Monthly Archives: August 2017

History is not a plant: Some thoughts on high school and undergraduate (ancient) history curricula

Everyday Orientalism

Last September, a student enrolled in my 1st year undergraduate course “The Ancient Mediterranean World” came to me after the first class because he wanted to tell me that it was the first time he had heard that the ancient world was diverse and characterized by many cultural interactions. “So far, all I was taught in high school was that the Greeks and the Romans were the ancestors of the West. I felt alienated so until today, I’ve never had any interest for ancient history”. The student was a Canadian of Asian origin who grew up in the Toronto area and was enrolled in the History program.

Recent online storms surrounding the whitewashing of ancient Mediterranean history should not entirely come as a surprise given what (little) most western high schools and universities teach students about Antiquity. Despite survey courses on Ancient Mediterranean, or on ancient “world” history, two fundamental…

View original post 1,307 more words

A Short Bibliography For The Study Of Eunuchs, Marginality & Gender in The Pre-Modern World

A number of people asked me to expand on my Forbes column from last week, which addressed the long history of eunuchs around the world and in Game of Thrones. This is a short reading list focused on scholarship in English for those wishing to begin to read about the subject. I am neither an expert on eunuchs nor a global historian of modern history. As you will see below, my expertise is firmly in Greco-Roman and early Byzantine history–so please forgive my ignorance of modern eunuchism. If you wish to add to the bibliography (and feel free to do this), please simply submit a comment with a new citation. It will be added and you will be credited for your contribution. Many of these resources are admittedly not open-access materials (my apologies), but I wanted to note just a few of the major works that can be either checked out from the library or accessed through academic publication databases.

export-2mwlrkh

The monk Sabas instructs the emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates. Bibliothèque National de France MS Coislin 79, f. 2bis-r (ca. 1078-1081).

Ancient Greco-Roman and Near Eastern Eunuchs: 

Burke, Sean D. 2009. “Reading the Ethiopian Eunuch as a Eunuch: Queering the Book of Acts.” Dissertation. Graduate Theological Union.

_____2013.Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch: Strategies of Ambiguity in Acts. Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Guyot, Peter (Hildesheim), “Eunuchs”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Consulted online on 22 August 2017

Devecka, Martin. “The Traffic in Glands.” The Journal of Roman Studies 103 (2013): 88-95.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd (trans.) 2010. Ctesias’ History of Persia : tales of the Orient Routledge.

Long, Jacqueline. 1996. Claudian’s In Eutropium, or, How, when, and why to slander a eunuch. University of North Carolina [Contributed by Jeroen Wijnendaele] 

Matthews, Lydia. “XANTHUS OF LYDIA AND THE INVENTION OF FEMALE EUNUCHS.” The Classical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (2015): 489–99.

Reusch,Kathryn. 2013. “That which was missing”: the archaeology of castration.” DPhil. University of Oxford. [Contributed by Adele Curness]

Tougher, Shaun and Ra’anan Abusch (ed.) 2002. Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond. Duckworth. 

Uroš, Matić. “Gender in Ancient Egypt: Norms, Ambiguities, and Sensualities.” Near Eastern Archaeology 79, no. 3 (2016): 174-83.

Late Antique and Byzantine Eunuchs: 

Greatrex, Geoffrey, and Jonathan Bardill. “Antiochus the “Praepositus”: A Persian Eunuch at the Court of Theodosius II.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 50 (1996): 171-97.

Kuefler, Mathew. 2001. The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, gender ambiguity, and Christian ideology in late antiquityUniversity of Chicago [Contributed by Robin Whelan]

Neil, Bronwen, and Lynda Garland. 2016. Questions of gender in Byzantine society. London: Routledge.

Ringrose, Kathryn M. 2007. The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Tougher, Shaun. 2010. The Eunuch in Byzantine History and Society. Routledge.

De Wet, Christopher Len. 2015. Preaching Bondage: John Chrysostom and the Discourse of Slavery in Early Christianity. UC. 256-67.

