Words by Grace Emmett; photos by Tavis Bohlinger
(De)Constructing Masculinity, a conference exploring ancient constructions of masculinity through interdisciplinary conversations between the disciplines of Classics and Theology, took place at King’s College London at the beginning of November. In conjunction with my co-organiser, Hannah Burke-Tomlinson, it was an enormous privilege to welcome students and scholars from across the UK and further afield to join us for this unique conference.
This was the first time this conference took place and we hope to organise a similar event next year. We were grateful to receive funding from the London Arts & Humanities Partnership (LAHP) and Logos, which made the event possible.
Initially intended as a conference for postgraduate students, interest in the topic was such that we opened it up more widely and were pleased that the final programme consisted of a fairly even mixture of PhD students, early career researchers, and established academics. In addition to the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, it was encouraging to see that it also became a place for individuals at different stages of their career to meet and share ideas.
Day one featured thirteen short papers presented on topics ranging from gender-ambiguity in Sappho’s poetic fragments through to problematic sexual violence in the Babylonian Talmud. Panels were grouped around various themes to find common ground between the different disciples represented, including the perception of the male body, negotiated masculine identities, ambiguous gender performance, and the presentation of threats to masculinity by women.
Day two offered twelve short paper presentations, taking in texts such as the Homeric epics, 1 Peter, and Philonic literature. This was followed by the keynote address, given by Helen King, who is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at The Open University. She gave an inspiring presentation that neatly wove the two major disciplines represented at the conference together, rounding off the two days’ worth of papers in a suitably interdisciplinary fashion.
The conference was followed by a wine reception, which provided an opportunity to unwind after a busy schedule, and about a third of the attendees then proceeded to the local Bill’s restaurant on Kingsway for dinner. This additional social time created space for people to relax and have more informal conversations, hopefully establishing networks that will be beneficial in the months and years to come.
As PhD students organising our first event, this felt like a big undertaking in the midst of our doctoral studies. However, we were delighted by the interest it garnered and, despite the stress that inevitably comes with conference organising, we felt the event went well and were touched to receive lots of positive feedback, confirming that it had been well received by those attending. If you wish to see the entire conference program, you can access it here.
We intend to publish a volume inspired by the conference, featuring some of the papers presented alongside contributions from those who could not be there; for updates on our publishing plans, follow us on Twitter (@masculinityconf) or check our website (www.deconstructingmasculinity2018.co.uk) for the latest information.
If you are interested in contributing to a published volume on the topic of masculinity in the ancient world, please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will send you further details.
Here are some more photos from the conference: