy to make class central to the debate on equality, diversity and inclusion in our discipline. We envisage a mentoring programme, an annual meeting, financial resources available for working-class Classicists. The first step towards establishing this network will be a series of workshops. We encourage working-class Classicists in particular to attend, but the events are open to anyone interested in class. The focus will be on things we can do to make the working-class Classicist experience better now as well as on ideas for future change.

This first workshop will focus on the Scottish context, the next on the UK more generally. There will be a series of short presentations from academics and students on topics such as definition and self-definition, recent publications on class, the available data, and personal experience stories. But most of the workshop will be given over to discussion, with working-class Classicists encouraged to talk about their experience, the challenges they have encountered, their perspectives and their ‘war stories’. Our aim is to forge relationships grounded in a characteristic that really needs protecting.

Find more about the Network of Working-Class Classicists here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/history-classics-archaeology/news-events/events/working-class-classics-a-conversation


[1] Friedman/Laurison 2019:49. Note that the class pay gap encompasses unequal pay for equal work and inequality of income between staff at the same grade.

[2] Friedman/Laurison 2019:50 ‘working-class women are at a double disadvantage – they earn on average £7,500 less per year than privileged-origin women, who in turn earn £11,500 less than privileged-origin men’.

[3] Friedman/Laurison 2019:52 ‘Black British working-class women, for example, have average earnings in top jobs that are £20,000 less per year than those of privileged-origin white men’.


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