Full Statement of Purpose

The Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group unites UCSB faculty and graduate students with common research interests in the history of Mediterranean antiquity, broadly conceived. Borderlands, of course, are frontier zones lying along boundaries, limits beyond which something—a discipline, an ethnic group, a “nation”—transforms into something else. For us, highlighting the concept of “borderlands” draws attention both to our research interests and to our approach in pursuing them. Whether we are studying the diverse ethnicities that populated the Mediterranean from the Bronze Age through Late Antiquity, exploring the region’s patchwork of religious creeds and rituals, or analyzing the operation, influence and evolution of its various political factions, our sense is that the most rigorous form of scholarly inquiry does not accept these groups as “natural” or “inevitable,” but rather investigates the process by which these groups define, create and maintain their identities over time. The creation of boundaries, in other words, is a dynamic activity that can be reflected, not only by changes in material culture, but also in the rhetorical strategies adopted by ancient authors and the political tactics pursued by those seeking power—just to cite a few examples. As members of several departments, including Classics, History and Religious Studies, we are also interested in challenging the disciplinary boundaries between us, believing that we have much to learn from one another—whether as general scholars of antiquity or as representatives of different modes of inquiry. Although our RFG draws its inspiration from the seminal work of Fredrik Barth and contemporary borderlands historians, we are interested in exploring a wide variety of methodological approaches.

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