RU’s David Wright traces the origins of the new Multiculturalism, Race & Ethnicity in Classics Consortium (MRECC)

October 2016 saw the founding of a new professional organization within the field of ancient Mediterranean studies. The acronym is MRECC: Multiculturalism, Race & Ethnicity in Classics Consortium.

Nemrut Dağ (Turkey): the tomb-sanctuary of Antiochus I (69–34 BCE) of Commagene. Credit: Bill Ray/LIFE/Google Arts & Culture

The goal of MRECC? To promote and support the study of multiculturalism, race, and ethnicity in classics and classical archaeology—at all levels. How? By facilitating discussion and establishing a supportive network of international scholars, who approach these questions from any number of perspectives, including those of classical languages, literatures, material culture, and pedagogy. An additional, important aim is to increase the diversity of students, staff, and faculty within the professional world of Classics.

The faculty and graduate students who got the ball rolling come from six different US institutions, three private and three public—Bates, Hamilton and Cornell, Georgia, Wisconsin and Rutgers. In just six short months, MRECC has grown to include over 340 students, staff, faculty, and independent researchers from a variety of backgrounds and institutions worldwide. As the MRECC website plainly states, the new consortium “is open to everyone who shares in our mission”. To join (it’s free), one simply fills out a short MRECC registration form.

For MRECC, its website explains “multiculturalism, race, and ethnicity is central but intersectionality with gender, sexual orientation, and all matters of identity are welcome.” As for future plans, “it is our hope…to set up panels, publications, and an annual conference as we grow our affiliation with other established classics organizations.”

Nemrut Dağ (Turkey): the tomb-sanctuary of Antiochus I (69–34 BCE) of Commagene. Credit: Bill Ray/LIFE/Google Arts & Culture

MRECC is currently run by the six original founding members who now constitute the Executive Board. We talked to one of them, Rutgers PhD candidate David Wright, who is spending part of this spring at the American Academy in Rome as a Rutgers Classics Affiliated Fellow.

So how precisely did MRECC start?

DAVID WRIGHT: Here’s the gist. Like so many others in this field, I have long noticed that Classics has severely lacked diversity, and I have often wondered why there weren’t any Classics groups devoted to combating this issue and supporting classicists of color. As it happens, my friend and colleague Kelly Dugan was thinking along the same lines about the need for a group that promotes underrepresented voices in Classics. Kelly had reached out via email to the renowned Shelley Haley, then put out a Facebook post about potentially starting an organization. I jumped on the chance to get involved. Within three days, we had set up an official MRECC Facebook page and began building the foundations of the organization.

What then?

DAVID WRIGHT: So we started the conversation as a Facebook page. There we discussed our vision for the goals of a group like this, which are still evolving and will continue to be shaped by MRECC members. Through the beauty of social media, this group has acquired over 340 members since its founding in October 2016 and we are so excited to see this community keep growing. The amazing work done by inspiring organizations like the Women’s Classical Caucus and the Lambda Classical Caucus has laid the groundwork for underrepresented groups to have a greater voice in this field that we all know and love. Like anything else in the world, a diverse array of backgrounds and opinions forges a more fruitful learning environment. We hope that this caucus will ignite a conversation about changing the field of Classics for the better.

Nemrut Dağ (Turkey): the tomb-sanctuary of Antiochus I (69–34 BCE) of Commagene. Credit: Bill Ray/LIFE/Google Arts & Culture

And what next?

DAVID WRIGHT: We recently launched a website to reach out to those not on Facebook. We are now on our way to gaining an affiliation with the Society for Classical Studies and hopefully developing annual panels, conferences, and potentially an e-journal. Free membership in the MRECC comes with the option to receive email updates and invites to present on MRECC panels and collaborate with other scholars. Donations are welcome and completely optional.

And we suspect that soon there will be lots more news concerning MRECC! Thanks Dave—and enjoy your time at the American Academy in Rome!

Rutgers PhD candidate and MRECC co-founder David Wright at the American Academy in Rome, 14 March 2017


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