Being Nobody? Participants

Organized by:
John Bodel (Brown University) and Walter Scheidel (Stanford University)

Keynote Speaker:
Orlando Patterson
, a historical and cultural sociologist, is John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. He previously held faculty appointments at the University of the West Indies, his alma mater, and the London School of Economics where he received his Ph.D. His academic interests include the culture and practices of freedom; the comparative study of slavery and ethno-racial relations; and the cultural sociology of poverty and underdevelopment with special reference to the Caribbean and African American youth. He has also written on the cultural sociology of sports, especially the game of cricket. Professor Patterson is the author of numerous academic papers and 5 major academic books including, Slavery and Social Death (1982); Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991); and The Ordeal of Integration (1997). A new work on the cultural aspects of poverty among disadvantaged youth is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

A public intellectual, Professor Patterson was, for eight years, Special Advisor for Social policy and development to Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica. He was a founding member of Cultural Survival, one of the leading advocacy groups for the rights of indigenous peoples, and was for several years a board member of Freedom House, a major civic organization for the promotion of freedom and democracy around the world. The author of three novels and several short works of fiction, he has published widely in journals of opinion and the national press, especially the New York Times, where he was a guest columnist for several weeks. His columns and essays have also appeared in The Jamaican Daily Gleaner, The Times Literary Supplement, New Left Review, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New Republic, and the Washington Post. He also reviews frequently for the New York Times Book Review.

In addition to the conference at Brown, there are two other academic gatherings concerned with issues arising from Patterson’s work this year. On April 6th The Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics at Georgia State University hosted an inter-faculty conference on Patterson’s contribution to our understanding of freedom. And on May 4th, the Center for the Humanities at the City of New York Graduate Center will host an inter-disciplinary seminar on Caribbean Epistemologies to discuss Patterson’s literary and cultural works and their contribution to Caribbean thought and culture. Professor Patterson is the recipient of many awards, including the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 1991 for his book on freedom; the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award of the American Sociological Association; he was co-winner of the Ralph Bunche Award for the best book on pluralism from the American Political Science Association, and co-winner of the American Sociological Association’s 2006 prize for the best paper on culture.

He holds honorary degrees from several universities, including the University of Chicago; the University of California, Los Angeles; Boston’s Northeastern University; and La Trobe University in Australia. He was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica in 1999. Professor Patterson has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1991.


Heather D. Baker is a researcher at the University of Vienna where she is currently leading a research project on Royal Institutional Households in First Millennium BC Mesopotamia funded by the Austrian Science Fund. Having trained in both archaeology and Assyriology, she specializes in the social, political and economic history and material culture of Babylonia and Assyria in the 1st millennium BC. She is particularly interested in Babylonian urbanism and the built environment, and in the Neo-Assyrian royal palace. Recent publications include The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Part 3/II: Š-Z (Helsinki 2011).

Anthony Barbieri-Low is Associate Professor of Early Chinese History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He specializes in the social, economic, legal, and material-culture history of Ancient China, with specific interests in the social history of artisans and laborers, ancient writing systems, dynamics of empire, law and society, Chinese archaeology, and the First Emperor of China. His book, Artisans in Early Imperial China (2007) was awarded the James Henry Breasted Award of the American Historical Association and the Charles Rufus Morey Prize of the College Art Association. He is currently completing a manuscript, Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China: Translation and Study of the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts (co-authored with Robin D.S. Yates).

John Bodel is W. Duncan MacMillan II Professor of Classics and Professor of History at Brown University. He specializes in the social and cultural history of the Roman Empire and has specific interests in epigraphy, slavery, Roman religion, funerals and burial customs, ancient writing systems, and Latin prose literature. His books include Highways, Byways, and Road Systems in the Pre-Modern World (co-edited with S. E. Alcock and R. J. A. Talbert, 2012), Dediche sacre nel mondo Greco-Romano: Diffusione, funzioni, tipologie (co-edited with M. Kajava, 2009), and Household and Family Religion in Antiquity: Contextual and Comparative Perspectives (co-edited with S. Olyan, 2008).

Indrani Chatterjee is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, where she teaches South Asian history. Among her areas of interest are the histories of households, gender history and slavery. Her publications include Gender, Slavery and the Law in Colonial India (1999), Unfamiliar Relations (edited, 2004), Slavery and History of South Asia (coedited with Richard Eaton, 2007). Currently, she awaits the publication of her next monograph titled Forgotten Friends: Monks, Marriages and Memory Across Northeast India.

