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Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity

Cambridge University Press
Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity

How should articulations of blackness from the fifth century BCE to the twenty-first century be properly read and interpreted? This important and timely new book is the first concerted treatment of black skin color in the Greek literature and visual culture of antiquity. In charting representations in the Hellenic world of black Egyptians, Aithiopians, Indians, and Greeks, Sarah Derbew dexterously disentangles the complex and varied ways in which blackness has been co-produced by ancient authors and artists; their readers, audiences, and viewers; and contemporary scholars. Exploring the precarious hold that race has on skin coloration, the author uncovers the many silences, suppressions, and misappropriations of blackness within modern studies of Greek antiquity. Shaped by performance studies and critical race theory alike, her book maps out an authoritative archaeology of blackness that reappraises its significance. It offers a committedly anti-racist approach to depictions of black people while rejecting simplistic conflations or explanations.


  • Original and needed: the first treatment, across both literature and visual culture, of black skin color in Greek antiquity which fascinatingly intersects with current race studies
  • Bold and polemical: challenges the idea that modern ideas about blackness can simply be juxtaposed with their classical and archaic equivalents, and dismisses reductive interpretations
  • Timely and authoritative: deeply relevant to present interdisciplinary debate about identity, politics, and race by one of America's most promising young classicists