Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean

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1y Sep 24, 2019

This is the second episode in a series where I converse with Classicists about either books or articles that they have published, their current research interests, or just unique classes and topics that they are teaching and exploring further.

In today's special guest episode, I am joined by Dr Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Denison University in Granville, OH. Her primary teaching and research areas include the history of Archaic and Classical Greece, race and ethnicity in the ancient Mediterranean, and women, gender, and sexuality in antiquity. She is the author and editor of a number of books and articles, including Immigrant Women in Athens, The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds, Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World: An Anthology of Sources, and, most recently, Brill's Companion to the Reception of Aeschylus. She is currently working on the reception of ancient theories of race and ethnicity in the early Smithsonian, on the way inheritance and property laws reflect Athenian understanding of ethnic identity, and on ancient theories on race and ethnicity and their contemporary complications.

In the first hour of the conversation, Dr. Kennedy and I have a lively discussion about race, ethnicity, immigration, and multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean. Along the way we point out many of the misconceptions that there are on these topics, and in the second hour we discuss how these misconceptions were shaped by early modern European and American political thought. In doing so, we discuss a course that Dr. Kennedy is currently teaching called Ancient Art, Modern Politics, which examines art and architecture in ancient Greece and Rome and the history of its appropriation by modern fascist, nationalist, and white supremacist movements. Along the way we talk about the theories of German art historian Johann Winckelmann, particularly his fetishization of white marble statues, the use of Classical forms at World’s Fairs to explicitly yoke antiquity to support white supremacy, Mussolini’s reconstruction of Rome and his use of the ancient Roman past in support of Fascist ideology, Hitler’s fascination with ancient Greece and his white European-centric reconstruction of history that has been erroneously perpetuated (which leads into a digression about the impact that Classicists can have on the narrative by perpetuating racist and false versions of Greek history contrary to the evidence), and finally the cooption of classical sculpture in modern white supremacist groups.

There’s quite a bit in this episode, and like reading Herodotus, our conversation had many digressions, but we always found our way back to the original question. So without further ado, here is my conversation with Dr. Rebecca Futo Kennedy.

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