Pros and Cons: Professionalism and Expertise in the Ancient World
Harvard University, April 10th 2010
Keynote Speaker: Dirk Obbink, Christ Church, Oxford/University of Michigan
Excellence was a concept well known to the ancient world. From Homeric heroes to triumphant Roman generals, superlative achievement was recognized and admired as valuable and worthy of emulation. But what of excellence or competence in everyday life? Quality was clearly desirable, but how was it evaluated and how did it operate within society?
This conference seeks to address the concept of professionalism in the ancient world – to examine specific constructions of professionalism across ancient societies and the limits of the applicability of the term to ancient culture. People were interested in acquiring proper technique: how closely was skill linked to success? What is the relationship between professionals and quality of production? What about fake credentials (e.g. charlatans, quacks and impostors)? Do freedmen and slaves complicate the picture? Does audience or market have a role to play? How does the concept of professionalism and technique work with aristocratic codes of behavior (e.g. Roman Republican taboos against commerce and trade)?
The Department of the Classics, Harvard University invites submissions from graduate students for its fifth biannual graduate student conference on topics related to the professional including, but not limited to:
The Texts of Professionalism: Technical manuals, treatise and texts of advice (e.g. medical writings, rhetorical handbooks, literary criticism and advice to poets, Frontinus on Aqueducts, Columella on Farming, strategemata)
The Social Nature of Production: Craftsmanship, production and trade (e.g guilds, collegia, workshops, patrons and interior design). The place of the professional in society (e.g. social rank and gender).
Professionals in specifically defined spheres: Religion (priests and ritual personnel); Performance (rhapsodes and bards, playwrights, actors and entertainers, chorus leaders/ producers/ members, the Roman arena); Sports (e.g. Olympic chariot racing and the different status of owner and driver)
The Theories of Professionalism: The moral status of professionalism (e.g. the imperial bureaucracy, citizen government, aristocratic amateurs). The problematic use of modern ideas in study of the ancient world (eg. Max Weber) and modern appropriation of ancient examples.
For further information please contact us at harvardclassicsconference AT gmail.com. Abstracts should be e-mailed to this address, so that they are received by January 5th 2010.
We welcome submissions from graduate students working in Classics, Egyptology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures approaching the subject from literary, archaeological or historical perspectives. Presentations will be limited to 20 minutes. Abstracts should be of no more than 300 words, and should be submitted anonymously. Please provide a cover letter with your paper title, name, address, phone number, e-mail address, institutional affiliation and status. Please also specify any additional technical needs.