Class, Class Consciousness and Class Identity in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (c. 3000 BCE-1000 CE)

St John’s College, Cambridge

31 January - 1 February 2020

Recent decades have witnessed an increase in the sophistication of several categories of social analysis (such as ethnicity, gender, religion, and literary education) in ancient and medieval studies. Class, on the contrary, has received significantly less attention after the 1970s, in parallel with the decline of different strands of social history. We invite speakers to revisit the category of class, now armed with the arsenal of tools that the cultural turn, feminist theory, radical race theory, and other scholarly traditions have developed over the past years. In particular, we encourage presentations that discuss how ethnicity, religion, gender, and other social categories informed, articulated, and contributed to the formation of class identity and class consciousness, two concepts that reach back to classical Weberian and Marxist sociology. Papers will discuss how these categories reinforced class hierarchies (distinction), how they created specific and multiple forms of class oppression (intersectionality), and/or how they helped articulate responses to class domination.

There is no conference fee. But if you like to attend, please email John Weisweiler ( for the purposes of coffee, catering and lunch and in order to receive the readings.

Conference in antiquity

Conference programme

Friday 31 January

Ruling Classes and Ruled Classes

(Boys Smith Room, Fisher Building)


Class Formation

9.20am            John Weisweiler (Cambridge), Welcome

9.30am            Discussion section: De Ste. Croix, Shaw, Van Wees-Fischer

10.30am         Lea Niccolai (Cambridge), Transitio ad plebem, or maybe not: Philosophy as class identity in the late antique Greek East

11.10am         Marcelo Candido da Silva (São Paulo), Karol and Sisenand: power and social mobility in early medieval Italy

11.50am         Coffee Break


Language, Law and Classification

Noon               Peter Candy (Cambridge), Class and Legal Development in the Late Republic

12.40pm         Olivia Elder (Cambridge), Language and Class in the Roman World

1.10pm           Lunch break


Class and Resistance

2.30pm           Discussion Section: Crenshaw, Haider

3.30pm           Andrew Marsham (Cambridge), Rebellions in the Nile Delta in the 8th and 9th Centuries CE

4.10pm           Coffee Break


Class and Slavery

4.25pm           Carlos García Mac Gaw (Universidad Nacional de La Plata), Class, class consciousness and identity: Comparative aspects with ancient slavery

5.05pm           Nicole Gianella (Cornell), Slaves, Luxury, and Classification


Saturday 1 February

Class Reproduction

(Lightfoot Room, Old Divinity School)


Class, Kinship and Gender

9.30am            Discussion section: Fraser, Beard

10.10am         Irene Soto Marín (Basel), Class and Female Economic Performance in Late Antique Egypt

10.40am         Damian Fernandez (Northern Illinois), Property and Family in the Visigothic Kingdom

11.20am         Coffee Break


Class Subjectivity

11.30am         Marcelo Campagno (Buenos Aires), Creating an elite in early Egypt (IV- III millennia BC)

12.10pm         Julián Gallego (Buenos Aires), The Athenian dêmos as a class, the class as a political subject

12.50pm         Final Roundtable