Twisted Transfers. Discursive Constructions of Corruption in Ancient Greece and Rome

  • Garcia Morcillo, Marta (PI)
  • Malik, Shushma (CoI)
  • Gershon, Yehudah (CoI)
  • Rosillo-Lopez, Cristina (CoI)

    Project Details


    What is corruption? Like trust, corruption is one of those things in life that we think we know, we steadily discuss, yet we struggle to define. This is so because the concept is applied to various fields of human (inter)action, but also because purely legalistic, and thus essentialist, definitions are often insufficient to capture its complexity. There are both actions that conform to legal norms but are perceived within their societal context as forms of corruption, and illegal actions which may be socially acceptable within specific groups and contexts. Corruption requires the participation of at least two people. It involves a transfer of material or immaterial things, which is identified as legally or morally wrong by a mistrusting observer.

    This is an international collaborative project between the Universities of Roehampton and Potsdam, funded by the AHRC and the German Research Foundation (DFG). Both teams, which are composed by PhDs, early-careers and experienced academics, have been awarded a total of c. £700,000 for three years (2020-23). The project analyses the different forms of transfer using identifiers from the social sciences and anthropology. The project's aim is to understand why and how these forms of transfer could be (and are) presented in discourse as "twisted" and, therefore, as acts of corruption. As discourse, the "twisted transfer" is embedded in normative values and ideals of correct behaviour, as well as in stereotypes about specific social classes or professional groups. Within this frame, we concentrate on Graeco-Roman Antiquity, from the law courts of classical Athens to the ethics of Byzantine diplomacy, drawing out case studies that still strongly influence the formation of later discourses in Western societies today. Moving away from the traditional legalistic perspectives, "Twisted Transfers" proposes an innovative, constructivist approach not yet fully explored in historical studies of corruption. As part of our outreach programme, we co-wrote and co-produced the animated video "Are you corrupt?", a collaboration between the AHRC, BBCArts and the fillm production company Calling the Shots, as part of the series Animated Thinking (see link below). This awarded video seccured further £18,000 for the TT project.

    The project's website includes a series of videos of public lectures and conference papers produced by members of the project and by guests invited by the project:

    The UK Team of the project is composed by Dr Marta García Morcillo (Roehampton, PI), Dr Shushma Malik (Roehampton, Co-I), Dr Yehudah Gershon (Roehampton, Research Fellow) and Dr Cristina Rosillo-López (UPO Sevilla, external Co-I).

    The project includes collaborators with areas of research outside Classics and Ancient History, particularly within the Social Sciences. Dr Elisabeth Carter, Associate Professor in Criminology and Forensic Linguist at Kingston University, is an external collaborator of our project. We also collaborate with the Centre for the Study of Corruption in Brighton, University of Sussex (
    Short titleTwisted Transfers
    Effective start/end date1/02/2031/05/23


    • AHRC: £349,946.00
    • AHRC: £18,000.00


    • Corruption
    • Transfers
    • Ethics
    • Ancient Greece
    • Ancient Rome
    • Morality
    • Ancient Economy
    • Gift-Giving
    • Anthopology
    • Sociology