Gender and Belonging: Women as Members of the Political Community Through A Roman Lens

From myth to contract theory to the Third Reich, understandings of the notion of political community have often been expressed by calling back to its origins. Historians of the distant past are well qualified to talk about origin myths: the populus Romanus is the blueprint for many later notions of the sovereign People. But how does a group of individuals coalesce into a community, and how is that process gendered? I will explore the relationship between gender and the populus in Republican Rome, before mobilizing feminist approaches to explore how the legal and symbolic moves that define We the People have historically encoded violence against women; nevertheless, the past also offers ideas for alternative ways to think about what it means to belong to a political community.

Amy RussellĀ is a Roman political and cultural historian, with particular interests in Republican political culture, space, and gender. Her next major work will be a monograph on the institutional and cultural role of theĀ populus Romanus, for which her preparations have included new collaborations with political scientists, historians, and lawyers on the construction of peoplehood across time and space.