Race/Ethnicity Teaching Resources

Resources for Teaching Race and Ethnicity, Immigration, and Marginality in Classical Antiquity

While there are many people who are interested in developing courses on race and ethnicity in the Classical world or want to include material in their history or culture courses, getting started can be daunting. Here are some resources for teaching that might help, including copies of the current and previous versions of my own syllabi, a link to a 1-2 week modules on race/racism and antiquity and immigration developed for the Sunoikisis "Ancient Leadership in the Era of Trump" online course. Also available is the Race and Ethnicity Bibliography

You can now also add the bibliography "Hold my Mead: A Bibliography for Historians Hitting Back at White Supremacy" over at Sarah Bond's blog. She will keep updating it as materials come up.

This database is being formed in conjunction with the Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity in Classics Consortium (MRECC) and the Classics and Social Justice group.

If you teach a course that includes units on race and ethnicity in Classical antiquity and you would like to have it included in this resource, please email me at kennedyr@denison.edu.

Resources and links from the 2019 SCS Workshop "Centering the Margins: Creating Inclusive Syllabi" (with Suzanne Lye, Amy Pistone, Yurie Hong, Robyn LeBlanc, and Rebecca Kennedy)

Why teach race and ethnicity in antiquity?

McCoskey, Denise. 1999. "Answering the Multicultural Imperative: A Course on Race and Ethnicity in Antiquity." Classical World 92: 553-561.

Kennedy, Rebecca. 2017. "Why I Teach about Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World" Eidolon. 

Hong, Yurie. 2019. "Some Concrete Suggestions post-SCS" Classics and Social Justice Blog.


Sub-headings: Syllabi / Modules / Blogs & Public-Facing Media

Syllabi for Stand-alone Courses on Race/Ethnicity

Different/earlier versions of a course by the same professor are indented with bullets.

Ancient Identities (2017; Kennedy): this course is classified as a writing competency course and is cross-listed with Environmental Studies as an environmental humanities course. It also fulfills Denison University's "power and justice" requirement. MWF class. Seminar (18-25 students).
  • Ancient Identities (2016; Kennedy): same as above, but with some different readings and assignments. TTh class. Seminar. (18-25 students)
  • Ancient Identities (2014; Kennedy): same as above, but without writing competency, and with different readings and assignments. TTh class. Seminar. (18-25 students)
  • Race and Ethnicity in Antiquity (2011; Kennedy): the second iteration of the course, first iteration at Denison. This one is significantly different from the later versions and was not cross-listed nor a writing course. TTh class. Seminar. (18-25 students)
  • Greeks, Romans, Barbarians (2008; Kennedy): the first iteration, taught at Union College and fulfilling the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Global Cultures and The Classical Tradition of the West and its Roots requirements. This was also a Writing Across the Curriculum course. MWF class. Lecture (60 students).
Barbarians and the Roman Empire (2013; by Jonathan McLaughlin): This course provides the opportunity to improve your reading, writing, and analytical ability by focusing on a key aspect of the cultural history of the Roman Empire. We will explore the image of the “barbarian” in Roman literature, historiography, and art, and we will attempt to assess its development through time and its impact on citizenship, “Roman-ness”, and the image of the emperor. We will read and analyze a mix of ancient evidence and modern scholarship.

Blacks and the Classics I: Antiquity to Emancipation (2019; by Jackie Murray): The first course in a set of three classes that address Classics and race.

Greek Identity: Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean (2017; by Sydnor Roy): In this course, we will explore who the Ancient Greeks were, how they constructed their identity, and how they described the cultures of the world around them. We will trace the development of Greek identity from the 8th century BCE to the Roman world and even into the present; and we will explore the cultures surrounding the Greeks, including the Egyptians, Persians, and Scythians.
  • Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World (by Sydnor Roy): This course aims to introduce students to ancient thinking about race and ethnicity and to consider how that thinking remains current and influential today.
Modern Issues, Ancient Times: Race & Antiquity (by Dimitri Nakassis): This class is an introduction to identity and difference in the ancient Mediterranean world, with special emphasis on the Greeks and Romans. How did ancient authors and artists express and understand differences (which today we might call ‘racial’ or ‘ethnic’) between various communities living in and around the Mediterranean? How did they explain these differences?

