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CALL. 28.02.2020: The Case for Critical Ancient World Studies - Oxford (England)


The conference is concerned both with the necessity for and the possible applications of 'Critical Ancient World Studies' and we hope that this will enable critical reflection on the future of so-called 'Classics'. We invite papers from those within and outside of formal study of the ancient world in all its various forms, and in particular from those who feel that their area of study or critical approach to the ancient world (and its afterlife) does not fit easily within conventional definitions of the field of 'Classics'.







We invite contributions (abstracts proposing 30 minute papers) to a conversation on 'Critical Ancient World Studies' taking place in Oxford on the 15th April 2020.

‘Critical Ancient World Studies’ is a mode of studying antiquity (broadly defined) that makes four critical steps away from the field known as ‘classical studies’ / ‘Classics’. (1) it critiques the field’s Eurocentrism and refuses to inherit silently a field crafted so as to constitute a mythical pre-history for an imagined ‘West’, in particular, by rejecting the ‘universal’ as synonym for the ‘Western’ or the ‘European’. While Classics has too often been content to construct an ancient world whose value lies in its mirror image of modern Europe, 'Critical Ancient World Studies' investigates the ancient history of a world without accepting the telos of the West; (2) it rejects the assumption of an axiomatic relationship between so-called ‘Classics’ and cultural value, divesting from cultural capital as a mode of knowledge-making in the field; (3) it denies positivist accounts of history, and all modes of investigation that aim at establishing a perspective that is neutral or transparent, and commits instead to showcasing the contingency of historiography in a way that is alert to injustices and epistemologies of power that shape the way knowledge is constructed as ‘objective’; and (4) it requires of those who participate in it a commitment to decolonising the gaze of and at antiquity, not simply by applying decolonial theory or uncovering subaltern narratives in a field that has special relevance to the privileged and the powerful, but rather by dismantling the structures of knowledge that have led to this privileging. In this approach, we take our theoretical and epistemic example from Re-orient, a journal of Critical Muslim Studies that has taken a similarly critical attitude to its own parent-discipline (Islamic Studies), and whose manifesto can be found here: In practice, these four epistemological orientations will require three further practical commitments: to representation at all levels; to all attempts to promote access to the field to those under-represented within it; and to the rejection of the centrality of ancient Greece and ancient Rome within the study of the ancient world.

The day will be divided into three panels, 'Critical Time', 'Myths of Origin' and 'Critical Epistemologies - but you needn't know at the time of submitting your abstract which panel you would like it to be considered for.

Please submit abstracts (of no longer than 500 words) to Mathura Umachandran ( and Marchella Ward (, copying both organisers into your email, before Friday 28th February. We will aim to respond in the first week of March.

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