The past several years have seen wide ranging and energetic conversation about the relationship between the medieval past and the modern present. On this page, we point to some of the most important forums where these conversations have taken place, and offer some examples of the landmark work that has pushed this conversation forward. Essays by numerous scholars of color have helped call the attention of academics and the wider national media to the complicity of Medieval Studies as a field in perpetuating white supremacist visions of the past. Readers are encouraged to explore the sites for even more valuable discussion.
Medievalists of Color
Medievalists of Color is a professional organization of a diverse group of scholars working across the disciplines, across ranks, and across the globe in the field of Medieval Studies. Their website offers information on sponsored events, public statements, and valuable resources that advocate for a more inclusive, productive, and world-improving medieval studies.
Hosted by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, RaceB4Race is an ongoing conference series and professional network community by and for scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern literature, history, and culture. RaceB4Race centers the expertise, perspectives, and sociopolitical interests of BIPOC scholars, whose work seeks to expand critical race theory.
- RaceB4Race: Race and Periodization (September 2019 symposium)
- RaceB4Race™: Appropriations (January 2020 symposium)
Association for Critical Race Art History
The Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH) is a professional organization that promotes art historical scholarship from a critical race perspective. The site of the organization offers bibliographies, calls for papers, and other resources.
Race, Race-Thinking, and Identity in the Middle Ages and Medieval Studies
The series of seminars seeks to inspire and further establish reflections about race, race-thinking, and racialization among scholars of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. A series of talks by Medievalists of Color anchor a longer and wider conversation that spans various cultures and historiographies within Medieval Studies, with aims to: 1) enrich scholarly debate about processes of racialization by bringing together approaches developed in the United States and in other parts of the world; 2) move beyond simplistic either-or binaries (race/not race, race/religion, race/ethnicity, and even US/Europe) and promote more nuanced paradigms for racialization and its interaction, overlap, and interdependence with other forms of social categorization; 3) reflect on the diversity of approaches to and salience of race, race-thinking, and racialization in different parts of the world and fields of study; and 4) investigate how Critical Race Theory and other (critical) forms of Identity Studies can inspire and inform historical study.
In the Middle
Since 2006, the blog In the Middle has provided “a feminist, anti-racist, queer affirmative and refuge making space that repudiates white supremacist dreams of the Middle Ages and contemporary nations, and that fosters visions of the past and future that privilege diversity, community and welcome over intolerance, dreams of segregation, and pervasive violence.” Its archive is vast; a few posts of particular relevance to WMA? are highlighted below.
- Abby Ang, A Graduate Student in the (Farmers’) Marketplace of Ideas
- Candace Barrington, Beyond the Anglophone Inner Circle of Chaucer Studies
- J. J. Cohen, Medieval Race
- J. J. Cohen, The Monstrous and the Queer
- Nahir I. Otaño Gracia, On hidden scars and the passive voice
- Jonathan Hsy, Antiracist Medievalisms: Lessons from Chinese Exclusion
- Geraldine Heng, Why the Hate? The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, and Race, Racism, and Premodern Critical Race Studies Today
- Jonathan Hsy, Intersections: On Annoyances, Mistakes … and Possibilities
- Wan-Chuan Kao, #palefacesmatter?
- Dorothy Kim, Antifeminism, Whiteness, and Medieval Studies
- Dorothy Kim, The Unbearable Whiteness of Medieval Studies
- Sierra Lomuto, Public Medievalism and the Rigor of Anti-Racist Critique
- Sierra Lomuto, White Nationalism and the Ethics of Medieval Studies
- Adam Miyashiro, Decolonizing Anglo-Saxon Studies: A Response to ISAS in Honolulu
- Karl Steel, Race and the Medieval Language of Class
- Karl Steel, “Not back then they weren’t”: still more on medieval “whiteness”
- Cord Whitaker, Pale Like Me: Resistance, Assimilation, and ‘Pale Faces’ Sixteen Years On
- Helen Young and Kevin Caliendo, The Monster They Have Created: Tone-Policing, Victim Blaming, and the Toxicity of White Medieval Studies
- Helen Young, Re-making The Real Middle Ages™
The Material Collective
The Material Collective is dedicated to fostering respectful intellectual exchange and innovative scholarship in the study of the visual arts, in the academy, and in the broader, public sphere. It believes that excellent scholarship can grow out of collaboration, experimentation, and play, and we work to create spaces where scholars from many different backgrounds, both traditional and non-traditional, can come together for mutual enrichment.
- Jennifer Borland and Louise Siddons, Collaboration and Cowboys: Community-Based Engaged Art History in the Classroom
- Emily Clark, Ten Proposals for a More Ethical Art History
- Jennifer Kingsley, Collections Based Art History and Social Justice
- Alexa Sand, Teaching Beyond the Borders of Medieval Art
- Zaina Siraj, HIStory not MYstory
- Alicia Walker, Bootstrapping the Soft History of Female Subjecthood in the Middle Ages
- Maggie Williams, Don’t Mourn, Organize!
