In Classics, A Different Take on Race (Article from the College of Arts & Sciences)

Read the full article by Nancy Joseph on the A&S webpage to learn more about the new course being taught in the Department of Classics that focuses on perceptions of race and identity in ancient times.

“The enduring works of Plato, Socrates, and other ancient thinkers — nearly all elite men — might suggest that ancient Greece and Rome were homogeneous places. A deeper dive into antiquity reveals tremendous diversity in the ancient world, with people from around the Mediterranean, from North Africans to Persians to Greeks, interacting regularly. But their conceptions of race and difference were quite different than ours in the 21st century.

‘Our racial categories, particularly the fixation on skin color in terms of how we racialize other people, were not the categories that people in the ancient world used,’ says Chris Waldo, assistant professor of Classics and co-chair of the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus. ‘They conceived of difference and ‘foreignness’ in their own ways. And by looking at that earlier construction of race, we start to see the artificiality of our own present-day racial formation. It puts the arbitrariness of race as we know it into relief.’

Waldo explores this and related topics in “Race and Identity in Antiquity,” a new course he teaches in the UW Department of Classics.”

By Meaghan Wood (She/Her)
Meaghan Wood (She/Her) Career Coach