Islamic Eunuchs

Ayalon, David. 1999. Eunuchs, caliphs and sultans : a study in power relationshipsHebrew University. [Contributed by Kameliya Atanasova] 

Marmon, Shaun Elizabeth. 1995. Eunuchs and sacred boundaries in Islamic society. Oxford. [Contributed by Kameliya Atanasova] 

Ottoman Use of African Eunuchs

Junne, George H. 2016. The black eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire: networks of power in the court of the sultan

Ehud, R. 1984. “The Imperial Eunuchs of Istanbul: From Africa to the Heart of Islam,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3: 379-390.

Chinese Eunuchs: 

Tsai, Shih-shan Henry. 1996. The Eunuchs in the Ming dynasty. New York: State University of New York.

Indian and Pakistani Eunuchs: 

Jaffrey, Zia. 1996. The Invisibles : a tale of the eunuchs of India.

Khan, Shahnaz. 2016. “What is in a Name? Khwaja Sara, Hijra and Eunuchs in Pakistan,” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 23.2. 218-242.

Multimedia:

“Eunuch,” In Our Time. BBC Radio 4, February 26, 2015. 

Forthcoming: 

Höfert, Almut et al. 2018. Celibate and Childless Men in Power: Ruling Eunuchs and Bishops in the Pre-Modern World. Routledge. [Contributed by Peter Kruschwitz]

These resources are just a start point for addressing the key issues of eunuchs, gender, and marginality. I invite you to keep the citations and conversation going in the comments section or on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.10.15 AM.png

Students and instructors standing around ancient relief sculpture of a pair of eunuchs in the Oriental Institute’s Assyrian room (1943, Life Magazine). 

Other Syllabi And Bibliographies Addressing Marginality And Inclusion: 

For many years now, I have taught a course on marginal & outcast peoples in the ancient and modern world [HONR 1670_Outcast Syllabus] that stemmed from my book on the construction of occupational disrepute in Roman antiquity. I am delighted to see my colleagues in medieval and early modern studies taking the topic to new (and exceptional) levels. This following the events at the Leeds Medieval Congress this summer (2017) and the rise in white nationalist marches, attacks, and demonstrations this year. Of particular note is Jonathan Hsy’s Twitter thread on #Inclusive Syllabus, which is explained below. I would also direct you to Dorothy Kim’s blog, “In the Middle,” and the “Medieval People of Color” tumblr. You can even contribute to the crowd-sourced bibliography on race and medieval studies begun by professors Jonathan Hsy and Julie Orlemanski. 

The History Of Torches, Intimidation & Symbols of Violence

You may have noticed that I have been blogging less on my personal site. This certainly is a product of a busy summer with much travel and other publications to address, but I am afraid that–in part–I must admit that it was a reaction to receiving messages and tweets suggesting that certain white supremacist groups and individuals who objected to the statues pieces were “keeping an eye” on me here in Iowa and online.

However, the events in Charlottesville this past weekend pushed me to say something. Apathy is a choice and it is also an ideological position that can speak volumes. The University of Virginia is my alma mater and for many years, Charlottesville was my home. It is a place I still hold dear. Well beyond that, I wanted to make a statement condemning the actions of the white nationalist groups that gathered in Charlottesville. My Forbes column this week thus explored the history of using torches as symbols of intimidation and racial superiority. I hear duplicate it in full:

“In Charlottesville, Virginia this week, a number of white nationalist action groups came together at a “Unite The Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Marching on the campus of the University of Virginia on the night before the planned rally, protesters carried tiki-torches and chanted “You will not replace us.”

The carrying of torches to suggest power and project intimidation has a long and sordid history.

Fire was a constant hazard in the ancient world. Property owners, apartment dwellers, city magistrates, and emperors lived in fear of the potential damage caused by unchecked fires in urban areas in particular. Torches could be used to light weddings (as they frequently were), but could also be used by soldiers as weapons particularly during siege warfare. They were also carried by rioters wishing to brandish a dangerous weapon which, in Latin, was called a ‘fax .’

