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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The past is political is personal is political. It offers a wide range of resources for different political purposes: slogans, battle-cries, values and ideals, costumes, exemplary figures and actions, a stand-point from which the present can be viewed and held to account. Of course all such analogies and appropriations drastically simplify the complexity of the actual past, and even of later understanding of it – that’s how they’re able to operate, by emphasising resemblances and erasing differences. But this process is never wholly under the control of the one making a connection between past and present; the awkward bits of the past that get smoothed over or whitewashed for the purposes of making the comparison plausible have an awkward habit of re-emerging regardless…

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Atrocity Exhibition

Things happen out in the world, and someone, somewhere, then tweets a bit of Thucydides. (I’m aware that my perspective on this is skewed, because I actively monitor it, but it does happen). Over the last week, two different events have prompted such a response. The murders at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, brought this thoughtful post from the ever-interesting Sententiae Antiquae, quoting 7.29-30 on the massacre of schoolboys in Mycalessus by a gang of Thracian merceneries who’d been let go by the Athenians. As SA notes, when we think about this passage in relation to school shootings in the US, it is the differences between the situations that seem most productive and disturbing. (more…)

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Once again, I’ve remembered to keep track of the blogs I’ve especially enjoyed over the last year (with the curious exception of April – I don’t know, at this remove, whether I was too busy to read anything, or not much was published, or I was feeling hyper-sniffy at the time so didn’t think there was anything worth recommending. Very happy to get suggestions in the comments of great things that I’ve missed). This doesn’t claim to be a definitive list, just the stuff I came across – often via the Twitter, which continues to be a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in different regions and fields, despite all the management’s efforts to ruin it and drive everyone away – that deserves a more than ephemeral readership… (more…)

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Brexit negotiations. Yes, we’re still replaying the Melian Dialogue, with the UK still stuck in the attitude of the Melians, offering the equivalent of “Surely there’s advantage to both of us in being friends rather than enemies?” and “Can’t you see that this will damage you as well as us?” as if these are knock-down arguments. My final-year Thucydides class has been having some really interesting discussions over the last couple of weeks about Pericles’ manipulative rhetoric and parallels to the Leave campaign – offered spontaneously by the students, before anyone puts me onto that government watch list – so I’m tempted to skip forward to the Melian Dialogue while these issues are still fresh. But, realistically, the negotiations aren’t likely to be going much better in February, when we’re scheduled to get to Book V, so the issues will still be fresh enough… (more…)

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We appear to have reached a tipping point, where future historians of this period – not necessarily human – will simply refuse to believe what they find in their sources on the grounds of plausibility. Just as with the Julio-Claudians, we can discuss the discourse of polemic and invective, and the values and cultural assumptions it reveals, but not the historical reality that lies somewhere behind it; we cannot study Boris Johnson as a real historical individual, but only the image of him as cartoonish buffoon constructed by hostile sources… (more…)

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So, when I announced my Exeter inaugural lecture a few weeks ago, I was persuaded to arrange for it to be recorded, for everyone who wasn’t in a position to trek down to Devon on a Thursday evening. It has turned out to be surprisingly and annoyingly difficult to make this happen, but we have the technology…

This is offered to the general public with the usual caveat that it was written far too hastily while trying to do too many other things at the same time, and so it would have been much better if delivered in different circumstances; and the slightly less usual caveats that (1) it was recorded from the very top of a rather weird, extremely precipitous lecture theatre, which is why you mostly see the top of my head from a steep angle, and (2) my watch was ever so slightly slow, so my brilliant timing actually meant that the recording cuts off literally seconds before the end. (more…)

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How does our knowledge of classical antiquity relate to the present and its problems? How do we as classicists – to address at least a subset of my readers – engage with the world through our knowledge of the classical past, or is our chosen field of activity precisely a means of not engaging with the world?  (more…)

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