By Dr Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis, University of St Andrews
‘Towards a more Inclusive Classics’, a two-day workshop organised by Professor Barbara Goff (University of Reading) and myself ran on 25 and 26 June 2020. It was hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies and funded by the Classical Association and Council of University Classics Departments. Originally it was to be a face to face event in London for about 25 people; but as a result of the lockdown we decided to move online. This enabled people to participate from all over the world who are engaged with Classics in a variety of professional ways. We had 160 registered participants from 12 countries and 5 continents; the majority were academics; there were at least 31 students, 31 teachers, and 5 involved with collections or heritage.
Neither Barbara nor I had ran a large workshop online before so the format was experimental – and it worked well! We had pre-circulated materials (e.g. video presentations, powerpoints, traditional papers), and at the workshop there were brief presentations followed by Q and A through the chat function, breakout rooms for more sustained discussion, and a plenary panel at the end made up of participants. The breakout room format made possible ‘face to face’ conversations and connections between Classicists across the world; the chat function enabled the sharing of resources and a sense of community; there was a strong presence on social media – with 179 tweets #inclusiveclassics. Inclusivity was interpreted broadly by speakers both in terms of ancient subjects and of our own demographic as Classicists; and it included discussions about ethnicity, class, gender and disability.
The workshop only scratched the surface of what is probably the most urgent issue facing Classics. Black Lives Matter and the effects of Covid-19 (including the global economic recession, financial crisis at universities, and the move to online teaching) have intensified the need for us to address in greater depth the ways in which our discipline is not inclusive, and what can be done to change this. The desire of students and school teachers to be part of this conversation with academics came across very strongly. The broader use of online platforms opens exciting possibilities of increased participation, dialogue and collaboration.
Barbara and I are currently in discussion with the ICS, CA and CUCD about how to take our ‘Inclusive Classics Initiative’ forward. We are preparing a report which will be published in the CUCD Bulletin and we are planning an annual online conference. If you would like to join the ‘Inclusive Classics Initiative’ mailing list email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.