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23 Feb 21

How did ancient Romans negotiate their empire’s remarkable ethnic variety? Better than many modern nation-states, actually. Romans understood the pragmatic benefit of providing opportunity to constituent peoples regardless of race. On the other hand, Roman diversity was grounded in violent conquest, exploitation, and slavery. Many Romans experienced this diversity via tokens: representative humans and goods from all over the known world were assembled within local spaces such as gardens, galleries, dining rooms, bedrooms, and circuses. In this talk, Nandini Pandey explored the literary and material remnants of Roman diversity, suggesting that the spaces in which it appeared became “heterotopias,” wherein Romans learned to admire their empire’s ethnic array, manipulate it, and, ultimately, commodify it. Her exploration of these ancient practices aims at encouraging a critical reexamination of modern diversity policies.

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