April 9, 2004

Contact: Debra Bia, Office of the Provost, (785) 864-4904.

KU history professor to present inagural lecture on physiognomy

LAWRENCE -- Steven Epstein, Ahmanson-Murphy distinguished professor of medieval history at the University of Kansas, will present his inaugural lecture, "Medieval Physiognomy and Ethnic Identity," at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 12, in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture will discuss how physiognomy, the art of judging human character from facial features, once served as a respectable and scientific theory of human difference that provided testable answers to questions.

"A lot of new work in ancient and medieval history suggests that color prejudice, ethnic and racial hostilities were explained and justified in different arguments back then," Epstein says. "So, even though the language and arguments change, the desire to split up and rank the human family is an old one and will be harder to stop than most people think."

Epstein came to KU in 2003 from the University of Colorado, where he taught for 19 years. He received a doctorate in history from Harvard University and a master's degree in history from Cambridge University. He has written four books, edited another and written many articles and papers on history in medieval Europe and medieval Genoa.

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