#Historians #FightBack // #Medievalists Respond to #Charlottesville / #UniteTheRight / #WhiteSupremacists

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Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville

In light of the recent events in the United States, most recently the
racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the undersigned community
of medievalists condemns the appropriation of any item or idea or
material in the service of white supremacy. In addition, we condemn the
abuse of colleagues, particularly colleagues of color, who have spoken
publicly against this misuse of history.

As scholars of the medieval world we are disturbed by the use of a
nostalgic but inaccurate myth of the Middle Ages by racist movements in
the United States. By using imagined medieval symbols, or names drawn
from medieval terminology, they create a fantasy of a pure, white Europe
that bears no relationship to reality. This fantasy not only hurts
people in the present, it also distorts the past. Medieval Europe was
diverse religiously, culturally, and ethnically, and medieval Europe was
not the entire medieval world. Scholars disagree about the motivations
of the Crusades—or, indeed, whether the idea of “crusade” is a medieval
one or came later—but it is clear that racial purity was not primary
among them.

Contemporary white nationalists are not the first Americans to have
turned nostalgic views of the medieval period to racist purposes. It is,
in fact, deeply ironic that the Klan’s ideas of medieval knighthood
were used to harass immigrants who practiced the forms of Christianity
most directly connected with the medieval church. Institutions of
scholarship must acknowledge their own participation in the creation of
interpretations of the Middle Ages (and other periods) that served these
narratives. Where we do find bigotry, intolerance, hate, and fear of
“the other” in the past—and the Middle Ages certainly had their share—we
must recognize it for what it is and read it in its context, rather
than replicating it.

The medieval Christian culture of Europe is indeed a worthy object of
study, in fact a necessary one. Medieval Studies must be broader than
just Europe and just Christianity, however, because to limit our object
of study in such a way gives an arbitrary and false picture of the past.
We see a medieval world that was as varied as the modern one. It
included horrific violence, some of it committed in the name of
religion; it included feats of bravery, justice, harmony, and love, some
of them also in the name of religion. It included movement of people,
goods, and ideas over long distances and across geographical,
linguistic, and religious boundaries. There is much to be learned from
studying the period, whether we choose to focus on one community and
text or on wider interactions. What we will not find is the origin of a
pure and supreme white race.

Every generation of scholars creates its own interpretations of the
past. Such interpretations must be judged by how well they explain the
writings, art, and artifacts that have come down to us. As a field we
are dedicated to scholarly inquiry. As the new semester approaches at
many institutions, we invite those of you who have the opportunity to
join us. Take a class or attend a public lecture on medieval history,
literature, art, music. Learn about this vibrant and varied world,
instead of simply being appalled by some racist caricature of it. See
for yourself what lessons it holds for the modern world.

The Medieval Academy of America

BABEL Working Group

International Center for Medieval Art

International Congress on Medieval Studies

Sewanee Medieval Colloquium

Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages

TEAMS: Teaching Association for Medieval Studies

The Fellowship of Medievalists of Color

The Gender and Medieval Studies Group

The International Arthurian Society-North American Branch

The International Association for Robin Hood Studies

The International Piers Plowman Society

The International Society of Anglo-Saxonists

The International Society for the Study of Medievalism

The John Gower Society

The New Chaucer Society

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship

-The Medieval Academy Blog

Source: // medievalpoc.tumblr.com

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