Department of Greek & Latin


Citizenship in Classical Antiquity: current perspectives and challenges

International conference

The Department of Greek and Latin, University College London, in co-operation with the Department of Classical Philology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

1-3 July 2019
University College London

What did citizenship mean in the ancient world, why was it important, and why should it matter to us today? Citizenship has been defined as ‘both a set of practices cultural, symbolic and economic) and a bundle of rights and duties (civil, political and social) that define an individual’s membership in a polity’ (Isin & Wood 1999, Citizenship & Identity), and has existed in various forms since antiquity, holding complex resonances up to the present day. Depending on the socio-political context, a person’s citizenship may be a matter of territorial belonging or blood descent; it may offer privileged or exclusive access to resources or participation in communal decision-making; it may provide a sense of group belonging that can be productive and rewarding, but such identification may also be open to discursive redefinitions and manipulation, primarily in public political debate. Citizenship may be connected to certain civic values, though how these are realised in practice may not always be simple. There are those for whom a society’s emphasis on citizenship may cause serious problems, such as stateless persons and migrants.

The immediacy of issues surrounding the concept and practice of citizenship in the modern world calls for a re-investigation of the notion in its ancient contexts. Topics of discussions include but are not limited to:

- similarities and differences across Greek, Roman, Near-Eastern, or broader Mediterranean ideas of citizenship;
- insiders’ and outsiders’ perspectives in considering what citizenship entails (emic vs etic);
- the semantics and varying definitions of ‘citizen’ and ‘citizenship’;
- the self-presentation of citizens as a privileged social group;
- citizenship, social change, and social conflict;
- citizenship and the control of resources;
- interactions between citizenship and other (group) identities;
- creating and exploiting citizen identities in discourse;
- the importance and limits of legal definitions;
- civic training and education;
- political participation and majoritarianism;
- the topicality or inapplicability of classical paradigms.

This three-day conference is intended to promote discussion among scholars across different disciplines working on the theme of citizenship in classical antiquity in any capacity. It will include keynote lectures by Prof. Clifford Ando (Chicago), Prof. John Davies FBA, FSA (Liverpool), Prof. Engin Isin (QMUL), Dr Catherine Neveu (CNRS-EHESS), and Prof. Josiah Ober (Stanford), and will also include a public discussion event on the evening of Tuesday 2nd July.

  • We expect to be able to offer bursaries to assist graduate students in attending the conference. Please submit an abstract of 250-350 words (excluding bibliography) for a 20-minute paper by 4 January 2019 to Jakub Filonik and Christine Plastow. An earlier expression of interest will also be welcome.

Organisers: Chris Carey (UCL), Jakub Filonik (JU), Christine Plastow (OU) and Roel Konijnendijk (Leiden), assisted by Brenda Griffith-Williams (UCL) and Joanna Janik (JU).