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Classics Speaker: Dr. Kevin Solez

When:
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
4:45 PM – 5:45 PM
Where:
Sir John A. Macdonald Hall
Room: 4
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Description:

Dr. Kevin Solez
MacEwan University

Odysseus in Montreal.
The ethnographic gaze of Homeric epic and Jesuit missionaries.

In my 2018 book chapter “The feast and commensal politics: Ancient Greek prefigurations of anthropological concerns,” I argued that the Homeric poems are a little-understood influence on those who first observed and described the Indigenous peoples of Canada.With this paper I develop the argument, defining the characteristics of Homeric ethnography and showing the intellectual habits of Jesuit missionaries to seek exemplars in Homer and to cite the poems. There is a significant disjunction between Homer’s Odysseus and the Odysseus imagined by Jesuit missionaries, and though the Odyssey is held up as an example of ethnographic investigation, the Iliad is sited much more often. Even though the Jesuits imagine an Odysseus very different than is presented in the Odyssey, Homeric ethnography contains two ideas that influenced the missionaries. The first is the idea that one can go back in time by traveling. The second is the idea that cultural difference is marked by abhorrent culinary practices, including cannibalism. These ideas that are found in Homer are characteristic of missionaries and motivated some of the most destructive Canadian policies against Indigenous peoples. 

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