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The YISAP qualification provides intellectual opportunities to graduate students with wide-ranging interests in the ancient and premodern worlds, extending their studies beyond departmental lines and incorporating methods from the social sciences and the humanities. Students fulfill the requirements of their home department, with a course of study individually tailored to allow for rigorous interdisciplinary work via seminars and independent study. The qualification is open to graduate students at Yale. For details, see the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs and Policies.

The Core Seminar

The core graduate seminar will always be linked with the Ancient Societies Workshop. This year's theme is Exchange. Our first core seminar will be offered in the Spring of 2014. It is co-taught by Milette Gaifman (Classics, History of Art) and J.G. Manning (Classics, History, YLS): “Exchange: cultural and economic.” 

In this seminar we shall examine the nature of human interaction in ancient societies: how did individuals and groups exchange commodities, ideas, beliefs, images and so on; what drove exchange and what effects did it have? We aim to strike a balance between theorizing types of exchange (economic, belief systems etc.) and their effects on the one hand, and ancient case studies of exchange on the other. The seminar will extend far beyond economics, and examine other kinds of exchange, including Bourdieu's concept of Social Capital.

Marcel Mauss, in his famous work on the gift, suggests that all "archaic societies" had a notion of reciprocal exchange, or reciprocity, as the binding moral (and economic) force. It was above all the moral imperative to reciprocate within a group that determined the entire nature of society, from its economy to its moral and religious character. Mauss has had enormous influence across academic fields, especially in the historical social sciences. The question for us is in this seminar will be: does this theory explain ancient society sufficiently, or is there more to it than that? What can ancient material — texts, art, archaeology, institutions — add to the debate about the nature of human exchange? Are there other or better ways to examine the interaction of individuals and groups and their consequences? How does comparative history help us? What are the common issues we face? This seminar will attempt to answer those questions and to go beyond them. The course is divided between theory and individual case studies of the major civilizations of the pre-modern world. Emphasis will be placed on the tensions between approaches that seek to understand local traditions as against those that apply universal, mainly "western," models of exchange according to Neoclassical, or New Institutional Economics, to take one example. Understanding "exchange" has broad and deep implications for how we understand historical and cultural change in ancient societies as well.

Graduate Student Initiatives

The Ancient Judaism Workshop

An Ancient Judaism research workshop, intended to offer a setting for graduate students to share their current research with their fellow graduate students. This workshop allows a sense of academic sharing within the program and offers a suitable setting for students to present their work for evaluation and feedback before presenting their work to the larger academic community. The workshop also invites faculty members to share with the workshop's participants some of their most recent research projects, in order to allow a vibrant atmosphere for academic discussions among faculty and graduate students. The workshop occasionally invites participants from other universities to share their recent academic findings, especially if the person in mind has recently completed a research project of interest to the participants of the workshop. Current coordinators: Simcha Gross, Rebecca Kamholz, Annie Schiff.

The Pre-modern Gender & Sexuality Working Group (PGSWG)

offers a forum for students and academic fellows to meet and tackle questions and problems with like-minded colleagues who have a shared interest in gender and sexuality as well as the pre-modern. Thus the group also addresses issues of sources, methods, and frameworks for the study of pre-modern societies.
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The Yale Interdisciplinary Workshop for the Study of Antiquity

A new working group at Yale. The graduate student-organized working group is intended to serve as a forum for graduate students in diverse disciplines across the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences whose research centers on or relates to the ancient world. The theme for the 2013-2014 academic year will be “Conflict and Cooperation in Antiquity,” with an emphasis on topics that involve the crossing of boundaries. The crossing of boundaries encompasses two meanings: the crossing of disciplinary boundaries in one’s research, and the crossing of boundaries (whether cultural, geographic, linguistic, temporal, sociospatial, etc.) as a subject of study. Relevant departments from which participants and presenters may be drawn include but are not limited to the Departments of History, Classics, Philosophy, History of Art, Religious Studies, Anthropology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and East Asian Languages and Literature, as well as the Yale Divinity School and Yale Law School. Organizers: Sara Cole and Geoff Moseley.
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Participating Departments and Schools