Some really fantastic classicists got together recently to discuss ethical engagement and classics. Several of the talks were posted on Classics and Social Justice by Jess Wright, Matt Chaldekas, and Hannah Čulík-Baird.
It’s a long a read, but a very good one. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I’ve copied below a few snippets that particularly jumped out at me.
Classicists are in a particular bind: we must argue for the salience of antiquity to a modern world preoccupied with the effects of European imperialism, and we must do so without resorting to the imperialist argument that the Classics are the foundation of humanistic endeavour….
How does our study of antiquity inform us as ethical subjects? How does our pedagogical approach to antiquity shape our students? Through what strategies and initiatives might we render “Classics” a term that evokes social and ethical engagement, rather than elitist isolation and the ivory tower?
Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/
The common idea about the canon is that it is inherently valuable because it articulates the best that has been thought and written or some such. This notion of values is both a stumbling block and a powerful entryway. For instance, is “the unexamined life not worth living” irrevocably damaged as an ideal because of its elite original context? Or should we aspire to democratize the concept through education?
Nancy Rabinowitz, Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/
Edelstein cannot have known that his work on the Oath would directly affect the lives of literally millions of people. But here’s the thing: you can’t study any aspect of what many consider to be the foundation of modern Western society and ignore that your work is potentially relevant in modern discourse, even if you are limited in your ability to understand how. Classicists are ethically and socially engaged, whether we acknowledge it or not, and because we’re all engaged in this way, we have at least two tasks…
The first task is to attempt to dissuade modern consumers of our work from using the ancient world as direct precedent for modern legislation, for good or for ill…
Our second task is to recognize that people are going to use our work however they want to regardless of what we say and therefore to be responsible in our research.
Deborah Sneed, Ethical Engagement and the Study of Antiquity https://classicssocialjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/write-up-ethical-engagement-and-the-study-of-antiquity-april-20th-21st-2017/