SCS Roundtable: White Supremacy and the Past and Future of Classics

Update: Pharos has published a report summarizing the conversation at the roundtable described below.

Original Announcement: At this year’s Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., Pharos Director Curtis Dozier will moderate a roundtable discussion entitled “White Supremacy and the History and Future of Classics” from 12:15 to 1:45PM on Saturday, January 3rd in the Marquis Ballroom Salon 1–6. All who are interested in learning more or in sharing their expertise are welcome.

According to Ibram X. Kendi’s recent description, antiracism requires (as a preliminary step) recognizing that “racist ideas have defined our society since the beginning and can feel so natural and obvious as to be banal.” Kendi is writing about the dominant culture of the United States but the same can be said about institutions within that culture, including the field of Classical Studies. In both cases, the supposed naturalness, the banality, of racist ideas means that this history remains invisible to White people unless it is named, catalogued, and described. A further barrier to revealing this history is that racist patterns of thought are congenial and beneficial to those in power. This barrier is particularly high in a discipline as white as Classics, whose fundamental tenets have been so integral to the construction and naturalization of White identityTo quote Kendi again, “racist ideas make White people think more of themselves, which further attracts them to racist ideas.”

The aim of this roundtable is to collect examples of ways that our discipline — both in its origins, in its development, and its present form — has been and continues to be complicit in white supremacy. Most of what we are likely to discuss is already known, both to scholars who have researched this history and, certainly, to those whom this complicity has marginalized and harmed. But it may not all be known to all attendees, and the roundtable may also provide an opportunity for the compilation of a summary list, to be published in some suitably public venue, that may serve as a resource for those seeking to educate themselves about this history.

A secondary aim, if time allows, is to consider whether and how, given the list produced, the discipline can redefine itself and the purpose of the study of Greco-Roman antiquity.

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