Final Project: Cleopatra and the Public Blog

For my final project, I created a blog diving into the public discourse on Cleopatra’s race. I created a total of five blog posts. Through my blog posts I explored how Reddit users discuss Cleopatra, how classical scholars insert themselves into the public debates, and why people would say Cleopatra is Black. Overall, I came away from the project learning a lot more than I already knew!

Project Poster

Interestingly enough, Reddit users agreed that Cleopatra was Greek/Macedonian. It was almost unanimous. The Reddit threads I found did not have any kinds of debates. I had originally search through Reddit with the key term “Cleopatra.” Reddit users were mostly coming to Cleopatra’s defense stating that historical facts show that Cleopatra was Greek/Macedonian. If I were to do this project again, or continue it, I would search through Reddit using the key term “Black Cleopatra.” This key term could help me find more of a debate.

Three classical historians wrote two blog posts for the Society for Classical Studies. They essentially dive right into the controversy surrounding Gal Gadot’s casting as Cleopatra. The classical historians came to the conclusion the Cleopatra means different things to different people for different reasons. Cleopatra has lost her own voice becoming a manifestation of people’s desires and fantasies. Cleopatra is a popular figure in modern Egyptian culture, she represents Eurocentric beauty standards, and she has become a symbolic ancestor.

I originally was going to write a blog post about the way Twitter users discuss Cleopatra’s race. However, I thought it would be much more useful to consider why someone would call Cleopatra Black in the first place. I am really glad that I did this because I was able to find a reason through Shelley Haley’s work. Through Black oral tradition, Cleopatra has become a a symbolic ancestor based on a shared history of oppression and exploitation rooted in Pan-Africanism. Haley explains it much better than I can so make sure to check that blog post out when it is released on April 27.

Through my research and blog posts, I found a common thread. People are talking about Cleopatra because they are actually interested in her public memory. Reddit users come to Cleopatra’s defense to make sure people know she is Greek/Macedonian. Egyptians want an Egyptian to play Cleopatra because of how important she is to modern Egyptian culture. African Americans, and the descendants of the African Diaspora, have been passing down their symbolic ancestor Cleopatra which each generation. This goes back to the three historians, but people want to protect their public memory of who Cleopatra means to them. A link to my blog is down below. The remaining three blog posts will be posted between April 25 – April 29. I hope everyone enjoys it!

4 Replies to “Final Project: Cleopatra and the Public Blog”

  1. Joshua! First off, this is amazing. As someone who has never been interested in Cleopatra, I think it’s so neat that you jumped into the fray and made your work relevant. It makes me think of “The Art of Relevance” – you used a platform (online) that your audience (those with online presences) would engage with. This way of doing digital history is such a fantastic showcasing of your skills. I hope you continue to add to this work – I look forward to learning more about Cleopatra in public memory!

  2. Hi Joshua! Absolutely loved all of this!
    “Cleopatra has lost her own voice becoming a manifestation of people’s desires and fantasies.” — this is a fantastic statement by the way.

    Love your blog too! Well done! And I echo Michaela above in saying I hope you continue to add to this.

    I do have a question/statement. I wonder what this project may look like if you look at other social media sites. I know you mentioned you were originally going to look at Twitter but moved to Reddit. I wonder what Twitter is saying about this (or Tumblr, Facebook groups, etc.) and how they contrast each other. I don’t have Reddit and I’m barely on Twitter, but I know on sites like Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram that discourse can be quite drastic, especially with the different age groups they gear towards.

    Anyway, I went on a slight rant. Again– great project!

  3. Hey Joshua,
    Great job with the blog. I found your analysis of the reddit threads most interesting. It’s pretty awesome that people were being so cool, on reddit! Did you have to dig through a lot of trolls and spam to find the actual conversation? Also I know you are planning to end the blog as it’s the end of the semester but maybe come back with a new post when the new movie comes out?!

  4. Hi Joshua,
    I think you did an amazing job with your blog and the idea of studying public ideas of Cleopatra’s identity is a really intriguing idea. As an aspiring Egyptologist you know this subject tickled my fancy and, while I may not agree with everything you wrote, I think this was an incredibly well done and insightful documentation across several platforms of public opinion that often go overlooked for not being “academic.” I think a lot more historical research could benefit from studying Reddit and Twitter comments because that’s where conversations are happening these days.
    Thanks for making Ptolemaic Egypt actually interesting to an Amarna enthusiast.
    -Bailey M

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