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My path to Classics has been twofold. Initially I came to Classics by way of my love of languages and literature: I read Fitzgerald’s Odyssey my senior year of high school and imagined myself reading it in the original. I was admitted to UMass Amherst as a Political Science major with an interest in political theory; a chance conversation during summer orientation drew my attention to the fact that Intensive Introductory Ancient Greek was being offered that Fall, and I enthusiastically enrolled. This one course became my gateway to the entire discipline: the magisterial professor who taught us completely blew my mind, and offered what remains one of the most intense, captivating, challenging, and rewarding intellectual endeavors I have experienced. The following summer I signed up for Intensive Introductory Latin, and eventually I decided to focus exclusively on Classics: I was drawn to the range and depth of the material, the rigor of instruction, and the legendary faculty in the department. I wrote my honors thesis on the poetics of Callimachus and Catullus, and by the time I graduated, I’d read Iliad 1 as well as Plato’s Apology in the original – not, as in my PoliSci courses – in translation.

I was simultaneously animated to join the field out of ideological and personal commitments: despite the fact that the rich archaeological landscape of my homeland, Lebanon, testifies to our deep Graeco-Roman (amongst other…) pasts, Lebanon and the broader Middle East have been constructed as ‘Other’ and ‘Eastern’ – with all attendant prejudices. Thus I gravitated to Classics as the discipline best suited for providing me with the historical knowledge, epistemological tools, and professional platform to contest the Eurocentric, Orientalist, or otherwise racist underpinnings of such claims, and saw the field as an ideal arena to ‘write back’ against the mobilization of the Classical tradition – whether in the academy or the public forum – as an instrument to uphold ahistorical, fallacious and essentialist constructs of race and culture, of a clash of civilizations, and of ‘East’ and ‘West’. From the outset, then, I pursued Classics as a means to learn about my own history and heritage, and to reclaim and recenter the Middle East and North Africa as integral members of the Classical world (problematic though our entangled histories may be).

My work continues to be underpinned by these various threads today. Both as a graduate student at NYU and later, I have focused on Classical rhetoric and historiography – especially Tacitus – and the literature, culture, and history of the early Roman empire. Broadly speaking, I am fascinated by language as an instrument of ideology and power: how those who are in power deploy language as a potent political tool, as well as the special power of historians (and poets) to contest and unmask these narratives by means of their own counter-discourses. Hence my love of Tacitus and all things early imperial: this pivotal moment, as Rome transitions from decaying republicanism to repressive autocracy, offers a profound case study for tracing the complex, dynamic, and mutually transformative effects of literature, culture, and politics upon one another. Relatedly, my work on Tacitus and my understanding of Greek and Roman historiographies as bound by idiosyncratic conventions brought me to comparative historiography and the theory and philosophy of history. I do not take for granted that conceptualizations of history, historians, or historical truth are monolithic, universal, and identical, but that these are authorially, temporally, and culturally specific. My work thus asks how different people across time and space understood the nature, purpose, and function of representing the past, and what their unique modes, categories, conventions, and goals were for doing so.

Both as the inaugural Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow in Social Foundations in Liberal Studies at NYU and then as Assistant Professor in Global Premodern Literatures at the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College, I have had the opportunity to live as a Generalist and to work towards expanding my own horizons as well as the boundaries of our field. Having established my Classics bona fides, I now began to pursue my secondary research agenda in earnest. Triangulating between Ancient Greek, Latin, and my native Arabic, I explore the literary and cultural interactions between the ‘Classical’ and ‘Arab’ worlds across all periods, including in the medieval and modern periods. But these posts also afforded me the opportunity to look beyond the immediate Mediterranean world: specifically hired by both interdisciplinary liberal arts departments to design self-aware curricula that teach Classics from a comparative, diachronic, and global perspective, I have offered courses that integrate Greek and Roman with pre-modern Classical traditions from Africa to China and beyond. In this way I have practiced my commitment to carrying out work that undermines (or indeed bridges) constructs of ‘East’ and ‘West’ even as I position Classics as the possession of the diverse many rather than the patrimony of the exclusive few.

After my time away from my home field, I’m immensely excited to be back in a Classics department and, especially, to be at Carolina, where I am already inspired by our thoughtful students and brilliant colleagues. Come by and say hello!