SEX, GENDER, AND SCIENCE IN ANCIENT GREECE
Sex and gender are problematic concepts in contemporary scholarship, and we should expect them to be even more so when speaking of ancient Greece. Even the concept of science is problematic, though less so than sex and gender. ‘Sex’, used in the biological sense, is derived from French and Latin and does not appear before the 14th century CE. ‘Gender’ is also derived from French and appears first in the 14th century CE in the grammatical sense. ‘Science’ is, of course, a transliteration of a Latin expression, and when we speak of ancient science we refer to an enterprise that differs markedly from our contemporary practices.
That concepts can – indeed, must – be problematic is a good thing, however. They arise in, and are abstracted from, forms of social life. Concepts abstracted from forms of social life are often idealized, and the struggles – historical, economic, social – of some of those engaged in these forms of living are often covered over. Uncovering what abstraction has left behind allows those whose struggles have been undocumented or under-documented to challenge current forms of living, often using the very idealized concepts that a society has used to define itself. Women, people of color, and members of the LGBTqIA community can find in the study of ancient Greece – and of other ancient cultures – the origins of some of the concepts that have justified the dominant forms of western culture and colonization. Equally important, these scholars can also find that in the course of western culture these ancient concepts have often been misrepresented if not distorted, while other ancient concepts have been overlooked if not rejected. It is hoped that this conference will shed light on the concepts and forms of life in Ancient Greece that have given rise to our concepts of sex, gender, and science as well as those that resist contemporary classifications.