[MGSA-L] Pascal Bruckner on "The Barbarians and the Civilized" at Harvard

Rapti, Vassiliki rapti at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Nov 10 09:18:45 PST 2014

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the following event, hosted by the Program of Modern Greek Studies, Department of The Classics, Harvard University, and sponsored by the University Seminars Program of the Onassis Foundation (USA): 
Pascal Bruckner (L'Institut d'études politiques de Paris, France)

"The Barbarians and the Civilized"

Wed, Nov 12

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY, Emerson Hall 101, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

The event is free and open to the public

For the Ancient Greeks, those who did not belong to the City (polis), those who did not speak its language, were Barbarians, except for the Scythians, who already personified the "Noble Savage." The Greeks did not civilize, they tamed, they subdued wild natures, or they educated them. In their view, the permeability of the frontiers existing between men, gods and animals was the primary threat. Hence their ambivalence towards stimulants: according to Homer, wine was an element of civilization, whereas other writers regarded it as a factor of degeneration. They already had to face the very question of whether Barbarians had to be conquered or civilized. The Moderns have modified that view without abandoning it altogether: by proclaiming themselves civilized, they considered other peoples either as savages who could not be freed from the order of nature or as children who needed to be reformed so as to be acclimatized to true culture. The educational project, in which the child was considered to be a little savage within the family, a being that had to be tamed in order to be able to become part of the social order, drew on the same ideology. But, Western "civilization" did not realize that, by doing so, and in the very name of that educational project, in the very name of progress, it was giving birth to another kind of barbarism, Colonialism, Fascism, Communism. In a sense, Totalitarianism has revived, in a secular world, the issue of evil and original sin. Which roles are we, ourselves and others, to play today? Should we question our values because of their harmful consequences or should we continue to defend civilization, but in a self-reflective way and by trying to distance ourselves from our own barbarism?





Vassiliki Rapti



Vassiliki Rapti, Ph.D
Preceptor in Modern Greek
Program of Modern Greek Studies 
Harvard University
Department of the Classics  
204 Boylston Hall                              
Cambridge MA 02138                            
Office Tel.: (617) 384-7794
E-mail: rapti at fas.harvard.edu

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