he Center for Ancient Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is proud to present our 13th annual Graduate Student Conference, “Borders and Boundaries in the Ancient World.” The conference will be held in person at the University of Pennsylvania from Friday April 29th-Saturday April 30th. In addition to further in-person submissions, the conference is also welcoming submissions from those who wish to present remotely, via Zoom, for an overall hybrid format.

Please be aware that the University is requiring full vaccination, including a booster, for entry into campus buildings; additionally, double-masking will be required indoors. We will continue to monitor the public health situation closely to protect the health and safety of all participants.
We are also pleased to announce that our keynote speaker will be Dr. Solange Ashby (UCLA).
In recent years, questions about identity have proven deeply provocative to scholars working in both contemporary social contexts and the ancient world. Arguably, it is impossible to conceive of identity without boundaries. What separates one identity from another? Physical borders, fortified to a greater or lesser extent, separate states, and this inevitably impacts the social and economic life of their inhabitants. But the way such political borders are conceptualized also has a profound effect on the self-understanding of those participating in cultural discourses. As examples, we may take the self-presentation of ancient Mesopotamian rulers as “king[s] of lands,” or “of the four corners of the earth,” or Roman notions of an “imperium sine fine.”
Yet it is not only political borders that shape our internal categorizations, and hence comprehension, of the world around us. What does it mean, for both the individual and the community, to pass from boyhood to manhood, or from girlhood to womanhood? What boundaries lie between sacred and profane space, and why are these thresholds laid out in particular ways in different contexts? What differentiates rural from urban space, and why? What markers are emphasized when drawing boundaries between ethnic identities? When, where, and why do such ethnic identities mingle, fuse, or refuse to do so? All of these questions are vital for understanding how we map and navigate the world we live in, and have been so since ancient times. This conference invites graduate students from across disciplines related to ancient studies to explore the wide variety of productive questions raised by considering borders and boundaries. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- Political, social, and economic development in border zones between states.
- The delineation of sacred space, and its contrast with the profane.
- Coming of age rituals as the boundaries between childhood and adulthood.
- Citizenship and non-citizenship in ancient societies.
- Boundaries between urban and rural space, or within urban space.
- Cultural border regions, zones of interaction and hybridity, and so called “middle grounds.”
- Cross-fertilization between cultural groups in intellectual, artistic, and religious history.
We welcome papers from a variety of disciplines, and encourage submissions from all geographic and temporal corners of ancient studies, broadly construed. One of the key objectives of this conference is to encourage fruitful, professional interaction and collaboration between students and young scholars in ancient studies who otherwise have limited opportunity to be stimulated by one another’s work due to disciplinary boundaries.
Please send abstracts of up to 250 words for a 20 minute presentation in PDF format to no later than March 10, 2022. Please include your name and institutional affiliation in the body text of your email. Notifications will be given to all applicants no later than 3/20.
If you have any questions regarding the conference, please contact the chair of the organizing committee, Kyle West, at the same email address above.