This paper drafts a new chapter in the history of “diversity” by exploring Romans’ attitudes and practices regarding difference during the height of their empire. Inclusivity was key to the Romans’ success in administering multiethnic communities across three continents. In practice, though, individuals often relied on material and human tokens of distant lands, gathered within spaces from dining rooms to circuses, to know and rehearse their dominance over others. Drawing on Foucault’s concept of the “heterotopia,” I argue that the Romans came to love and aestheticize diversity in ways that reveal complicities between our own valuation of difference and imperial habits of consumption and collection. This paper therefore hopes to prompt constructive critique of modern diversity measures, including their tendency to use minorities as a means to a majority end.
Nandini Pandey is an associate professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her book The Poetics of Power in Augustan Rome: Latin Poetic Responses to Early Imperial Iconography (Cambridge 2018) won the 2020 CAMWS First Book Prize. This talk introduces her second book project, on Roman diversity, recipient of fellowships from the ACLS and UW-Madison’s Institute for Research in the Humanities. She also writes regularly on classics and contemporary culture for Eidolon.
The talk will begin at 12:30 pm, with a light lunch starting at 12:15 pm. This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are not required.