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CRASIS Annual Meeting & Masterclass - "Motivation & Causality"

The 7th Annual Meeting & Master Class will be themed “Motivation and Causality.” We are very pleased to announce that John Ma, professor of Classics at Columbia University (New York) will be this year’s keynote and master. He will give a lecture entitled ‘ Motivation and institutional lock-in: causality in the history of the Greek city’ .

Click to view a larger version. Poster design by Caroline van Toor
Click to view a larger version. Poster design by Caroline van Toor

The official programme and abstracts for the Annual Meeting can be found here.

On the theme: Motivation & Causality

Discourses of motivation and causality are so basic to the study of the ancient world (Graeco-Roman, Mediterranean, Near Eastern) that they are hardly (if ever) addressed explicitly. Yet if we start thinking about motivation and causality in relation to the ancient world and attempt to determine what the meaning and impact of these concepts are it is difficult to formulate a clear answer. Therefore, the seventh CRASIS Annual Meeting/Master Class aims to explore these fundamental concepts both within the ancient world itself as well as in contemporary approaches to the ancient world.

The study of motivation and causality in the ancient world is pursued in many forms, from the study of individuals and their motivations to large-scale social, economic, political, and institutional processes. Why did ancient individuals and groups of people do what they did? How did they motivate important decisions, and how did they explain the causality behind such decisions? What were the driving forces (e.g. military, economic, religious, philosophical) that led to the making of certain decisions both in relation to groups and individuals, and how do we isolate and study these forces? Was agency located at the individual or at the communal and institutional level? Where and when can we find important shifts in how ancient people approached decision-making in terms of expediency, egoism, practicality, profit, tradition, culture, or honor?

A fundamental question is how scholarly models of explanation relate to the explanatory models that were used in antiquity. Which shifts can we detect in the study of the ancient worlds in the past few decades? How can we explain these shifts, and how does this influence our research results? What role, if any, should categories and discourses as found in ancient literary, epigraphic, and material sources play in our analysis, over against our own questions, categories, and models? Should scholars studying the ancient world worry about anachronism?

Keynote Speaker and Master

This year’s Master and Keynote Speaker is John Ma , Professor of Classics at Columbia University. His expertise spans a broad range of topics relating to the handling of epigraphic and archaeological evidence, and the study of the legal, social and economic history of the ancient Greek world including the Near East. One of his most influential publications is his monograph Statues and Cities: Honorific Portraits and Civic Identity in the Hellenistic World (2013; rev. ed. 2015).

Abstract of the keynote:

Why do people do what they do? The answer to this question is even more difficult to give for the past: why did ancient Greek cities go to war? "Fear, honour, profit": can we go beyond nominalism? Why did rich citizens repeatedly perform acts that seem to go against their economic self-interest, by exposing themselves to public claims on their surplus? This phenomenon, termed "euergertism" in modern scholarship, received a classic treatment by P. Veyne, in his Le Pain et le Cirque (1977) and in his earlier epistemological essay, Comment on écrit l'histoire (1971): Veyne's answer is that it matters less to explain the phenomenon's causes than describe it in its singularity. How well has this strategy aged? A host of interpretive changes, at the micro- and the macro- level, might force us to rethink euergetism: what are the consequences for our understanding of motivation and causality, especially in an age where economic rationality and institutional arrangements have re-emerged as major features in historical explanation for the field of ancient history? And the answer elaborated for the testcase of euergetism might further help us understand such items of behaviour in ancient Greek history as inter-polis conflict, or the emergence of state institutions in the archaic polis.

Practicalities & Registration

The Annual Meeting on February 23rd is open to the public and takes place in the Courtroom of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies ( Oude Boteringestraat 38 ).The venue is easily reached on foot (ca. 20 minutes) or by bus (bus stop at Grote Markt or Oude Ebbingestraat) from the Groningen central railway station.

If you wish to attend, please register before the end of February 16th by sending an e-mail to Crasis. State your name, affiliation, food allergies, and also let us know if you are a (PhD-)student to qualify for a student discount. The conference fee can be paid in cash (preferably exact) upon arrival on the conference day.

The attendance fee includes coffee, tea and refreshments throughout the day, as well as lunch and the wine reception. If you wish to attend the conference (buffet) dinner afterwards, we ask an extra contribution. Attending only the keynote lecture is free of charge and registration is not required.

Attendance fee regular


Attendance fee (PhD-)students


Conference dinner (optional)


Keynote lecture by John Ma

free entrance

Laatst gewijzigd:12 maart 2018 09:53