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Saturday 15 April 2023 08.30 - 10.30
J-13 ANT08 Modeling Ancient Social and Cultural Developments
B34
Network: Antiquity Chair: Arjan Zuiderhoek
Organizers: - Discussants: -
Francesco Cassini : Modern Concepts, Ancient Worlds: ‘State’, ‘Statehood’ and Republican Italy
The field of ancient history has always suffered from a structural delay when it comes to receiving and elaborating new ideas and theories from neighboring fields of contemporary reflections on social and political science. In particular, the Greek and Roman world is often trapped in the emic vision of its ... (Show more)
The field of ancient history has always suffered from a structural delay when it comes to receiving and elaborating new ideas and theories from neighboring fields of contemporary reflections on social and political science. In particular, the Greek and Roman world is often trapped in the emic vision of its sources, which provide a perspective ‘from the inside’ but are not aware of the ideological distortions that condition them. The field has struggled to incorporate fresh takes and scholarly turns into its thinking. This happens in rare cases and often with decades-span delays, as in the case of many social and political concepts related to the study of urban realities, which are percolating into classical studies only in recent years.
My paper aims at tackling this scholarly problem on a theoretical level while using a specific case study from Roman history as a testbed for new possible avenues of collaboration between social sciences and ancient history. The case study is about the civic and urban history of public spaces in Italian cities during the Roman Republic. The focus will be placed on the 2nd and 1st century BCE, when the establishment of Roman control over Italian territories fostered an impressive acceleration of urbanization and the reorganization of urban communities across the peninsula. At the heart of the project is the reading of municipal public places as physical and theoretical spaces of interactions between different socio-political agents.
Central to the research is the ancient phenomenon of euergetism, a social practice centered on reciprocal social exchange privileges and public recognition. The constant need on the side of the local élite to negotiate its position vis-à-vis the lower strata of the population, together with the central-local dynamics in play during the establishment of Roman control over Italian municipalities, are all inscribed, in very different ways, in the urban layout of Italian cities. Through the archeological study of the concrete forms of these exchanges (and their interplay), my research aims at building a solid theoretical framework and analysis for this 'politics of space'.
From a methodological point of view, I draw new theoretical insight from contemporary political theory to contribute to defining the social and civic background of ancient public spaces and their monuments. To this end, I apply the concept of ‘weak statehood’ as a conceptual lens to read the role of states, cities, élites, and other political actors in the decision-making process related to the construction and implementation of ancient Italy’s urban landscape. In addition, I will use ‘network theory’ to read the relationships between communities, their economies, and sociocultural systems to provide a historical explanation for urban transformation beyond the classical model (still heavily relied on) of Max Weber’s ‘consumer city’. Ultimately, my paper aims to demonstrate how the establishment of Roman hegemony in Italy can be fruitfully read through modern and contemporary concepts – like ‘state’ and (‘weak) statehood’ – and offer a model for scholarly contamination between ancient history and social sciences. (Show less)

Kristian Kanstrup Christensen : Universal and Local in the Roman World
My work investigates the cultural interaction that took place within the Roman empire as Roman traditions and the cultures of provincial communities encountered one another. In earlier scholarship these encounters were cast as Romanization, but increasing criticism over the last decades has shown this concept to be problematic. In its ... (Show more)
My work investigates the cultural interaction that took place within the Roman empire as Roman traditions and the cultures of provincial communities encountered one another. In earlier scholarship these encounters were cast as Romanization, but increasing criticism over the last decades has shown this concept to be problematic. In its stead, scholars have proposed a range of theoretical concepts. Some of these have emphasized the wide-ranging cultural interaction taking place within the empire, others the unequal status of these different cultures.
My presentation argues for a middle position between these two poles, one that might serve as the framework for a cultural history to capture both aspects of Roman imperialism: the abundance of contacts between cultures and also the hierarchy in which they existed. For this purpose, I employ the anthropological model of universalization and localization as designed by Robert Redfield and McKim Marriott. This model envisages agrarian civilisation as always consisting of two layers of tradition. The universal tradition is the culture of the elite and is standardised and codified by literature. The local tradition is the culture of the provincial communities. It exists in the oral sphere, and is therefore prone to great change over time and from place to place.
Unlike other binary cultural models, however, Redfield and Marriott’s model envisages these two layers as existing in perpetual, low-scale interaction. Elements from the universal tradition (in the Roman world, the Latin language is one example) are localized to form part of the cultural life of local communities, while elements of local traditions (an example from the Roman world would be the Gaulish deity Epona) is universalized and enters the tradition of the imperial elite.
My work consists of applying this model to the Roman world, as I have done so far in three case studies. The first examines the evidence for local languages within the empire with particular focus on Gaul. The second examines material culture with distinctively local aspects deriving from southern Britain, and the third examines local religious cult in the Fayum region of Egypt.
I argue that across these different forms of culture and disparate provinces, the use of the model of universalization and localization shows cultural interaction in the Roman world to have followed similar patterns to those of other agrarian empires of the pre-modern world. The conditions of that world precluded the emergence of the sort of national culture that is known from the modern world. The establishment of empire produced a significant cultural interaction throughout the affected communities. This interaction affected local cultures deeply, at times even transforming them. However, full participation in the culture of the ruling elite was only possible for a small segment of the provincial populations. Therefore encounter with the Roman elite traditions did not lead to the demise of the local cultural world. (Show less)

