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Meet the Fellows: 2017 Newcombe Fellow Debby Sneed

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Debby Sneed, a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of California—Los Angeles.

My dad tells this story that when I was 3 or 4 years old, I was somehow unfamiliar with the word “hour” and so I insisted that the name of the weekly event was more properly reversed, to “Our Story.” I’m a little older now and I mostly read by myself, but I’m still participating in Our Story, that is, the story of Us, of humanity. What I love is that it’s kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure. The richness of the past can be revealed in many ways, and my own version highlights some of the people who lived and died in ancient Greece, people who loved and laughed, who worked and played. People like the man in Athens in the 4th century BCE who was accused of fraudulently collecting a disability pension and the artists who had to decide how to depict the lame god Hephaistos on vases or in sculpture. People like architects who constructed ramps at healing sanctuaries to make the spaces more accessible for mobility-impaired visitors and parents who raised congenitally deformed infants. I like trying to get into the headspace of the ancient Greeks, to learn what they thought of each other and who they thought was (un)worthy of inclusion because it shows the relationship between what and who a society finds valuable.

Ms. Sneed’s dissertation title is The Life Cycle of Disability in Ancient Greece. For more information on the 2017 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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