Statement from the Chair about National Association of Scholars Article

February 14, 2019

Our colleague Dan-el Padilla Peralta has once again been the target of an attack, this time disseminated by the National Association of Scholars, that repeats at greater length the substance of the one made against him in person at the Society for Classical Studies.  The author’s basic premise seems to be that the simple elimination of any ‘race consciousness’ in academics can suffice to counter the consequences of ongoing systemic racism and, accordingly, that such race consciousness itself constitutes discrimination.  This idea has been challenged so often on so many counts that it needs no further refutation from me, but there is an important point to be made about its application to the field of classics.  For millennia the study of Greco-Roman literature, history, and civilization has been shaped in countless ways by its explicit use to further political and cultural agenda.  But it has been equally defined by the implicit and often unconscious assumptions made about those civilizations’ value and meaning by their interpreters.  The field’s ability to incorporate members of previously excluded groups whose identities facilitate seeing that past differently—religious dissenters, women, Jews, and those of non-conforming sexual identities, to name a few of these groups—has at different points in its history revolutionized the classics in ways that are crucial to its ongoing vitality.   For these reasons, promoting diversity in the study of the classics at all levels and providing a platform for interpretations of the past that respond to the experience of historically underrepresented populations do not only express a commitment to equity; they are equally essential to our intellectual and pedagogical mission as classicists.  Prof. Padilla Peralta’s work challenges all of us to think hard about why the Greek and Roman past matters and powerfully articulates an intellectual perspective on that past based on personal experiences of social injustice all too common in our society, but all too rare in our discipline.  We are proud and fortunate to have him as a colleague and committed to meet every public attack on him with an affirmation of his value to our department and the future of classics.

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