Wednesday 25 September 2019

Introducing the Board Members of FIEC

New week, new face! This week's interview is featuring our new Secretary General, Sabine Huebner, Professor at the University of Basel:

1.     What is your current position at the University of Basel?

I hold the chair of Ancient History and I am the director of the Institute of Ancient History at the University of Basel in Switzerland. I am also currently the head of the doctoral program of the Department of Classical Civilizations in Basel. 

2.     What does your research focus on?

My research focuses on the lower social strata of the Graeco-Roman world, the ordinary men and women in their everyday life, for which documentary papyri are the most valuable sources. I have worked on classical religion, on early Christianity, on the ancient family, and on the impact of climate change on ancient societies. 

3.     What made you study the ancient world?

A road trip with my parents from North-Western Germany over the Alps to Italy when I was 12. We made stop-overs at Bologna, Firenze, Rome, Napoli and Pompei. I had just started studying Latin with a very inspiring teacher and I was in awe of the still extant material remains of the Romans who had lived 2,000 years before us. A walk over the original cobble stones of the Via Appia Antica left a particular deep impression on me. I imagined that Cicero and Caesar had walked on exactly these stones on which I was standing. I guess from that moment on it was clear that I wanted to study the ancient Romans. I fell in love with ancient Greek culture only at university, and with papyrology and the incredibly rich details papyri provide on ancient daily life even much later during my postgraduate studies.

4.     What is your job as Secretary General of the FIEC board?

As the new Secretary General I am in charge of coordinating all activities of FIEC. I also keep in touch with FIEC’s many member associations around the world. Apart from coordination and correspondence, I send out the annual report, prepare the agenda for the meetings of the FIEC board, and ensure that the meetings of the FIEC board and the general assemblies are effectively organized and minuted. I am also responsible for FIEC’s website and social media profile and last but not least, the archives of the FIEC, which go all the way back to 1948. 

5.     One of the main objectives of FIEC is to foster cooperation among classical scholars. Where do you see the future for classicists in that regard?

Classical studies are not only taught in Europe, the ancient homelands of the Greeks and Romans: Ancient Greek and Classical Latin, but also Graeco-Roman history are studied and taught around the globe from Russia to South Africa and from China to Argentina. However, the appraisal and support classical studies and classics scholars find differs very much from country to country. While Classics can build on a century-old tradition in many Western countries, the study of «Western Classics» in South-East Asia has very much evolved only in recent years. The field of classical studies has also changed in recent decades from an «elitist dinosaur» to something that embraces more diversity. Precisely in this evolution and capacity to change is where I see the future for classics.

6.     Another very important objective is to point out the relevance of classical studies to governmental authorities. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges as well as opportunities for classics?

FIEC steps up in its official capacity to national governments or university administrations for example when a chair or even an entire department of Classics is under threat. «Why Classics?» is a question that probably every classicist around the globe faces from time to time. I think it is important to make our research and teaching relevant to today’s great challenges. Already 2000 years ago people discussed social equity, questioned authority, criticized women’s oppression, and dealt with the impact of climate change. Their way of dealing with these challenges can inspire and inform us today and classicists can act as experts and facilitators of this knowledge. FIEC is there to connect classicists around the globe – because united they are stronger to fight for their cause.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Introducing the Board Members of FIEC

We are excited to introduce the Board Members of FIEC in the upcoming weeks as part of an interview series, which will give an insight into the structure and the main objectives of our Federation!
This week`s interview is featuring our new President, Gunhild Vidén, Professor emerita of the University of Göteborg:

1. What is your current position at the University of Göteborg?
I was professor of Latin until April this year. I am now emerita, but still connected to the department of Languages and Literatures.

2. What does your research focus on?
My main research interest is in history of ideas and attitudes, mentality and gender history, in my case based on literary evidence from antiquity (what is said as well as what is not said). I have studied attitudes to women in Silver Age literature, identity transition in early Christianity and attitudes to the body and physical aspects in the late Roman republic. At present I am involved in a cross disciplinary project on an early French translation of the Aeneid.

3. What made you study the ancient world?
It probably started because of my interest both in languages as such, and in history. Classical studies gave me the opportunity to combine these two things. They have continued to fascinate me through an increasing experience of how much there is to gain towards an understanding of the complexity of the world through the study of a period in time where it is still possible to get first hand knowledge and impressions of people’s thoughts and reactions. Studies of the ancient world can help us increase our understanding of human beings in different cultural and socio-economical contexts, as well as contribute to our understanding of how the world came to be what it is today. These things are crucial to finding tools to handle the problems of the world today, in combination with the insights and tools provided by the natural sciences.

4. What is your job as President of the FIEC board?
I see my main task in continuing the work of former presidents to save the classics when and where they are threatened, keep up the platform that FIEC tries to be for classicists all round the world, and find means of strengthening the collaboration between classicists across the world.

5. One of the main objectives of FIEC is to foster cooperation among classical scholars! Where do you see the future for classicists in that regard?
Cooperation has become more easy these days, with the fast communications that the internet provides and the outreach of social media. At the same time, classicists have become more specialised in later years, just as scholars within other disciplines, and there is a natural tendency that you go to conferences and look out for people who work with similar things as yourself. This is where I think FIEC has a role to play, in organizing the large congresses that encompass many parts of classical studies. It is important to make us remember that we are part of a larger whole, however tiny our own special corner of the field is.

6. Another very important objective is to point out the relevance of classical studies to governmental authorities. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges as well as opportunities for classics?
The biggest challenge at least in my own part of the world is the ignorance of the importance of humanistic competence in society, the one-eyed focus on economic capital without understanding of the need for cultural capital and the general lack of historicity. The opportunities must be created by the classicists themselves, by continuously reminding the world that we are there and we can contribute. There are many classicists who run blogs and podcasts, write articles in newspapers and magazines and contribute in other ways to keep the classics visible in the world. This work (usually carried out in the contributors’ spare time) must continue – gutta cavat lapidem.