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Performance of Power in Roman Italy

Researcher: Professor Michael Fronda

* Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, McGill Internal Grant and matching Faculty of Arts Dean's Grant (2010-11)
* The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Research Fellowship (2011-2012)
* Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant (2011-2014)

"Performance of Power" is an ongoing research project that aims to disclose how Rome's hegemony in Italy during the republic was reinforced by the display of images, gestures, behaviors, rituals and so forth, enacted before an "Italian" (i.e. non-Roman) audience, which were encoded with meaning and pregnant with symbols of Roman power. It looks at human actions, for example the behaviors of a Roman magistrate when carrying out his duties, but also non-human "performances," such as statues or other monuments that brought Roman political imagery and terminology into Italian communities. The project's working assumption is that the repetition of such "performances" slowly, over time, normalized Roman rule and contributed to a sense of common identity, at least at some level. This process must have intensified over time in the first century BC, after the Social War, though its roots traced back much earlier, perhaps even to the period of Rome's emergence as the dominant state on the peninsula. The project will offer a novel and sophisticated interpretation of Roman-Italian relations, and it will disclose much about a wide range of key issues in study of the Roman Republic, including Roman imperialism, Romanization, the causes and nature of the Social War, and, ultimately, Augustus’ promotion of the ideal of Tota Italia (with antecedents in the propaganda of the first-century military dynasts such as Caesar and Pompey).

Professor Fronda received a SSHRC McGill Internal Grant and a matching Faculty of Arts Dean's Grant to conduct research for the project in Italy in 2010-11, and he won prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship (host institution: Technische Universität Dresden) for 2011-12 for "Performance of Power." He also has been awarded a three-year Standard Research Grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada  (2011-14), to fund ongoing research for the project, including graduate student stipends. Current or future graduate students who are interested in working on the project, especially those who plan to write a thesis or dissertation on a related topic in Greek or Roman history, should contact Professor Fronda.