Following the assassination of Caesar in 44 BCE, the citizens in Rome who gathered in the Forum to hear Antony’s eulogy grabbed pieces of wood and furniture in the area in order to make an ad hoc pyre upon which to burn the dictator’s body. Many present at the cremation then grabbed pieces of flaming wood as torches from the pyre. As the historian Plutarch noted, “people rushed up from all sides, snatched up half-burnt brands, and ran round to the houses of Caesar’s slayers to set them on fire.”

Fire provided light in a world without electricity, but torches were never devoid of the potential to cause harm. They also signaled at least the potential for violence to break out. In the gospels, we see the threatening use of the torch as well. When Judas finds Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the book of John (18:3), it notes: “So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.” Romans regularly used small ceramic oil lamps to light their way in houses and while walking at night, but here the aggressive detachment sent to arrest Jesus is emphatically described by John as brandishing “torches, lanterns, and weapons” (‘φανῶν καὶ λαμπάδων καὶ ὅπλων’).”

IMG_6094-1200x900

A 3rd c. CE relief depicting a Mithraic scene where a bull is being slaughtered shows a torch bearer providing light during the ritual. The relief with polychromy is now at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

If we look to modern history to understand how torches became a symbol of not only intimidation but specifically racial intimidation, we must look both to America in the aftermath of the Civil War and to Nazi Germany of the 1930s and 40s. In response to the rights given to African-Americans following the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan formed in Pulaski, Tennessee in the late 1860s. The group took their nomenclature from the Greek word κύκλος, which means “circle”; a word often used in antiquity to refer to how hunters encircled their game. Torches became a consistently described part of the Klan’s early parades and use of visual intimidation. They would continue to be a terrifying feature of the organization when it reemerged in the early 20th century.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-02985A_Berlin_Fackelzug_zur_Machtergreifung_Hitlers

The torchlight procession in honor of the new Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler moves through the Wilhelmstraße in Berlin on the evening of 30 January 1933.

Torches used as statements of power and racial superiority were even more prominent in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. On August 1, 1936, a new tradition was introduced to the modern Olympic Games: the use of a torch relay wherein individual runners brought the Olympic flame from Greece to Berlin–connecting the ancient world to Germany. The ancient Greeks had indeed used torches in athletics, but the Nazis appropriated the torch as a symbol of both athletic and racial supremacy.

For more insight on the use of the torch in Nazi Germany, I spoke with Professor Waitman Beorn, a Holocaust historian who currently teaches in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia and serves as a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: “For the Nazis, the torches were meant to evoke avolkisch (racial) connection between a pseudo-historical German race and modern Germans. In addition, it enhanced the pageantry and spectacle of Nazi events, made famous at the Nuremberg rallies and in Leni Riefenstahl’s powerful film, Triumph of the Will.” Beorn notes Hitler’s attachment to the torch as a symbol: “In Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to another Nazi symbol, the swastika, as having ‘an effect like that of a flaming torch.’ He also described racial purity as ‘the fuel for the torch of human culture.'”

Beorn was there this weekend as white supremacists and Nazis descended on the town of Charlottesville. Many of them had gone to the local Wal-Mart the night before in order to buy tiki-torches, as they had for another rally there earlier in the summer. Beorn’s reaction to this weekend’s outbreak of violence perpetrated by white supremacist groups that came together to “Unite the Right” in this southern college town underscores the potency of their adopting such symbols: “For the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who descended on my town this weekend, the torch likely is an imitation of the Nazi rallies just as American racists imitate much [Nazi] regalia. However, in the context of modern white supremacy, the torch also likely echoes the burning crosses and torches of the Klan.” The use of cheap tiki-torches put up at pool parties and stored in suburban garages may at first seem laughable, but the visual message of hate and intimidation advertised by these torch-wielding individuals has a long and terrible history of violence.”

A special thanks in particular to Professor Waitman Beorn, a history colleague from UNC-Chapel Hill who is also a native Virginian that now teaches at the University of Virginia. To read more from him on this issue, please see his work on the Nazi chants recited in Lee Park in Charlottesvile back in May.