Program in Early Cultures

Announcing the PEC Spring 2024 Conference & Workshop Schedule

The Program in Early Cultures is hosting a number of exciting events for the Spring 2024 term, including several notable workshops and conferences: 


Ethics, Exploitation, and Epistemic Reparations around the Classical Archive

February 8, 2024


The Watson Institute, McKinney Conference Room (353)

A workshop sponsored by the Program in Early Cultures led by Prof. Nandini Pandey, Johns Hopkins University

All are welcome to join this workshop on the ethics of what (and how) we read and cite. The main case study centers on Foucault’s heterotopia as applied to Roman antiquity, but the questions the workshop raises will be of interest to many disciplines.

Do the lives, biographies, and behaviors of the scholars we use within our own work matter? How do we deal with sources who have abused others to create products we find valuable, and does it matter if they lived in the ancient past or recent memory? How far do the norms of their times excuse behaviors we might now find repugnant? How can we engage with our disciplines’ archives and theories in order to investigate and redress their co-formation with race, imperialism, white supremacy, and colonialism, without recentering the abusers? What reparations or atonement might we owe in using such scholars’ work, or should we cast it out altogether – in which case, what sources and methods do we have left?

This workshop begins with a chapter-in-progress (to be pre-circulated to preregistered participants, but with no advance reading required) for a volume on Roman spatial theory edited by Amy Russell and Maxine Lewis, in which Nandini Pandey (of Johns Hopkins University) applies Foucault’s theory of heterotopic space to the city of Rome. In researching her article, Pandey became interested in ways that Foucault’s theory centers an elite white man’s experience of space, and how recent allegations that Foucault sexually abused Tunisian children might have informed his spatial fetishization of the other. How should this context affect our applications of Foucault’s theory to Roman spaces that themselves facilitated elites’ (ab)use of ‘diverse’ subaltern peoples and objects? This workshop promises no answers, but will generate conversations of interest to many. All are welcome to join discussion, and no prior familiarity with theory or content is expected.

Organized by Amy Russell (Classics / History)



Guided Inventions

April 10, 2024

The Watson Institute, The Joukowsky Forum (Room 155)

How, why, when, and where do novel writing systems come into being? The inception of Mesopotamian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Chinese Oracle Bone graphs receive merited attention. Yet, by ample evidence, scripts appear at many other times and places, usually through contact with earlier systems of recording. To this day, writing continues to be devised under varied conditions of social, linguistic, religious, and aesthetic tumult and possibility, need and amusement. "Guided Inventions" looks at how scripts coalesce in response to prior scripts. A breadth of examples attests to the importance of this process, ranging from Africa to Indigenous America, the ancient Aegean to northern runes, Hollywood fabulations to the results of encounters with spirits. But the topic remains under-explored. Addressing that need, "Guided Inventions" seeks to find what these inventions share and how they differ. Joining the debate will be archaeologists and anthropologists, fiction writers and creators, each intent on understanding how, from the makers' viewpoint, systems of imaginative marking help to graft meaning, language, and practice.

Organized by Felipe Rojas (JIAAW / E&A) & Stephen Houston (Anthropology / History of Art and Architecture)



Epigraphic Inscription in Tang-Song China

April 26 & 27, 2024

This workshop will focus on new approaches to the interpretation of stone inscriptions in ninth to eleventh century China. This was a period that witnessed both the emergence of the Chinese discipline of epigraphy (jinshixue)—the systematic collection, preservation, and study of earlier stone inscriptions—and the development of a number of new kinds of inscriptive  practice, including the widespread practice of re-inscribing old inscriptions. The workshop will explore the relationships among these complex, entangled practices of interpreting old inscriptions and making new ones.

Organized by Jeffrey Moser (History of Art and Architecture)


For more information on these, and all PEC events, please visit Events@Brown