Sunday, May 12, 2019

Medieval Studies and Bogus Identity Politics

Re: " Symbols of Past Used by Right Upset Scholars"/"Medieval Scholars Joust With White Nationalists. And One Another" ( New York Times, May 5th, 2019).

The very term medieval (Latin for "middle-aged") is a construct, referring to Europe between the collapse of the Roman Empire around AD450 and the "Renaissance" one thousand years later. This thousand-year period is Eurocentric by definition, and that cannot be altered. No similar collapse occurred elsewhere, nor did any similar Renaissance. The Europe of this period was overwhelmingly white, Christian, and patriarchal, and any attempt to redefine that is simply an attempt to remake the medieval period in a 21st-century American image. This may be culturally commendable, but it is unscholarly.
The Kalamazoo Congress has tried to appease cultural relativists by organizing sessions on medievalism in the modern world, as it did in 2018 with a session including the paper "Fuck this Shit: How Can You Not Say Something?"
Traditional medieval scholarship may not be trendy or controversial, but it is worthy, scholarly, and content-driven. The social-media battle you describe in your article, driven by trollish demagogues specializing in identity politics, does not represent it.

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