Social Identities in Antiquity with Nathanael Shelley

Tuesday, October 27

Time:  8pm 

Location: Room 317 Hamilton Hall

Columbia University

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The Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism is kicking off its annual seminar series with a talk by Nathanael ShelleyPost Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL) and recent Ph.D recipient from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) , whose dissertation involved the construction of social identity in the Ancient Near East.

The debates and controversies surrounding the language of social difference, such as race or ethnicity, were no less polarizing or contentious in Antiquity than they are today. Ancient literary texts provide outlines of these concerns in ways that could be imagined as "Barbarian Lives Matter" or "Sojourner Lives Matter" in their own times and places. In this talk, Nathanael will investigate the boundaries of social difference in three related cultures from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean by analyzing key ethnological terms, in their original languages and contexts, in order to determine their similarity to and difference from a modern anthropological definition of ethnicity. Specifically, he will employ an ethno-symbolic approach to social identity in order to evaluate the terms for so-called "ethnic groups" in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Middle Babylonian texts. The chronological distribution of these ancient sources allows for an integrated discussion about the approach to and reception of ancient "ethnic" terminology that will be relevant to both historical and modern studies of identity.

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This event is sponsored by the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism.