Premodern Race Seminar


Monday, September 26, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Barker Center, Plimpton Room (# 133), 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Open to Harvard faculty, gradaute students, and senior undergraduates. 

The Premodern Race Seminar is an interdisciplinary workshop with three primary goals:

1) To give faculty and graduate students who study the premodern past a space for structured conversation and reading on issues of race, racial identity, racialization, and racism as these bear on our disciplines, not only as historical phenomena but as part of our collective institutional histories.

2) To consider ways to bring these issues into our research, teaching, and departmental and wider institutional activities, as forgotten or suppressed aspects of the past and our inherited ways of studying it, and as topics of urgent current import.

3) To use our discussions to build a new sense of our disciplines and the relationships among them.


PRS is run according to the following principles:

  • From its inception, we wanted to open a space where faculty and graduate students could learn together through interdisciplinary dialogue. There is no expectation that anyone in the seminar should have expertise in the topics we discuss, nor are we attempting to work through a comprehensive bibliography on race in the premodern world. 
  • While we are all in PRS in, to some degree, a “student” capacity, we recognize that preexisting hierarchies within the university cannot easily disappear. We ask faculty to be mindful of the space they are taking up in the conversation and the authority they may be felt to hold by others in the room (which may seem to them unrealistic or disproportionate), and to allow graduate students to lead the conversation. The moderator of the week will be responsible for prioritizing graduate students’ voices. We want to cultivate a space of mutual trust, respect, and intellectual generosity to promote exploration and dialogue. 
  • PRS is not a course and therefore cannot appear on graduate students’ transcripts. While we recognize that who is in the room will fluctuate based on the topic and other commitments, we hope that a core group will attend regularly and find PRS to be an important intellectual home. Any graduate students who want to have that reflected in their record should contact any of the faculty organizers, who would be happy to email their PhD supervisors with a few lines to be inserted into a reference letter.


The seminar organizers for the 2022-23 academic year are Sean Gilsdorf, Rachel Love, Dan Smail, Nicholas Watson, Naomi Weiss, and Anna Wilson.

In the 2022 Fall Semester we will meet 12-1pm on alternating Mondays. Meetings will be in person. The meetings dates are:

Sept. 12, Sept. 26, Oct. 17, Oct. 24, Nov. 7, Nov. 21

For more information, please click here. 

Any questions? Email


The FAS Premodern Race Seminar is supported by the Provostial Fund, Ancient Studies, the Department of the Classics, and the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies.