Trade and Taboo
Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean
University of Michigan Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network August 12, 2017 Kristian Petersen
Dominant social norms and expectations shape how individuals and their public activities are understood. In Roman antiquity, various shifts influenced the production and dissolution of prejudices towards certain types of occupations. In Trade and Taboo: Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean (University of Michigan Press, 2016), Sarah Bond, Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Iowa, explores the legal, social, and literary modes of persecution and stigmatization of unseemly occupations and voluntary associations. One’s membership in Roman society was often regulated through reputation and social position. Criers, funerary workers, and tanners were among the many trades that were viewed as unwholesome, marginalizing these individuals from the broader community. Over time there were shifts in social perceptions of certain types of work, often catalyzed by religious communities. In our discussion we talked about taboos as an analytical category, reading soundscapes in ancient texts, views of death, corpses, and pollution, the social context of tanners and their odors, mint workers and state labor, bakers and sensual trades, gladiators, archeological topography, the role of Christian and Jewish communities in shaping social norms, and maybe surprisingly, rednecks, the field of Classics, blogging, how to do good public scholarship, the Women of Ancient History database, and how walls embody emotions of fear.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at [email protected].