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On the Road : Mobility and Social Differentiation

An online talk by:
Dr. Claudia Moatti
Professor, Université Paris 8 and University of Southern California

*co-sponsored by the UBC Centre for Migration Studies' Mobilities Group and the UBC Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies

Friday, February 19, 2021
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (PST)

[ Abstract ]
Based on examples taken from different periods of history, but mainly from the Roman period, this lecture proposes some insights on the social use of the road and the experience of mobility. Who was found on the roads in the ancient societies, and how did the meeting between the different social categories take place? According to what criteria were routes chosen or even imposed: rank, class, gender or function? What objects did the travelers take with them? What knowledge was accessible? And for what purpose, with what imaginary was the road taken? Since antiquity, novels have taken the road as a privileged setting because it embodied the place par excellence where people normally separated by social hierarchy or by space could meet and at the same time ostentatiously display social division, where destinies mingled and intrigues were woven. It is up to the historian to reread these narratives in the light of other sources, to put mobility to the test of social differentiation, and, beyond a study of practices, to pose the question of spatial justice. Although space is naturally common, it is often "qualified" by the people who move in it and access to it can be the subject of tension and conflict, even abuse of power.

[ Bio ]
Claudia Moatti is professor at the Paris 8 University (France) and at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles). She has studied the intellectual transformations of the Roman society at the end of the Republic (The Birth of Critical Thinking in Republican Rome, Cambridge University Press, 2015 = Paris, 1997), the Roman notion of res publica (Res publica, Paris, 2018) and the control of human mobility in the Roman Empire. This last research developed within a broader international program she has been heading, La mobilité des personnes en Méditerranée, de l’Antiquité à l’époque moderne. Procédures de contrôle et documents d’identification which culminated in three edited volumes. Her current book projects concern Migration, mobility and the Law in the Roman world, and the experience of mobility in the Ancient world.