“If male: kill, regardless of his age; if female: seize alive, mainly the young and youthful.”
These words, advocating deliberate violence against non-combatant populations, mark the start of a four-day international conference on gender in the ancient Mediterranean world at Brock University.
Kathy L. Gaca, associate professor of Classics, Vanderbilt University, will open Feminism and Classics VI: Crossing Borders, Crossing Lines with a public lecture entitled, “Ancient Warfare and the Forcible Penetration of Borders, Communities and Bodies” (5 to 6:30 p.m. in Academic South 202).
Gaca is author of numerous publications, including “Girls, Women, and the Significance of Sexual Violence in Ancient Warfare” in Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights. She, along with more than 100 other speakers will be attending Brock University for Feminism and Classics VI, a quadrennial international conference that addresses gender roles in the ancient world, taking place May 24 to 27.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event and its debut in Canada. The theme, Crossing Borders, Crossing Lines, focuses on sexual and physical boundaries, trans identities and power relationships in the ancient Mediterranean.
Co-organisers Allison Glazebrook and Fanny Dolansky from the Department of Classics at Brock stress that the value of the event lies not only in its wide variety of topics but its role as an established venue for raising awareness of new research methods and professional issues affecting female and LGBT academics.
“It’s a safe space to discuss professional issues, which are often difficult for young scholars to address given their vulnerable position and status in the profession,” says Glazebrook.
Dolansky agrees, “One goal is to discover what the issues and concerns are facing women and minorities in academe working in what have been traditionally considered marginal areas.”
The conference includes a public performance of Euripides’ Alcestis on Friday, May 25, (5 to 7 p.m. Pond Inlet) translated and directed by Mary Kay Gamel, professor in the Literature Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Gamel is known for her iconoclastic approach to ancient Greek drama, having produced more than 14 adaptations and translations.
“Alcestis a disturbing play because it’s both very alien and very familiar,” says co-organiser Katharine von Stackelberg, associate professor of Classics at Brock. “We read the play now and say ‘I wouldn’t agree to die for my husband!’ But women sacrifice themselves all the time by putting others’ needs ahead of their own.”
“Such re-evaluations are part of what makes Feminism and Classics relevant,” she says. “From one angle it seems like women have come a long way, but when put in a three-thousand year perspective you can see there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”
The conference is partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.