Multiculturalism and Cultural Identities in the Greek and Roman Worlds (by Katherine Blouin): This course provides a critical exploration of multiculturalism and cultural identities in the Greek and Roman worlds. Special attention will be dedicated to primary sources documenting these topics and to their fundamental influence on the evolution of ancient Mediterranean societies and cultures. Students will also be led to examine and discuss issues surrounding the application of modern concepts to ancient contexts, as well as to the possible historiographical pitfalls arising from contemporary ethno-cultural discourses and conflicts.

Race in the Ancient Mediterranean (2018; by Maggie Beeler): This course examines race and ethnicity in the ancient Mediterranean through the art, literature, and archaeology of ancient Greece and Rome. Students gain a background in the history and culture of the classical world that grounds critical analysis of the primary source evidence. By engaging with modern scholarship on ancient ideas about race and ethnic identity, students learn to evaluate secondary source material.
Race in the Ancient Mediterranean--Honors (2011; by Eric Kondratieff): This course aims to introduce students to ancient thinking about race and ethnicity and, time permitting, to consider how ancient thinking remains current and influential today. We will investigate how categories of race and ethnicity are presented in the literature (and artistic works) of Greece and Rome. Our case studies will pay particular attention to such concepts as: notions of racial formation and racial origins; ancient theories of ethnic superiority; and linguistic, religious and cultural differentiation as a basis to privilege one group over another in multicultural societies; and ethnic conflict. We will also examine ancient racism through the prism of a variety of social processes in antiquity: slavery, trade and colonization, racial migrations, imperialism, assimilation, native revolts, and genocide.

Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean (2019; by Tedd Wimperis): In this course we will examine topics of identity, diversity, and intercultural exchange in antiquity, from the epic age of the Iliad and Odyssey through the last centuries of the Roman Empire. As we study literature and material culture alongside modern theory, we will encounter peoples and places often neglected in conventional histories of the classical world, and work toward contextualizing our own thinking about race and identity in today’s multicultural society.

Race and Ethnicity in Antiquity (by Denise McCoskey): This course explores the changing role and meanings of race and ethnicity in the ancient Mediterranean as well as the influence of these concepts in later historical periods, including our own.

Race in Antiquity and its Legacy GP (2019; by Mary Hamil Gilbert and DesireĆ© Melonas). This class explores how the Greeks and Romans conceptualized racial difference by reading philosophical, historical, and literary texts written by and about the Greeks and Romans on the topic. We will consider how ideas about race and ethnicity evolved in antiquity as the military reach of Greece and Rome grew to encompass large swaths of Europe, Africa, and Asia and power dynamics in the mediterranean shifted. We will also spend time examining the concept of race itself, presenting it as an unfixed, socially informed, historical category and devote time to studying the ways in which the notion of “the classics” underwrote various white nationalist agendas in early modern and modern Europe and America. Additionally we will look to the burgeoning field of Classica Africana, examining classical receptions among Africana thinkers in US, African, and Caribbean contexts and consider the ways in which black people have deployed antiquity as a backdrop against which to negotiate, reclaim, and reconstitute their identities and histories. While this course does not represent a comprehensive treatment of any of these topics, it will addresses some of the central ideas and questions classicists and others are attempting to answer in the present cultural moment. In sum, this course begins with the underlying assumption that antiquity has a considerable bearing on how we have and continue to negotiate categories of race. This is true notwithstanding that what we mean by race today does not easily map on to how the Greek and Romans understood themselves and taxonomized difference.

Racial Politics and National Belonging in Early Christianity (by Maia Kotrosits): This course will address the racial, ethnic and national politics of the Roman Empire in order to better understand early Christian texts. Why were early Christians described as a “new race” of people? Why did early Christians use the language of race and ethnicity to describe themselves, and how does that fit together with Christians’ universal theological claims about inclusion and being “for all people”? What does ancient Israel as a broken nation, conquered by the Romans, have to do with understanding who Jesus was and what Jesus and his death might have meant in the first century?

