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Center for Armenian Studies Events

For previous years' guest speakers and topics, please visit the Center for Armenian Studies poster and flyer archive.

We also encourage you to check out a selection of CAS video recordings on our Videos of Past Events page and on our YouTube channel.

CAS Workshop | Negotiating “Ambiguous Race”: Hierarchies of Citizenship and Belonging in the Empires of the Ancient Mediterranean

February 23-24, 2023
Friday, February 24, 2023
9:00 AM-3:00 PM
Room 555 Weiser Hall Map
If you wish to attend via Zoom, please register at

In the second book of the Annals, the Roman historian Tacitus describes the Armenians as an ambigua gens - an “ambiguous race.” According to Tacitus, not only did Armenia defy definition, but its volatile political history between Rome and Persia reflected the inherent ambiguity of the Armenian gens. Neither Roman nor Persian, Greek nor barbarian, Armenia simply did not fit into one of the established hierarchies the Romans used to order their world and to situate their subjects within the existing hierarchies of their empire.

By drawing the experiences of Armenians into dialogue with other minoritized populations in the Roman empire, Sasanian Persia, and other empires of the Mediterranean, this workshop explores how hierarchies of citizenship, race, and belonging functioned as technologies of imperial rule across a variety of case studies. In particular, it seeks to contribute to critical conversations on the study of race in the ancient and late ancient Mediterranean, thereby shedding light on the ways in which imperial subjects fashioned their individual and communal subjectivities both diachronically and synchronically.

How, then, might the “ambiguity” of the Armenian ambigua gens illuminate not only the experiences of empire, but also the ontology of empires themselves in the premodern Mediterranean? How did imperial hierarchies of citizenship and belonging shape daily life at the center and on the periphery? And how did imperial subjects engage with, manipulate, or even reject these imperial hierarchies in order to navigate their place in their local and supra-local imperial contexts? This workshop brings together scholars from multiple academic disciplines to reconsider the dynamics of imperialism and to propose new historical paradigms to decenter, decolonize, and deconstruct the historiography of empires in the premodern Mediterranean.

If you wish to attend via Zoom, please register at

February 23nd | Weiser Hall 555

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm Keynote Address
Dr. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Princeton University
Racialization in the Roman Empire: Dispositions and Affects

February 24rd | Weiser Hall 555

9:00 am - 10:45 am

Panel I: Whence Ambiguity?: Imperial Hierarchies and the Experiences of Empire
Respondent: Aileen Das, University of Michigan

Cliff Ando, University of Chicago
"Rome and the Peoples Without Name"

Jimmy Wolfe, University of Michigan
"An Ambiguous Race: Armenian and Assyrian Identities in Roman and
American Imperialism"

10:45 am - 11:00 am Break

11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Panel II: Racialized Paradigms and Minoritized Populations in the Ancient and Medieval Middle East
Respondent: Katherine Davis, University of Michigan

Jessie DeGrado, University of Michigan
"Ancient Alterity, Modern Racialization: Language, Culture, and the Construction of the Neo-Assyrian Empire"

Kayla Dang, St. Louis University
"The Entangled Eran: Ethnicity, Religion, and Race in Iranian Studies"

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm Lunch

1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Panel III: Visual Subjects: Art and Identity in Byzantium
Respondent: Bryan Miller, University of Michigan

Paroma Chatterjee, University of Michigan
"Image-Breaking as Otherness in Byzantium: Business as Usual?"

Christina Maranci, Harvard University
"Breaking Down Byzantium with Nerses III Catholicos (c.641 - c.661)"

This workshop is organized by James Wolfe, 2022-23 Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow (Department of History, U-M) and Michael Pifer (Department of Middle East Studies, U-M)

This event is cosponsored by the U-M Departments of Classical Studies and Middle East Studies and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Conference / Symposium
Tags: armenia, history, Near Eastern Studies
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Armenian Studies, The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Classical Studies, Department of Middle East Studies, International Institute
Upcoming Dates:
Friday, February 24, 2023 9:00 AM-3:00 PM  (Last)