Lillian Clare Sellati
My dissertation investigates how scholars conceptualize Greek-looking artworks from outside the ancient Mediterranean. I begin by asking what constitutes an image of Herakles in Greater Central Asia (primarily modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) from 330 BCE to 230 CE. Are scholars correct to label figures with shorthand such as Herakles-Vajrapani when their creators never identified them in accompanying inscriptions? What social interactions are obscured, and what power differentials are imposed thereby? To combat this flattening, I call these figures “heraklean,” arguing that their makers designed a transculturally resonant iconography and thus intended a directed but indeterminant identity. I also apply an object biography approach to recontextualize these artworks and to restore visibility and agency to the individuals who engaged with them throughout history. I thus privilege contemporary local conceptual frameworks, instead of the colonial epistemes that still influence ancient studies.