Orientalism, the Classics, and Egypt II workshop: Program and abstracts

Orientalism, the Classics, and Egypt II workshop: Program and abstracts

Image: The Griffith Institute

Please join us in Cairo on April 10 at the Cairo branch of the EES for what promises to be a fun and stimulating workshop. A description of the event’s theme can be found here and you can rsvp here. Should you have any question, feel free to email us.

Katherine Blouin, Usama Ali Gad, and Rachel Mairs


Morning session (chair: Rachel Mairs, University of Reading, UK)

9:30-10:00     Arrival and Welcome note by Essam Nagy, EES)

10:00 – 11:00 Myrto Malouta (Ionian University, Greece): The materiality of papyri and the decolonization of papyrology 

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break

11:30 – 12:30 Heba Hesham Abdel Gawad (Durham University, UK): Even when the Dean spoke no one listened! The muted 19th century Egyptian reflections on current classical failures

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch

Afternoon session (Chair: Katherine Blouin, University of Toronto, Canada)

14:00 – 15:00 Usama Ali Gad (Ain Shams University, Egypt): Classics, colonialism and the digital age: A view from contemporary Egypt

15:00 – 15:30 Coffee break

15:30 – 16:30 Open discussion and concluding remarks


Myrto Malouta: The materiality of papyri and the decolonization of papyrology 

The archaeological practices of the late 19th and early 20th century that led the search for papyri and the formation of the great collections of Europe and North America were majorly abetted by the treatment of papyri primarily as texts, rather than material objects. This approach also allowed papyrology to remain outside the scope of ensuing criticism regarding the orientalist principles and colonial ideology driving those practices. Historically, the emphasis on textuality was the result of the fact that in the early days of papyrology the interest of scholars was focused almost exclusively on literary texts. Interest in the history of Greco-Roman and early Islamic Egypt and the late acceptance of documentary papyri as mainstream sources for Roman history has brought about a change in this mentality, while the obvious importance of the context in which these sources were created has restored to papyri their dual quality as texts and objects. Acceptance of this fact leads to three parallel necessities: first of all the need to deal with every fragment as part of the material culture in which it was created; secondly the designation of our obligations as historians or textual scholars in dealing with fragments of disputed provenance; and thirdly the inclusion of papyri and papyrology in the discussion pertaining to the decolonization of the study of antiquity.

Heba Hesham Abdel Gawad: Even when the Dean spoke no one listened! The muted 19th century Egyptian reflections on current classical failures

Since 1920s, Taha Hussein, the dean of Arabic literature, has been actively raising the very same concerns that brought us here today. He even then criticised the characteristic disengagement of scholarly approaches to Egypt’s history from wider theoretical advances. He also argued against the singularity of pharaonic Egypt and called for an end to the excessive reliance on ancient written texts at the expense of material culture in understanding Egypt’s past. Yet, for a whole century no one at home or abroad has been listening. In this paper, based on research for the Artefacts of Excavations project, I seek to amplify Hussein’s voice, increase his visibility, and cast light on the validity of his arguments for this present moment in the hope that this time someone is listening.


Usama Ali Gad: Classics, colonialism and the digital age: A view from contemporary Egypt

In this paper, I will argue that while the digital age gave us in the field of Classics the tool to reach out a global audience, we are challenged by the fact that many of our print publications are still addressed to a European/Western audience (in English, French, Italian and German). The digital age provides us however with an unprecedented chance of opining up Classics to population and societies beyond Europe and/or the West. The Arab population of my home country and of the whole Arab world deserves a particular attention in the present moment in history. They need to be included, not to be excluded from our audience. They too need to know their debts to the Greeks and Romans. From my point of view, to achieve this goal in an international level, classicists should recognize the modern Arabic scholarship in the field, the Arab classicists who made these contributions and the medium by which these contributions has been communicated to the audience in this region i.e. Arabic. Classics should go beyond the grand narrative of the classical heritage as being exclusively European or Western in order that the modern Arabic/Islamic societies recognize the classical art and architecture not as foreign or European but as part of their own cultural heritage and modern identity. This talk builds upon and further develops the ideas expressed in my talk in the conference „Altertumswissenschaft in a Digital Age: Egyptology, Papyrology” held on the 5th of November 2015 in Leipzig (Germany). In this conference, my talk, which was part of Research Area 4: How to Impact Society? Citizen Science and Public Engagement, was focused only on the textual heritage and the case of papyri and papyrology in Egypt.  A first draft of this paper is published digitally in the proceeding of the conference, edited by Berti, Monica and Franziska Naether, and to be consulted through this URL: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:15-qucosa-201593 .



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