The purpose of the group is to bring together those scholars in the field who are working in various ways on social justice, using Classics. This work is a form of outreach that brings Classics out of the academy and returns it to the least privileged in our society; we seek to draw together those trained in our field who are in some cases giving intellectual life-lines to those in nearly hopeless situations: the incarcerated, veterans, and children with least access to quality education. Each of these has so many underexplored dimensions and is too little visible at the SCS even though many individuals in the discipline are doing such work. Our goal is to create a dialogue about how Classicists and their students are using Classics, texts, traditions, and receptions, to address problems of inequality–social, educational, economic, etc.
The group members will discuss the practicalities of their programs and the theoretical structures that could help individual practitioners and expand our field’s interaction in the world outside of academia. We envision addressing such questions as: Should we use our positions in the academy as a springboard for activism? How do we include students and still teach them? What kinds of engaged work helps us foster our communities? How can we use art as an instrument of social justice?
The Committee sees these programs as continuing the work of opening the Classics beyond the elite; at the same time, advancing the discipline by showing the importance of a liberal education in the 21st century: the role of Classics in these marginalized settings gives new evidence of its value. By drawing into the field voices that have previously not been part of it, Classics as a discipline stands to benefit greatly. Invigorating new perspectives on Classical texts emerge from this work outside the traditional classroom. Thus, our discussions include the ways in which teaching outside the academy changes us as educators and how we see our profession.
Many in the teaching professions are beginning to wonder how we can call attention to the fundamental inequality between those who receive an education and those who do not and the role that this inequality plays in the problem of mass incarceration, and what we can do to help mend this inequality. The work of a Committee on Classics and Social Justice can advance that conversation and potentially rehabilitate our field — by establishing real connections to the communities outside of the academy in which Classics is very much alive and proving practically useful — just as much as it considers how we as Classicists can offer something to the rehabilitation of those in difficult life circumstances.