Brock’s Department of Classics has evolved over its 54-year history with the University and has recently introduced a new name to reflect its changing state.
Now the Department of Classics and Archaeology, the new name better reflects the department’s unique breadth of study and its shift toward inclusivity, says Department Chair Katharine von Stackelberg.
“We’re really trying to showcase the department’s focus on a study of the classical world, but we do it through a very integrated approach using as much material evidence and practical skills as we invest in language skills, textual analysis, art history and material culture,” she says.
The field of classics and classical archaeology explores the ancient Mediterranean world from prehistory to the decline of imperial Rome. These societies shaped some of the literary, artistic, philosophical, political, legal and scientific traditions that remain vital to life today. Those studying the ancient Mediterranean do so through a wide variety of tools, including textual analysis, art history and archaeological study of ancient environments, buildings and objects.
Brock’s Department of Classics and Archaeology has long been recognized internationally as having strong archaeological programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Department faculty includes three full-time archaeologists with active research projects in the Mediterranean, who take students on annual practica and study tours in Greece, Italy and Turkey. The department is also home to the Cypriote Museum, an active undergraduate Archaeological Society and the Archaeological Institute of America Niagara Peninsula Society.
“We’re a program that very much focuses on experiential education and the application and integration of critical thinking and skills-based knowledge,” says von Stackelberg. “Not every department of classics is able to offer the depth and breadth of archaeology we do, and it has been a strong attractor for our program.”
Classics graduates have used their skills and knowledge to go into a wide variety of careers, including law, project management, archival work, education, library management, heritage and cultural resource management, and government affairs. Two alumni have even founded their own archaeological survey company.
The department’s new name is also meant to highlight efforts to take a more global and diverse approach to investigating how the ancient Mediterranean impacts life today. Historically, the discipline of classics has come to be associated with imperialism, colonialism, and maintaining and perpetuating systems of class.
“We have been actively working to take a more proactive, global and inclusive focus, where we make an effort to engage with multiple kinds of evidence and consider it from diverse perspectives,” says von Stackelberg. “We actively consider the positive and negative impacts of classics and classical scholarship on modern lives, institutions and arguments.”
This shift in approach is reflected in the department’s course offerings, which have come to include courses on gender, enslaved peoples, children, environment, migration, legal concepts, and digital modelling, alongside courses on ethics, mortuary archaeology and heritage.
“Our courses address theories and methodologies that span beyond the ancient Mediterranean and recognize that the ancient Mediterranean is far more than Greece and Rome,” says archaeologist and Associate Professor Elizabeth Greene.
“The heritage of the Mediterranean world has a really large impact on our understanding of international relations on regional and international scales,” she says. “We think through archaeological issues that arise in antiquity but raise questions of connections and exclusions that extend into the present day.”
While the name change is meant to draw attention to the work being done to decolonize classics and situate it within the conversations of current times, the department hopes to continue its transformation into a more global and inclusive program in the years ahead, says von Stackelberg.