The social impact of literacy in early societies is a topic which has been the subject of much recent research. In the study of ancient Italy, specifically, new discoveries and new analyses of Etruscan inscriptions have flourished in recent years. However, many of these studies have focused
primarily on epigraphic and linguistic aspects. Although this conference aims to contribute to these studies, its aim is to move away from issues of linguistic and morphological analysis and concentrate instead specifically on the social context of writing in the Etruscan world. We will examine the social and cultural impact of the adoption of writing, and will address themes such as how we can define literacy and assess how widespread it was; what groups adopted literacy, and what the social purposes of reading and writing were. The conference will examine these issues from a range of perspectives, and in the context not only of Etruria itself, but of the Etruscan world as a whole, within the general context of Italy in the first
millennium BC. Examples of questions we would like to address are:
- Writers and readers among the Etruscans: Was literacy restricted by class, gender, age or any other social parameter? Were the people who did the inscribing (potters, metal-workers, stone-carvers etc) fully literate or
not? What was the relationship between those who composed or commissioned texts and those who inscribed them? How was writing taught and transmitted?
- The social purposes of Etruscan writing: Were inscriptions meant to be read and, if so, by whom? Was writing used for single or multiple purposes,
practical or symbolic? Was it used to convey everyday messages and, if so, between living people or between the living and the dead/divine? Were the messages conveyed by the content of the writing, by the material employed,
by the use and location of the artefact or monument, or by combinations of all of these?
- Writing and identity formation: The creation and reinforcement of identities at different levels – individual, kin group, community, supra-community – is
characteristic of state societies. How might Etruscan writing, and particularly the practice of naming, have contributed to these processes?
The organisers, Kathryn Lomas, Ruth Whitehouse and John Wilkins, invite papers that address any of these issues or related themes. We particularly welcome contributions that trace changes in any of these aspects through time or compare their development in different areas of the Etruscan world.
Abstracts (no more than 500 words) should be send to both Ruth Whitehouse (R.Whitehouse AT ucl.ac.uk) and Kathryn Lomas (K.Lomas AT ucl.ac.uk) by April 30th 2010.