The Public Medievalist
The Public Medievalist is a volunteer, scholar-run online magazine that seeks to present meaningful and accessible medieval histories informed by contemporary scholarship to the public. Of particular note are series on Gender, Sexism, and the Middle Ages and on Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages, which ought to be read in dialogue with this important critique.
Disturbing Times: Medieval Pasts, Reimagined Futures
eds. Catherine E. Karkov, Anna Kłosowska, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Book jacket description: From Kehinde Wiley to W.E.B. Du Bois, from Nubia to Cuba, Willie Doherty’s terror in ancient landscapes to the violence of institutional Neo-Gothic, Reagan’s AIDS policies to Beowulf fanfiction, this richly diverse volume brings together art historians and literature scholars to articulate a more inclusive, intersectional medieval studies. It will be of interest to students working on the diaspora and migration, white settler colonialism and pogroms, Indigenous studies and decolonial methodology, slavery, genocide, and culturecide. The authors confront the often disturbing legacies of medieval studies and its current failures to own up to those, and also analyze fascist, nationalist, colonialist, anti-Semitic, and other ideologies to which the medieval has been and is yoked, collectively formulating concrete ethical choices and aims for future research and teaching.
Special Issue: Critical Race and the Middle Ages
Literature Compass 16.9-10, ed. Dorothy Kim
This special issue on race in the premodern past centers Margo Hendricks’ call for a premodern critical race studies that “acknowledges its genealogies” and “celebrates that lineage.” By highlighting and redressing the elevation of certain premodern race genealogies over others, it addresses some of the most important intellectual and literary turns that are deeply about politics, the state of the world, and how premodern critical literary studies is deeply imbricated in these discussions. A majority of its contributing scholars identify as medievalists of color.
Special Issue: Indigenous Futures & Medieval Pasts
English Language Notes 58.2, eds. Tarren Andrews and Tiffany Beechy
This special issue considers the “Indigenous turn” currently underway in the field of medieval studies. It reflects on the possibilities and concerns that arise when the knowledges and experiences of Indigenous studies and global Indigenous communities encounter medieval literature and the Euro-American ontological frameworks that have historically shaped its study. Contributors seek to respond to the question: What does it mean for medieval studies to be held accountable by contemporary and ancestral communities of Indigenous peoples whose lives and deaths have created Indigenous studies as we understand it today?
Medieval studies: the stakes of the field
postmedieval 11, eds. Mary Rambaran-Olm, M. Breann Leake, and Micah James Goodrich
This issue… reclaim[s] the collective revolting existence of those who are not cisgender, male, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, middle class, or Christian, a revolting existence that institutional powers – schools, families, hospitals, religious communities, the prison-industrial complex – continually attempt to purge. Our issue asks a deceptively simple question: ‘Whose voices matter in medieval studies?’ This question attends to the voices in the literary-historical record and to the voices of the scholars who engage that archive. The essays in this collection address issues of race, embodiment, and difference, but more specifically, they address matters of inclusion and visibility within these larger conversations.
The Past Couple of Months in Medieval Studies
- Tom Bredehoft, “Anglo-Saxonists”
- J. Clara Chan, Medievalists, Recoiling From White Supremacy Try to Diversify the Field
- J. J. Cohen, On Pushback, Progress, and Promise
- Mateusz Fafinski, The Obama Moment of Anglo-Saxon Studies
- Brandon Hawk, Diversifying SASLC
- Amy S. Kaufman, Thread on Medieval Studies & White Supremacy
- Adam Miyashiro, Decolonizing Anglo-Saxon Studies: A Response to ISAS in Honolulu
- Otávio Luiz Vieira Pinto, Peripheries of the Middle Ages
- Daniel Remein, ISAS Should Probably Change Its Name
MAA Webinar: Race, Racism, and Our Institutions and Disciplines
This webinar investigates race and racism as it appears in our disciplines and institutions, many of which were founded on explicitly racial grounds. The panel is designed to make us think about the structures which uphold bias practices, consider the effects of these practices on students, scholars, and scholarship of the Middle Ages, imagine ways forward, and enact potential subversions to institutionalized habits.
The Secret Power of White Supremacy: How Anti-Racists Can Take It Back
Cord Whitaker encourages Black Lives Matter protesters to consider co-opting the language and trappings of chivalry and knighthood that motivate so many racists.
Drinking with Historians – Episode 8
An informal conversation with medievalists Dr. Mary Rambaran-Olm (@isasaxonists) and Dr. Erik Wade (@erik_kaars) about the medieval world, anti-racism, and the issue of complicity, both by consumers and producers of work in medieval studies.
Race in Dialogue: Kim Hall and Noémie Ndiaye
A celebration of and conversation about Kim Hall’s groundbreaking book, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England, twenty-five years after its first publication.
Students from all backgrounds need access to the literature of every age
Shazia Jagot’s life was transformed by the chance to read Chaucer as an undergraduate. It is crucial, she argues, that a new generation of black and ethnic minority students get the same opportunity.
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.