This web site is a companion to Whose Middle Ages?: Teachable Moments for an Ill-Used Past, edited by members of the Fordham University Medieval Studies Faculty and published by Fordham University Press in fall 2019.
Whose Middle Ages? was devised to foster a different discourse in the classroom, the academy, and society about future understandings of the medieval past. Clear-sighted critique drives this discourse; it is thus crucial that a book like this one incorporates critiques that call its failures as much as its successes to our attention. In a clarion Twitter thread, Sierra Lomuto urges us to deepen the lessons of Whose Middle Ages? by pronouncing the overwhelming whiteness of this book’s contributors and editors. While the book offers “a great introduction to the topic,” Lomuto writes, “it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the intellectual work of POC [people of color] and the risks we take starting difficult conversations,” work and risks that go muted across much of this volume. These failures are symptomatic of our academic field and the publishing industry that sustains it: “One of the problems with medieval studies is that this volume’s exclusion and erasure of POC voices is the norm. There isn’t another volume like this that isn’t predominantly white.” The editors wish to reiterate Lomuto’s pedagogical call in the strongest terms possible: “As much as this volume furthers our discussion about pressing issues facing Medieval Studies, it also hides the most important one: how whiteness thrives on the backs of POC. Don’t ignore that when you read and teach this volume. Let it deepen the learning experience.” We must recognize and trouble the structural, institutional, and systemic marginalization of scholars of color embedded in Whose Middle Ages?, even (and especially) in light of the book’s professed liberal, inclusive, and anti-racist aims.
Together with the many related efforts underway in our field and across the country, we hope Whose Middle Ages? and the vigorous dialogue surrounding it will inform a public who want to know more about the medieval past and will offer forms of knowledge, critique, and disruption that help render that past and its study open to all.
We thank Katherina Fostano, Visual Resources Curator at Fordham University, for her work in putting together this site and sharing her expertise, insights, and enthusiasm. For productive critiques and inspiration, the editors offer special thanks to Geraldine Heng, Sierra Lomuto, and Cord Whitaker.
A previous version of this site failed to address the scholarly erasures of Whose Middle Ages? appropriately, and the current site does not yet meet the goals we’ve set for it. As the site is under development, we welcome all feedback.