International conference: Hierarchy and Equality – Representations of Sex/Gender in the Ancient World

The Norwegian Institute at Athens, in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo, gather scholars to revisit and renew models and understandings of textual, visual and material representations of sex/gender in the ancient world.

Program with abstracts.

The 1990’s saw a surge in studies on ancient models of sex/gender (including sex, gender, sexuality, the body, hierarchy/equality etc), informed by post-structuralism, feminist theory, and especially the work of Thomas Laqueur and Michel Foucault. More recently, phenomenology has inspired a more material approach in search of lived experience and agency. We ask if these basic parameters for studying sex/gender in the ancient world still hold? In which ways and to which extent have later developments in theories of sex/gender been absorbed and elaborated by scholars of the ancient world? Do the changes in modern understandings of sex/gender, for instance the surge in biological and cognitive approaches or the increased interest in structural issues of equality and inequality, affect our interpretations of sex/gender in the ancient world?


Textual, visual and material representations provide numerous and diverse opportunities to investigate sex/gender. Official texts and iconography traditionally hold a strong position in gender studies of the ancient world, whilst un-official texts and graffiti, as well as physical remains and material culture have up until recently been more neglected, or at the very best treated as passive objects only used to prove the interpretation of the official evidence.


This interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together a wide range of scholars of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world, and draw on our respective materials to investigate the diversity of ancient conceptions of sex/gender. We have invited scholars with a material and/or theoretical interest in sex/gender, or in social structures based on gender distinctions. We hope to explore more broadly what was “before sex”, i.e. the modern reproduction-based two-sex model (Laqueur), and seek possibly even more fruitful ways to approach sex/gender in the ancient world. We have encouraged our contributors to approach a variety of records and explore hypotheses outside of the established scholarly consensus on ancient understandings of sex/gender, and also reflect on the extent to which modern notions of sex/gender affect our reading of the past.


The conference will be followed by a peer-review publication.



  • Professor Jorunn Økland
  • Dr. Lene O. Johannessen
  • PhD-candidate Reinert Skumsnes
  • PhD-candidate Anders Martinsen


  • Professor Saphinaz-Amal Naguib
  • Professor Marianne B. Kartzow
  • Professor Diana Edelman
  • Ass. Professor Søren Handberg
  • Ass. Professor Knut Ødegård
  • Ass. Professor Marina P. Lindhagen
  • Dr. Ville V. Vuolanto


Published Sep. 26, 2018 10:49 AM - Last modified Sep. 26, 2018 10:49 AM