Social boundaries in the Roman world

Organiser: Andrew Gardner (University College London)

Recent political events have dramatically highlighted the continual importance of boundaries and borders in the social world, from the EU referendum to the US presidential election campaign. Indeed, these are particular instances of a widespread process of ‘re-bordering’ in the contemporary world that has been taking place for some years now, and which has generated an exciting interdisciplinary academic field of ‘border studies’. While to some extent this is focused on highly specific modern concerns, it also potentially offers fresh perspectives to the well-established study of boundaries in the Roman world, particularly if we take that to mean much more than simply the archaeology of the frontiers. Indeed, we can broaden ‘border thinking’ to encompass the full range of social and conceptual boundaries which structure human life, and how these intersect and are crossed in relation to different situations and social constructions, down to the level of personhood.

Papers are invited to this session which explore such perspectives, and which draw inspiration from work in ‘border studies’ as such (e.g. Gloria Anzaldúa, David Newman), or other traditions of boundary research and their archaeological applications (e.g. Fredrik Barth, Miriam Stark). Certainly the ‘external’ boundaries of Roman power, however those are conceived, are legitimate subjects for the session, but other social boundaries – such as those of status, gender, or occupation – as well as ‘internal’ frontiers and community borders, or boundary practices at the level of the embodied person, might all be considered. Key themes upon which to focus might include strategies of boundary-making and boundary-crossing at different scales; the relationships between frontier boundaries and other forms of boundary-practice; the identities of the marginalized; transformation in social divisions over time; deep histories of boundaries in conquered territories; and the consequences of more contemporary social boundaries for the epistemology of Roman studies.



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