CaWT3 june 25

Classics and the World Today 3: Local Identities, Movement and Global Connections in Antiquity was held on 25–26 October 2018 at the University of Toronto Mississauga. At the opening event, c. 250 guests from universities within the GTA, local high schools, and members of the public from Peel Region joined speakers Professor Elena Isayev (University of Exeter) and Professor Miguel John Versluys (Leiden University). Prof. Isayev discussed what compels communities to extend hospitality and asylum. By interspersing ideas from modernity and antiquity, she provided insights into several examples of displaced asylum-seekers, and the respective responses by those from whom help was sought. Prof. Versluys’s talk considered how cultural connections produce new cultural forms and identities. He historicized globalization and connectivity, and emphasized that globalization does not necessarily mean standardization, nor is it an inherently value-laden concept. Rather cultures can clash or embed in either productive or problematic ways.

                              Elena Isayev

These themes were renewed the following day, when about 30 advanced undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty from the graduate departments of Classics, Near and Middle Eastern Civilization and the Department for the Study of Religion participated in a workshop led by Professors Isayev and Versluys. This seminar debated the methodology and theorization of globalization, multiculturalism, connectivity and its relevance for the study of Ancient History. Prof. Versluys led a discussion about the possible reinventions of history, the reinterpretations of cultures, and how historians interpret multiculturalism. The group studied the specific example of the building of Nemrud DagĖ† by the kings of Commagene and their attempts to incorporate different artistic styles and languages, thus presenting themselves as globalized. Prof. Isayev challenged the group to consider modern refuge experiences and stories alongside ancient narratives of resident aliens described by authors such as Plautus, and discussed laws from antiquity which controlled the citizens of a place, not the outsiders, in contrast with today’s laws on immigration and border control.

                      seminar group

Both events encouraged their audiences to be aware of circumstaces in which tradition is never static despite appearance, how and when refugees can be active agents, and where a multivalency of interpretations exist. The interdisciplinary nature of Prof. Isayev’s and Prof. Versluys’s work enabled a rich discussion that crossed temporal and disciplinary boundaries. As both history and the methods of studying history shed light on modern concerns, and modern concerns in turn impact the ways historians approach history and use ancient evidence, the Classics and the World Today events attempt to bring forward new ways of realizing the relevance of the past to present-day students. These events also encouraged participants to consider these themes and their impacts outside of the official settings of the seminars by incorporating spaces for informal discussion on walks and over dinner.

The organizers are grateful to the office of the Dean of UTM for continued support for these events and look forward to welcoming all those interested in the Ancient Mediterranean World at Classics and the World Today 4 in the Fall of 2019.

Text by: Alison Cleverley

Classics and the World Today - 2018 Poster

CAWT - 2017 Event Poster