Yesterday we at HASTAC received an email about the statement collectively published by Medievalists of Color, in response to a number of recent controversies in medieval studies, from the distinguished early modernist, Professor Geraldine Heng, one of HASTAC’s early Steering Committee members and a continuing member of our Council of Advisors. Professor Heng is the Perceval Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature,Women’s Studies, & Middle Eastern Studies The University of Texas at Austin. Professor Heng’s monumental study, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, will appear from Cambridge University Press in 2018.
We print the letter to her, with the link to the statement, with her permission. Below the letter is one salient paragraph from the Collective Statement by the Medievalists of Color. We urge everyone to take the time to read the full post (the links in the blog lead directly to their statement). From this, you can learn about the controversies that spawned this particular response as well as the larger, systemic conditions that necessitate such a response.
For further context, we also point Ayanna Thompson’s (President-Elect, Shakespeare Association of America and Professor of English, The George Washington University) “Otherness” at IMC in Leeds: An Open Letter.
Please use the COMMENTS section below to continue this important conversation. Please also feel free to share this with your own networks and to spread the word on social media.
Thank you for your attention.
Letter Sent to Professor Geraldine Heng, HASTAC Advisor, from the Medievalists of Color:
Dear Professor Heng:
We, the Medievalists of Color, have published a collective response to the recent controversies in medieval studies:
Please share the statement with your colleagues at the Global Middle Ages.
Medievalists of Color
Excerpt from the Collective Statement by the Medievalists of Color:
“The current controversy offers an opportunity for medievalists who identify as white to understand the perspectives and experiences of medievalists and other people of color. On blog posts and comments, on listservs and on Facebook, the reactions of many of our fellow scholars have been deeply disturbing, with remarks that range from dismissing such jokes as “harmless social lubricant” to accusing those who legitimately express dismay at such jokes as “policing,” “silencing,” or “blacklisting” conference speakers to violent and profanity-laden abuse directed at medievalists of color.
Some comments and conversations suggest that our white medievalist colleagues experience dismay at assumptions about them based on their race: their intentions seem not to matter; they are objects of suspicion; their positions are assumed to be wrong. We ask white medievalists feeling this way to recognize that this is what is it is like to be a person of color every day, in the world and all too often in the profession. We make this point not to perpetuate a loop of mutual resentment but rather to offer an inroad to understanding our perspective.
This is a watershed moment that, if used productively, will make medieval studies home to an intellectual environment that is sustainable and innovative, promotes risk-taking, and leverages an ever greater number of experiences and scholarly lenses in order to build the most comprehensive body of knowledge about the Middle Ages possible.” . . .