My friend and colleague, Kate and I will be hosting a free online course titled Representations of “The Other” in Ancient Egyptian Literature as part of the Summer Reading Group program hosted by Save Ancient Studies Alliance (SASA). The course will be 6 weeks long, one hour each week (Tuesdays at 11am EST). Totally relaxed, but you can request a certificate for completion. For more information and to RSVP, check out the SASA website here. For now, here is the course description:
In the mainstream, ancient Egypt is often considered without a geographical context; however the Egyptians were strongly aware of their place within the world that was known to them. As with most ancient civilizations, the ancient Egyptian worldview centered around their belief that their land and peoples were superior to other lands and peoples. This worldview is exemplified in pharaonic art and literature, and these representations also permeated non-royal contexts.
There were two sets of understanding what modern scholars now refer to as “the other”. Ancient Egyptians consistently in art and literature set foreigners apart by stereotyping tropes that included different styles of dress and body adornment, hairstyles, skin color, and behaviorisms such as battle tactics. Sometimes these differences were highlighted, mostly in royal contexts, the dangerous nature of “non-Egyptianness”. Non-Egyptian meant uncivilized and chaotic, which was a major threat to cosmic and political balance. On the other hand, foreigners were essential to Egyptians, and Egypt benefited from foreign trade and diplomacy.
This reading group aims to examine these two sets of understanding of “the other” through the lens of the ancient Egyptian voice. We shall read Egyptian literature in translation and explore the various ways in which foreigners are represented and how Egyptians interacted with them both peacefully and militaristically. Pictorial representations of foreigners and their activities shall also be examined, as art was a major method of self-presentation in ancient Egypt. Toward the end of the course, we will also look at how Egypt was perceived by foreigners via literature, namely that of Herodotus.