Aida Fernandez Prieto : Approaching Poverty in Ancient Greece: How Social Sciences Can Contribute to the Study of this Phenomenon in the Past?
According to Manuel Santana, the issue of poverty had penetrated historical research due to the influence of May 1968 (Santana 1999: 35). However, the flourishing of the historiography of poverty cannot be separated from the introduction of postulates and approaches inherited from the social sciences, in which poverty emerges as ... (Show more)
According to Manuel Santana, the issue of poverty had penetrated historical research due to the influence of May 1968 (Santana 1999: 35). However, the flourishing of the historiography of poverty cannot be separated from the introduction of postulates and approaches inherited from the social sciences, in which poverty emerges as one of the main subjects of study (Fernández Prieto 2020: 33ff.).
Research on poverty in the Greek world has been, however, comparatively scarce until recent decades, partly, but not only, because of the difficulties posed by the very Greek conception of poverty as it emerges from ancient sources, especially, from Aristophanes' Plutus (552-54). Scholars' over-reliance on Aristophanes' definition of poverty, which focuses on the need to work for a living, as well as the vagueness of this and other testimonies, have led to a reductionist and, at the same time, broad view of the Greek notion of poverty. “For the Greeks, one was […] poor if he was obliged to work because he did not have enough to live on. From this view, most of the population was considered needy […]” (Nieto 2010: 9.) Statements such as the latter, in addition to presenting poverty as a "massive" phenomenon in Antiquity, tend to depict the poor as an undifferentiated group, an image often nurtured by the ancient authors themselves, which in turn obscures the multiple realities and situations behind the phenomenon (Morley 2006: 28; Roubineau 2010: 212-13).
With the above in mind, the aim of this paper is to examine how postulates, methods and approaches derived from the social sciences, especially sociology and socio-cultural anthropology, can help to overcome the aforementioned (and other) difficulties and, thus, to better understand the phenomenon of poverty and its conception in ancient Greece. This is a rather novel topic which to date has only been addressed by a few studies (Cecchet 2015; Taylor 2017; Fernández Prieto 2020). Among the several contributions that the social sciences can offer to the study of Greek poverty is, e.g., the notion of multidimensionality (Townsend 1962: 218-25; Sen 1993: 31-32), which draws attention to the different faces of poverty: economic, but also social and moral. The last one is particularly relevant for understanding the distinction between two categories of poverty: penia (“poverty”) and ptocheia (“destitution”, “beggary”). For their part, approaches such as the “relative” or “capabilities” approach, developed by P. Townsend and A. Sen, respectively, can help us to address the Greek notion of penia, which is often described in rather vague terms from an economic point of view. Other approaches, such as that of “social exclusion” and “marginalisation” (Ruggeri Laderchi et al., 2003: 257-60), and concepts such as O. Lewis' (1954) "culture of poverty" can be particularly interesting in to analyse, for example, the image that literary sources offer of the Greek beggar or the relationship that some Greek authors establish between poverty and crime. In turn the “participatory” (Chambers 1994; Ruggeri Laderchi et al. 2003: 260-62) and the “capabilities” approaches, can offer a completely different perspective, emphasising the agency of the poor themselves.

References:
? Cecchet, L. (2015). Poverty in Athenian public discourse. Stuttgart.
? Chambers, R. (1994). The origins and practice of PRA. World Develop., 22(7), 953–969.
? Fernández Prieto, A. (2020). Realidades e imágenes de la pobreza en la Atenas clásica. PhD Thesis, UCM, Madrid.
? Lewis, O. (1954). Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty. New York.
? Morley, N. (2006). The poor in the city of Rome. In M. Atkins & R. Osborne (Eds.), Poverty in the Roman world (pp. 21-39). Cambridge.
? Nieto, E.A. (2010). La figura del pobre y el debate sobre la pobreza en Grecia. PhD Thesis, UCM, Madrid.
? Roubineau, J.-M. (2010). Sources littéraires et histoire sociale : Être riche, être pauvre selon Xénophon. In L. Capdetrey & Y. Lafond (Eds.), La cité et ses élites (pp. 211-224). Bordeaux.
? Ruggeri Laderchi, L., Saith, R., Stewart, F. (2003). Does it matter that we do not agree on the definition of poverty? A comparison of four approaches. Oxford Dev. Stud., 31(3), 243-274.
? Santana, J.M. (1999). La pobreza en la historiografía. Tierra Firme, 17(65), 35-50.
? Sen, A. (1993). Capability and well-being. In M. Nussbaum & A. Sen (Eds.), The quality of life (pp. 30-53). Oxford.
? Taylor, C. (2017). Poverty, wealth, and well-being. Experiencing penia in democratic Athens. Oxford.
? Townsend, P. (1962). The meaning of poverty. BJS, 13(3), 210-227. (Show less)

Anne-Valerie Pont : Trust and Networks in the City: the Role of the Middling Elites in the Cities of Roman Asia Minor
Using case-studies of cities of Roman Asia Minor with a systematic review of epigraphic evidence, this paper discusses the concept of "middling elites" in relation with their insertion in networks of power, and the building of trust in the cities. It engages with theoretical research on "social capital" in the ... (Show more)
Using case-studies of cities of Roman Asia Minor with a systematic review of epigraphic evidence, this paper discusses the concept of "middling elites" in relation with their insertion in networks of power, and the building of trust in the cities. It engages with theoretical research on "social capital" in the cities creating institutional stability (following Robert Putnam's research) and how this stability can be based on the elaboration of opportunity structures depending on the specific position of actors in various fields, as theorized by Pierre Bourdieu—the relevance of this double-sided approach having been discussed from a conceptual and sociological point of view by M. Siisiäinen. Finally, I propose to test the possibility of modelling the position of these groups of middling elites in the cities with new conclusions on their political role. (Show less)



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