Ancient Art/Modern Politics (Classics and White Supremacism; Rebecca Kennedy, 2018): This course examines art and architecture in ancient Greece and Rome and its appropriation by modern fascist governments and nationalist and white supremacist movements. The course spends the first 5 weeks focused on public art and architecture in the ancient cities of Athens and then Rome and then turns first to the theories of German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann and then examines 1. use of Classical forms to support white supremacism at World’s Fairs; 2. Mussolini’s use of the ancient Roman past; 3. Hitler’s fascination with and use of ideal Greek bodies in film and art; 4. Nazi use of Roman architectural forms; 5. Use of Classical sculpture in promotion of white supremacist groups on college campuses and the internet.

Syllabi for Courses that Include Units on Race/Ethnicity


Antiquity and Diversity in Contemporary Literature (by Benjamin Eldon Stevens): Comparative look at issues of identity in antiquity and contemporary America through literature and film. Includes a film series and links to secondary readings.

Immigration and Migration in the Classical World (Fall 2017; by Lindsey Mazurek): An upper-level writing intensive course. As part of this course, students create a Collaborative Dictionary of Ancient Migration. The link to it will be posted when it is completed.

Marginality in the Ancient World (Spring 2018; by Carrie Sulosky Weaver): This undergraduate course explores different groups of individuals who were marginalized in Greek society, such as those of differing ethnicity and race, the disabled and deformed, the mentally ill, slaves and others of low socioeconomic status, and we will end with a discussion marginalized individuals (e.g., Pythagoreans and Socrates). Special attention will also be paid to gender disparities, concepts of human sexuality, and age discrimination.

Modern approaches to inequality in the ancient world: Power and powerlessness in Classical Greece (by Elina Salminen): This class will introduce you to the silent majority of Classical Greece: women, slaves, and non-Greeks. We will look at archaeological, iconographic and textual evidence in search of the voices that have been silent for centuries. The focus will be on the ways in which the voices were silenced and oppressed, but we will also look at examples of resistance and self-empowerment. In addition, we will look at modern-day inequality to see if and how it can help us study inequality in antiquity, and vice versa.

Slavery, Prostitutes, and Convicts: Writing the History of the Outcast (Spring 2018; by Sarah Bond): This course looks at how we understand, construct, and depict the stories of marginalized persons from classical antiquity to the 21st century. Throughout the semester, we will compare autobiographical narratives—of slaves, prostitutes, convicted criminals, traitors, and other marginalized persons—with the depiction of these individuals in film, literature, inscriptions, manuscripts, and pop culture. Can those with privilege ever truly achieve an understanding of those oppressed by society? What are the common perceptions of these individuals and why were they perpetuated by the elites?

Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity (by Rebecca Kennedy): Includes a unit on ethnosexuality and foreigness.

Modules

"American Pie: Leadership and Identity" by Rebecca Kennedy in Ancient Leadership in the Era of Trump: 1-2 week module for use in making connections between ancient texts and their modern interpretations and applications regarding issue of race and racism. This module was created for inclusion in an online  course developed by Norman Sandridge (Howard University). Topics include: Defining Race and Ethnicity in Antiquity, "What is Western Civilization?", "What is 'Eastern' Civilization?", "Genetic Purity in Antiquity and Today," "Whiteness" and "The Polychromy Debate."

"Our Only Goal Will Be the Western Shore: Treatment of Immigrants in America and Ancient Greece" by Zoe Stamatopoulou in Ancient Leadership in the Era of Trump: A 1-week module looking comparatively at current US and Classical Athenian immigration policies.

Public-Facing Articles/Blogs/Podcasts on Race/Ethnicity and the Field of Classics and Medieval Studies


Helpful Classics Podcasts, Videos,  and Articles:
Blogs:
From Eidolon: 
Art History:
Roman Britain:
Medieval Studies:
Modern Anthropology and Genetics:
Western Civilization and White Supremacism: