Direkt zum InhaltDirekt zur SucheDirekt zur Navigation
▼ Zielgruppen ▼


Conference: Globalizing Classics

September 4–5, Senatssaal, Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin


Globalizing Classics Flyer Front Globalizing Classics Flyer Back


















The Classics have become increasingly global in their scope, and this in two senses. On the one hand, “the Classics” have expanded to include canonical texts and artefacts of non-Western culture. On the other hand, Classics as an academic discipline has established itself in the educational institutions of many non-Western cultures. In this conference, we invited scholars from several disciplines and cultures to reflect on the globalization of Classics in both of these senses: as an expansion of the scope of the Classics as object of study beyond Greece and Rome, and the globalization of the academic study of Graeco-Roman antiquity itself.

Leading scholars from various parts of the world addressed questions such as the following: How has globalization influenced the way people look at the Graeco-Roman world today, both in its own right and in comparison to other pre-modern civilizations? To what extent has globalization changed and challenged the traditional Western outlook on the Classics, in which Graeco-Roman culture was viewed as the cradle of humanity and civilization and as a key component of Western cultural identity? What contribution has the study of Classics in other, non-Western parts of the world made to this process? How is the study of the Classics organized, institutionalized and positioned within the cultural field in different parts of the world, both within universities and in other social and cultural contexts, how are these differences to be explained and what can be learned from these differences for the study of the Graeco- Roman world?

Globalizing Classics

Comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of pre-modern cultures have done much to put Greek and Roman Classics in a larger context, expanding the notion of Classics to include pre-modern contexts beyond the Mediterranean. The disciplinary split with regard to the study of pre-modern cultures whereby the study of Classical antiquity was divided among Classical disciplines, and other pre-modern culture was divided among area studies and anthropology, seems itself increasingly antiquated. A global approach to pre-modern culture is thus required if we wish to integrate the study of pre-modern culture without regard to its origin. But this raises difficult questions on the border of the several established disciplines: Is there a proper methodology for the exegesis of pre-modern texts and images? Can there be an integrated theory of pre- modern society? Do comparisons between the artefacts and structures of widely different pre-modern cultures conceal more than they reveal? These are some of the methodological questions we considered in sections on the globalization of ancient history and the history of philosophy and science.

The search for an integrated multi-disciplinary and global approach to Classics is motivated in part by a comparative turn in various thriving area disciplines. There is as much or more specialized interest in the canonical texts of e.g. Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese and Indian cultures in the scholarly community as there has ever been. These texts, however, have long since been the objects of practices of canonical textual study in their cultures of origin. But interest in the texts and history of non-Western traditions has not always coincided with an appreciation for, or even awareness of, the learned practices which preserved and transformed these texts throughout their transmission history. We sought to direct attention to such learned practices of canonical texts by considering them within two particular cultures in which they have a very long and diverse history: China and India.

Classics globalized

The global reception of Classical Greek and Roman culture is a fact seldom reflected upon by Classicists. Yet both the Classics as a discipline and as object of study have decisively influenced the self-understanding of non-Western cultures. This is part of the history of the globalization of Classics as a discipline, a history that was explored in our conference through cases such as the reception of ancient Greek philosophy in non- Western thought.

The globalization of Classics presents some political and cultural challenges confronted in the institutions that are so decisive for creating cultural canons and “Classics”: the museums. Our conference hosted a panel of museum directors and politicians to discuss the Humboldt Forum, a project conceived to inhabit a newly reconstructed city palace in the heart of Berlin. The final shape of this largest endeavour in cultural politics is not yet clear, but the Humboldt Forum is intended to prominently feature selected pieces of the ethnographic collections of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz. The on- going debate concerning the proper use of these collections in the heart of a European capital touches upon issues concerning cultural identity and appropriation, issues imminently relevant to the consideration of Classics. As one of the participating institutions in this political and cultural endeavour, the Humboldt-Universität has an active interest in the cultivation of a dialogue on the political and cultural implications of the globalization of Classics. The panel dedicated to this topic served this end.



Globalizing Classics September 4–5, 2015


Friday, September 4, 2015



10.00: Welcome and Introduction: 

Philip van der Eijk (Humboldt University Berlin)

Colin Guthrie King (Providence College/Humboldt University Berlin)


VIDEO Welcome and Introduction



The Classics in India, Indian Classics

Chair: Christopher Minkowski (University of Oxford)

10.20: Introduction by the chair

10.40: Himanshu Prabha Ray (Chairperson, National Monuments Authority, Government of India): Archaeology of the Greeks in India


VIDEO Archaeology of the Greeks in India



11.40: Short break

12.00: Jonardon Ganeri (New York University): The Indian Classics de-classified

13.00: Lunch break


VIDEO The Indian Classics de-classified



The Classics in China, Chinese Classics

Chair: Wiebke Denecke (Boston University)

14.30: Introduction by the chair

15.00: Jinyu Liu (Shanghai Normal University/DePauw University): Graeco-Roman 'Classics' in China. From 'Classics' without Philology to Classics with Philology


VIDEO Graeco-Roman 'Classics' in China. From 'Classics' without Philology to Classics with Philology



16.00: Short break

16.15: Michael Puett (Harvard University): On the making of Chinese Classics

17.15: Break


VIDEO On the making of Chinese Classics



Panel on the Humboldt-Forum

Moderator and chair: Johan Schloemann (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

18.00: Introduction by the moderator

18.15: Short statements by the panellists:

Hermann Parzinger (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz)

Sven Sappelt (Humboldt University Berlin)

Jaś Elsner (University of Oxford)

20.00: Reception


VIDEO Humboldt-Forum



Saturday, September 5, 2015



Globalizing ancient history

Chair: Aloys Winterling (Humboldt University Berlin)

10.00: Introduction by the chair

10.20: Peter Fibiger Bang (University of Copenhagen), Walter Scheidel (Stanford University): The Graeco-Roman world and the challenge of world history


VIDEO The Graeco-Roman world and the challenge of world history



11.20: Short break

11.40: Kurt Raaflaub (Brown University): Globalizing the Study of Ancient Political Thought: Early Greece and Early China

12.40: Lunch break


VIDEO Early Greece and Early China



Globalizing the history of images

Chair: Jaś Elsner (University of Oxford)

14.00: Introduction by the chair

14.20: Finbarr Barry Flood (New York University): Iconoclasms and Image Theories: Comparative Perspectives

15.20: Short break


VIDEO Iconoclasms and Image Theories: Comparative Perspectives



Globalizing the history of philosophy and science

Chair: Philip van der Eijk (Humboldt University Berlin)

15.40: Introduction by the chair

16.00: Noburu Notomi (Keio University): Ancient Greek philosophy in Japan


VIDEO Ancient Greek philosophy in Japan



17.00: Short break

17.15: Short statements by the chair and panelists, concluding discussion


VIDEO Short statements