We, the students, faculty, and staff of the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. We emphatically endorse the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s affirmation that diversity is an essential component of our excellence in teaching and scholarship, in keeping with the Wisconsin Idea of serving the state as well as the commitment to sifting and winnowing a diversity of views in service to the truth and our community.
We are committed to providing equal opportunity and equal access in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations and University of Wisconsin System and university non-discrimination policies and procedures. These include but are not limited to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. We vigorously oppose all forms of discrimination and encourage anyone who believes they have experienced such behavior to avail themselves of appropriate campus resources.
As a discipline, we strive to emphasize the multiculturalism of the ancient Mediterranean world and the equally valuable perspectives that students of all backgrounds bring to its study. We condemn racist, sexist, and other discriminatory speech and action within our fields, including appropriations of the ancient world to foster hate. With the Society for Classical Studies, we “vigorously and unequivocally oppose any attempt to distort the diverse realities of the Greek and Roman world by enlisting the Classics in the service of ideologies of exclusion” and we “condemn the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.” With the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, we “urge all to adopt a posture of generosity and empathy as, whatever our race, creed or color, we are all together engaged in the human enterprise.” As students, scholars, teachers, administrators, and advisors in CANES, we actively and open-mindedly seek inclusive pedagogical practices, content, and curricular design that will serve and support our diverse constituencies and do justice to the diversity of the ancient Mediterranean world. We also affirm our commitment to increase the diversity of the department and to promote equity and tolerance within our learning community.
Against Racial Injustice
June 7, 2020
UW-Madison’s Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies stands in solidarity with those protesting racism, police brutality, and systemic anti-blackness in our communities and institutions. We reaffirm the values espoused in our departmental Statement of Inclusive Excellence, and we endorse statements condemning the murder of George Floyd and racial injustice published by our professional associations, The Society for Classical Studies, The Society of Biblical Literature, and the The Archaeological Institute of America. We repudiate the ongoing recruitment and mobilization of our fields in the service of oppressive structures and strive to extract emancipatory messages and models from the literary and material output of Classical and Biblical cultures.
This week’s nationwide protests painfully recall the oppressive and undemocratic purposes to which Biblical and Classical texts have been put throughout history. These include the justification of modern slavery, the legacy of slavery in systemic racism in the United States, and the continuing subjugation of people of color both here and abroad. George Floyd’s death is, sadly, only the most recent of many such acts of brutality inflicted on Black Americans in the name of the state and implicitly or explicitly justified using ancient texts and ideas.
The ways in which people appropriate the Bible and Classical literature—and the purposes to which we put these works—are of intimate and pressing concern to our department. As scholars of Classics and Hebrew Bible, we seek to track and explicate the many diverse contexts in which Classical and ancient Near Eastern literature and material culture were composed and in which they have been transmitted and interpreted. We condemn historical and social contexts informing exclusionary interpretations, and we promote critical and thoughtful investigation of the multifaceted society of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. We reject the premises on which harmful, prejudicial social structures are built. We embrace the diversity of the ancient world and its humane threads of ancient thought, where Biblical and Classical literature have given rise to enduring ideas of justice, equality, love, and community. Acknowledging that we must always strive to do more, CANES commits to these ongoing and planned activities:
Appoint an annual committee on inclusive excellence (formed in 2019) with faculty, staff, and student membership;
Offer a course on race and ethnicity in the classical world;
Support our ongoing student reading group including topics on the legacy of Classics;
Continue ongoing work to restructure our graduate curriculum In Classics to include critical issues in classical studies.
Classics and Social Justice (CSJ) and the Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) have issued a list of constructive actions to take.
The Multiculturalism, Race, and Ethnicity in Classics Consortium (MRECC) lists articles on race and equity in the classroom, and pledges action in this letter, with gratitude for support and suggestions.
A statement from Black presidents and deans of schools of theology and religion.
Ten ways for non-Black academics to value Black lives.