When the editorial team began this project in 2017, the intention of Whose Middle Ages? was to provide resources for teachers and students to respond to the intersections between the Middle Ages and social and political flashpoints of the day. Primary among these intersections was the place of the Middle Ages in modern racist and white supremacist ideologies. In aim, the book espoused the goals of anti-racism; in practice, it fell short of this commitment. In an impactful 2019 Twitter thread, Dr. Sierra Lomuto observed that Whose Middle Ages? failed to ensure equitable representation of scholars of color in the book’s editorial process, among its essay contributors, and in its citational practices; these failures further shaped an early draft of this companion website. Scholars of color working on premodern cultures have built a needful body of anti-racist work whose neglect in our volume replicated the pervasive and banal erasure of these scholars and their labor in our field at large. As Dr. Lomuto writes, “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.”
Dr. Lomuto is right. By disregarding the work of scholars of color, we failed to respond to the racism that shapes the field of Medieval Studies, as it shapes our wider culture, and deprived our readers of necessary viewpoints for understanding the entanglement of the Middle Ages with the present day. Our volume reinscribed the structural, institutional, and systemic marginalization of scholars of color, especially in light of its professed anti-racist aims. This erasure resulted from a lack of racial self-awareness, itself a product of and contributor to the unmarked and unremarked privileging of whiteness: in academia, in academic publishing, in medieval studies, among our editorial team, and in the editorial norms we adopted.
We acknowledge that this erasure and the personal and professional harm it incurred cannot be fully redressed. Our hope for this companion site is that it can identify the inadequacies of Whose Middle Ages? and, more importantly, elevate the foundational work of scholars of color in our field, without which we could not have pursued the conversations our volume takes up. To that end, the Timeline page seeks to make more visible and increase access to the efforts of self-identified medievalists of color who have long sought to build public anti-racist conversations in and about our field. Links on this timeline also introduce users to these authors’ wide-ranging scholarly output. The Forums page links to organizations, websites, and other discursive hubs and the Conversations page links to additional publications and media that address difference, diversity, anti-racism, and systemic inequity in the field of medieval studies. The Pedagogy page offers support for instructors who seek to teach a more inclusive Middle Ages that combats white supremacy and other forms of bias in the classroom, and the Roundtable page offers a transcript of the book launch event roundtable with contributors Drs. Lauren Mancia, Cord Whitaker, and Maggie Williams.
This companion site is an imperfect response to inherent issues the critique of Whose Middle Ages? identified. It can be neither exhaustive nor authoritative. It archives a specific moment of participation in a live and ongoing conversation whose nature and contexts will change and develop over time. We offer only a snapshot of the resources available to teachers and researchers interested in undoing the inequities that characterize our field, and we hope the links contained within lead to deeper searching and more thorough engagement. We hope the site affords a larger platform for recognizing the crucial work of our colleagues of color and prompts reflection on the exclusions and collaborations our professional networks enable. We hope it encourages our white colleagues to reflect actively on their positionality, to involve and credit scholars of color from the very start of their scholarly endeavors, and to contribute to the work of dismantling white privilege when developing their own future projects.
We extend gratitude to Katherina Fostano for her expert guidance in designing and developing this website, and to our two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful feedback on the site’s content. The editorial team is grateful for the vigorous discussion this book’s publication has generated, for the vital critiques of the book’s shortcomings, and for the valuable opportunities for learning this exchange has created. Errors and oversights are our own; we eagerly welcome suggestions of relevant materials for inclusion at firstname.lastname@example.org.