Whose Medieval Studies?Historians in the News
tags: education, Medieval Studies
The culture wars have returned to academe with a vengeance -- if they ever left. Medieval studies, an interdisciplinary field rooted in European history but whose boundaries continue to expand, has seen its share of battles and this week again became the center of conflict.
This most recent dispute involves a proposed boycott of what is considered one of the historically white, male field’s most democratic gatherings. Critics are demanding that the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted by Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute, approve more inclusive, self-critical sessions for the 2019 meeting. They also want the Congress Committee to become more transparent about how it selects the annual program.
“Now is an urgent, contested time in medieval studies and in the world at large,” reads an open letter of concern published Wednesday by the BABEL Working Group, a scholarly collective that supports the congress. “Responding to the field's evolution would mean acknowledging its heightened interest in the perspectives of scholars of color and creating space for these underrepresented voices."
BABEL’s letter echoes a similarpersonal statement from Seeta Chaganti, an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis, which was shared by the Medievalists of Color group earlier this week. (Medievalists of Color also signed BABEL’s letter.)
“I can no longer participate in nor support the International Congress on Medieval Studies, [at] Kalamazoo,” Chaganti wrote. “While performing a seemingly virtuous commitment to academic freedom, the actions of this organization’s leadership not only silence marginalized voices but also enable racially-based harassment.” ...
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