Inside Out: An Introspective Look at Papyrology through its International Congresses

Research for this piece was conducted by Katherine Blouin, Usama Ali Gad and Rachel Mairs.  It is the first of a series on the data from the International Congresses of Papyrology, which will be published on Everyday Orientalism over the coming months.


(l-r Roberta Mazza, Usama Ali Gad (T-shirt: Danielle Bonneau), Katherine Blouin (T-shirt Abdalla Hassan el-Mosallamy), Rachel Mairs (T-shirt: Claire Préaux), and the backs of the heads of some esteemed colleagues. Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, August 2016.)

Like the rest of the international Classics community, we at Everyday Orientalism have been following the fallout from events at this year’s Society of Classical Studies meeting in San Diego.  (Sarah Bond has assembled a useful collection of links to accounts of, and responses to, the racist incidents here.) We stand in solidarity with colleagues who are working to make our field a more diverse community, where questions of race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are addressed openly and respectfully.

Professor Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s SCS paper ‘Racial Equity and the Production of Knowledge’ presents stark evidence on the continuing (and disproportionate) white, Anglo, male dominance among published contributors to major scholarly journals.  In the interest of contributing to this debate about the state of the field, and what we can do to bring a more diverse profile of authors to the fore, we present here some data which we have gathered from a similar exercise to Professor Padilla Peralta’s.

In 2016, we presented a panel at the 28th International Congress of Papyrologists at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona called ‘Inside Out: An Introspective Look at Papyrology through its International Congresses’. This panel was followed by a workshop at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in November 2018.  We wished to pay tribute to papyrology’s long history of inclusion and diversity (relative to the times), and suggest ways in which we could honour this history by promoting greater diversity in the future.  We collected data on speakers at 28 congresses over 86 years (1930-2016), including information on gender, nationality (of affiliation and origin), language and subject of paper.

We are not yet ready to publish our full analysis of this material – it is an enormous data-set –  but it seems an appropriate moment to make available some of our raw data, for readers interested in the history of diversity within Classics publishing.  This data is tabulated in the Excel spreadsheet linked at the foot of this post.  We assembled the data mostly from published programmes and proceedings of Congresses.  Unfortunately, especially for early Congresses, there is often little or no information surviving on participants who did not deliver a paper. We have tracked down information on speakers’ nationality of origin and professional affiliation using online biographies (Wikipedia is quite good for early period), the data service of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and library catalogues.  Where possible, we verified the professional affiliation of the speaker in the year of the congress by checking affiliations stated in their published journal articles (the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik is especially useful).  We tried not to make assumptions about nationality of birth, or gender, from the name of the speaker.

So what did we find?  Many of our findings are sadly predictable.  Male outnumbered female speakers, usually by a considerable margin, at all ICPs in the 20th century.  Where information is available on participants who did not deliver a paper, there tends to be a slightly higher percentage of women among the audience members than among the speakers.  The 21st century data shows a dramatic improvement: at the Barcelona ICP in 2016, female outnumbered male speakers for the first time.  (We think it would be premature, however, to celebrate the victory of gender equality.)

Figure 1: Numbers of male and female speakers at ICPs, 1930-2001.  (Some papers were co-authored, which is why the number of speakers is not the same as the number of talks.)

ICP Number of talks Male Speakers Female Speakers
1 (Brussels 1930) 19 15 1
2 (Leiden 1931) 30 24 2
3 (Munich 1933) 25 24 0
4 (Florence 1935) 39 39 2
5 (Oxford 1937) 64 62 3
6 (Paris 1949) 71 58 7
7 (Geneva 1952) 11 10 1
8 (Vienna 1955) 31 28 3
9 (Oslo 1958) 30 27 4
10 (Warsaw 1961) 32 28 4
11 (Milan 1965) 54 47 5
12 (Ann Arbor 1968) 66 58 9
13 (Marburg-Lahn 1971) 67 60 8
14 (Oxford 1974) 102 83 20
15 (Brussels 1978) 68 49 18
16 (NYC 1980) 102 77 27
17 (Naples 1983) 178 129 50
18 (Athens 1986) 108 78 33
19 (Cairo 1989) 79 50 33
20 (Copenhagen 1992) 96 67 29
21 (Berlin 1995) 180 125 56
22 (Florence 1998) 166 109 61
23 (Vienna 2001) 152 100 53

Figure 2 and Figure 3: Numbers and percentages of male and female speakers at ICPs, 1930-2016.  Data is also included for non-presenting participants, where available.

Barcelona Gender 1Barcelona Gender 2

The vast majority of ICPs have been held in Europe and the United States of America.  Italy has hosted the Congress four times, which will rise to five in at Lecce in 2019 (we’ll see you there!).

Figure 4: Number of congresses per country, 1930-2016.


Speakers at congresses have, however, come from a much wider range of countries.  Most speakers come from Italy: 558, then the USA: 338, Germany: 314, UK: 242, France: 207 and Belgium: 153. Egypt comes sixth with 131 speakers. The 3 Saudi Arabian speakers are mostly Egyptian scholars working in Saudi Arabian Universities. (Note that these figures refer to papers delivered, not to individuals.)

Figure 5: Speakers in ICPs from 1949-2016, according to country of affiliation.


When we come to look at membership of the Comité International de Papyrologie, the geographical coverage contracts.  47 members have come from German institutions, 38 from the USA, 37 from France, 25 from Italy, 22 from the Netherlands and 21 from the UK.  None have been from Egypt.

Figure 6: Members of the International Committee of Papyrology, according to country of affiliation, 1930-2016.


The data we present in this preliminary post is incomplete.  While the charts above for the most part cover the full period 1930-2016, the fuller tabulation of names, affiliations, paper titles, language of presentation (etc., etc.) below covers only 1930-2001.  We will make the 21st century data – as well as our analyses of the full data set – available at a later time.  In addition to the gender and affiliation of speakers, this material gives us information to explore international mobility of scholars, and shifts in dominant languages used at congresses in different periods.  All of this information is publicly available, in the published programmes and proceedings of the Congresses.

The spreadsheet containing our data from 1930 – 2001 may be downloaded here: Papyrology Congresses 1930 – 2001.  Given that it contains information on hundreds of individuals, there are bound to be some errors: any corrections will be gratefully received.

Rachel Mairs, University of Reading, UK:

Katherine Blouin, University of Toronto, Canada:

Usama Ali Gad, Ain Shams University, Egypt:

4 thoughts on “Inside Out: An Introspective Look at Papyrology through its International Congresses

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