Medieval Scholars Joust With White Nationalists. And One Another.Breaking News
tags: education, academia, medieval history, White Supremacy
Each May, some 3,000 people descend on Kalamazoo, Mich., for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which brings together academics and enthusiasts for four days of scholarly panels, performances and after-hours mead drinking.
But in recent years, the gathering affectionately known as “K’zoo” — and the field of medieval studies itself — has been shadowed by conflicts right out of the 21st century.
Since the 2016 presidential election, scholars have hotly debated the best way to counter the “weaponization” of the Middle Ages by a rising tide of far-right extremists, whether it’s white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., displaying medieval symbols or the white terrorist who murdered 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, using weapons inscribed with references to the Crusades.
And hanging over it all is an even more fraught question: Does medieval studies have a white supremacy problem of its own?
To some scholars, the answer is yes, and not just because the field is overwhelmingly white. Scholarship on the Middle Ages, they argue, helped create the idea of white European superiority, and still bolsters it today. There have been calls to “decolonize” medieval studies by confronting the structural racism that has kept both nonwhite scholars and nonwhite perspectives outside its gates.
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