The Question of Boundaries in Ancient Thought: Blurring, Crossing, Reshaping Panel at the 12th Celtic Conference in Classics – University of Coimbra, 26-29.06.2018

The problem of boundaries is a core problem of our time. Recent events have brought this problem to the forefront of contemporary concerns, highlighting differences between political regimes, ways of life and types of knowledge. In social and human sciences, exact sciences, sciences of the mind, and more recent areas of study (such as cultural and media studies), the concept of boundaries – in the wide sense of demarcation of limits, determination of identities, circumscription of regions of reality and history – fulfils an undeniable role as a fundamental operative category.
However, the concern with boundaries in their different aspects is not limited to the contemporary age. Ancient literature in the broad sense of the word was also deeply concerned with boundaries.
This panel will focus on this concern and explore how boundaries were thought and discussed in the whole of Antiquity. The goal is to discuss the concept of boundaries in ancient thought in three main dimensions: politics, ethics and epistemology. More precisely, we are interested in considering the way in which the ancient thought on boundaries questions the already established conceptions regarding boundaries, thus promoting political as well as ethical and epistemological changes. We are also interested in the way ancient thought on boundaries relates to the fundamental political structures in which it is based (archaic monarchy, democratic city-state and empire).
These issues may be explored from many different angles. The following is a list of some possible topics.
● In politics: the adoption of a territorial principle and geometric equality in the organisation of space; the foundation of colonies and their relationship with an empty and wild space; the marginality of the founders of colonies; social classes and education in their connection with the structure insider/on the margins of the city; the expansion of territory and contact with the regions and peoples beyond boundaries.
● In ethics: the attainment of an authentic way of life through contact with the realm of death; the refusal of sacrifice as a refusal of the city and its gods; vegetarian and homophagic diets as breaks from the city and the crossing of the boundaries of human condition; the several ways of life and their respective destruction of the ordinary boundaries of space and time.
● In epistemology: the distinctions between true and false, memory and forgetting, visible and invisible; the transition from a model of intelligence based on mixture to a model based on purity; knowledge as evasion to marginal worlds, access to truth as the end point of a mystical journey; the relationship with truth as ecstasy, faciality, contact with divinity/animality.

Contributions from specialists, early career researchers and PhD students in philosophy, classical studies, political studies, and other related fields are welcome. Contributions that explore the connection between issues related to the concept of boundaries in Antiquity and their contemporary expressions are also welcome.
Each speaker will have 35 to 40 minutes to present their paper, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. The official languages of the Conference are English and French.

Please send your abstracts (300-500 words), in English or French, as well as your name, affiliation and a short bio (max. 10 lines) by Thursday 28th February 2019 to Dr Hélder Telo at We will get back to you with the final results of the evaluation by Sunday, 31st March 2019.

As the organization is unable to provide financial support, participants will need to pay for their travel and accommodation expenses as well as registration fees (which will be around 100 euros, to be confirmed).

We are also planning to publish the works presented at the panel, depending on their quality and complementarity.

You can find more information on the 2019 Celtic Conference in Classics at

Panel coordinators:
– António de Castro Caeiro (IFILNOVA – New University of Lisbon) –
– Paulo Alexandre Lima (CFUL – University of Lisbon) –
– Fábio Serranito (University of Leeds) –
– Hélder Telo (IEF – University of Coimbra) –