Universiteit Leiden

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Nasreen on a bridge
Elif Kırankaya

JEDI Fund: ‘We’re now showing clearly that the community is diverse’

If you have a plan that could improve the education or the learning environment of the Faculty of Humanities in terms of diversity or inclusion, you can apply for a grant from the faculty’s JEDI Fund. This year, Nasreen has been helping to develop a new syllabus for the first-year Ancient History course.

Nasreen: ‘The syllabus of the first-year Ancient History course consisted mainly of themes and people that are no longer recognised as the only (correct) representation of the Ancient World. For example, it was lacking in perspectives of women, enslaved people and areas outside of Rome and Greece.

This is one of the reasons why this field has often been seen as dull or outdated. University lecturer Leanne Jansen therefore applied for a grant from the JEDI Fund, which allowed me to work on the syllabus, as a student assistant.

I first analysed what was in it. Which scholars did it cover? Was the research recent or had it gradually become quite old? After that, I thought about what we’d really like to discuss. I wanted to address a variety of topics and themes that are not only very important to students but have also (recently) been receiving much greater interest within historical research. For example, the themes of gender and sexuality; especially in response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1970s and 1980s, these have been given more attention by historians with an interest in the history of sexuality. I therefore created an assignment on sexuality in Ancient Greece.

Good education is very important to me, so it was great to be so directly involved in this change. The project enabled me to really make a contribution to the faculty, partly because my ideas and proposals were so highly appreciated by the teachers in the Ancient History section. They were all open to making changes and took my suggestions very seriously. In fact, the revision of the first-year syllabus has even continued after the JEDI project: the section is also working on introducing changes and innovations in the long term. For example, they’re looking at the current selection of literature and whether it’s actually a good representation of the scholarly community. We’re also actively devising and introducing more new assignments. This means that Ancient History is becoming more than just the ancient emperors and great wars that we’ve been thinking about in more or less the same way for hundreds of years.’

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