Stanley L. Engerman is John H. Munro Professor of Economics and Professor of History at the University of Rochester and Visiting Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Among his publications are Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (co-authored with Robert W. Fogel); Economic Development of the Americas since 1500: Institutions and Endowments (co-authored with Kenneth L.Sokoloff); co-editor with Seymour Drescher of A Historical Guide to World Slavery; and co-editor with David Eltis of The Cambridge World History of Slavery, Volume 3, AD1420 to AD1804.

Junia Furtado is Professor of Modern History at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais/Brazil. She earned her Ph.D. in Social History at the Universidade de São Paulo. In spring 2001 she was Visiting Professor in the Department of History at Princeton University, and she currently holds the Joaquim Nabuco Chair in Brazilian Studies for visiting scholars at Stanford University. She has written several books and articles about colonial Brazil and slavery, notably Chica da Silva: A Brazilian Slave of the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2009), which, in its Brazilian edition, won the honor of Best Book in Brazilian Literature, Casa de las Américas 2004.

Sandra E. Greene is Professor of African History at Cornell University. She is the author of numerous articles in various journals and edited collections as well as the author of three books: Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast (Heinemann, 1996), Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter (Indiana, 2002), and West African Narratives of Slavery (Indiana, 2011). This most recent book examines a life history, two biographies, a diary and an oral tradition for what they can tell us about how Africans choose to remember and forget their experiences with slavery in West Africa. She is also the editor of African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade with Martin Klein and Alice Bellagamba (Cambridge, forthcoming). In addition to writing and teaching courses on African history, she has served in a number of administrative positions including a term as President of the African Studies Association.

Kyle Harper is an Assistant Professor of Classics and Letters at the University of Oklahoma. He specializes in the social and economic history of the high and later Roman Empire. His first book, Slavery in the Late Roman World, appeared in 2011 from Cambridge University Press. His second, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, is under contract with Harvard University Press.

Michael McCormick is the Goelet Professor of Medieval History at Harvard University. His recent monographs incorporate archaeology and new natural scientific findings on the economic conditions of the collapse of the Roman Empire and the early reorganization of the European economy (Origins of the European Economy. Communications and Commerce, A.D. 300-900, 2001) and publish an almost unknown survey of the Christian church in the Holy Land organized by Charlemagne (Charlemagne’s Survey of the Holy Land: Wealth, Personnel and Buildings of a Mediterranean Church between Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 2011). His recent research brings advances in the natural sciences to bear on the material evidence of the late Roman and medieval past, including the molecular archaeology of diet, migration, and disease in ancient and medieval populations; the history of the climate and natural environment; and the application of artificial intelligence techniques to late Latin literature.

Joseph C. Miller is the T. Cary Johnson, Jr., Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He trained as a historian of early Africa at the University of Wisconsin. His first book, Kings and Kinsmen (1976) explored the political context of Angola at the beginning of European slaving there, and his Way of Death (1988) set the political economy of western central Africa in the context of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. He compiled the annual bibliographies of slavery in Slavery & Abolition (1980-2004) in preparation for a survey world history of slavery, gradually reassessing the initial comparative conceptual framework. The resulting epistemological reflections have just appeared as, The Problem of Slavery as History (Yale, 2012); the eventual book-length interpretive essay, Slaving and World History (Oxford) remains (productively) in preparation. Miller was president of the American Historical Association in 1998 and of the African Studies Association in 2006-07.

Eve M. Troutt Powell teaches the history of the modern Middle East. As a cultural historian, she emphasizes the exploration of literature and film in her courses. She is the author of A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain and the Mastery of the Sudan (University of California, 2003) and the co-editor, with John Hunwick, of The African Diaspora in the Mediterranean Lands of Islam (Princeton Series on the Middle East, Markus Wiener Press, 2002). She has also written a number of articles on the history of African slavery in the Nile valley, and on Saint Josephine Bakhita, a former Sudanese slave canonized in 2000. Troutt Powell received her B.A, M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has received fellowships from the American Research Center in Egypt and the Social Science Research Council, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2003 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Her new book, Tell This in my Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan and the Ottoman Empire, is forthcoming in the fall of 2012 with Stanford University Press.

Walter Scheidel is Dickason Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University. His research focuses on ancient social and economic history, pre-modern demography, and comparative and transdisciplinary approaches to the past. He is the author or (co-)editor of 13 books including, most recently, the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy (CUP 2012).