Saturday, October 8, 2011


MAKING RACE MATTER IN THE MIDDLE AGES Editor: Cord J. Whitaker, University of New Hampshire ( Issue Description: Only in the past fifteen years have medievalists considered with any regularity the question of whether race mattered in the Middle Ages. In that time, medievalists’ interest in racial alterity has grown significantly, witnessing the release of such works as Geraldine Heng’s Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (2003) and Suzanne Conklin Akbari’s Idols in the East: European Representations of Islam and the Orient, 1100-1450 (2009). These studies and others like them take into account the similarities between medieval forms of cultural differentiation and modern racial ideology. On the contrary, other studies have maintained that race is indeed an early modern invention, arguing that to look for signs of race in the Middle Ages is at best wrongheaded and at worst irresponsible. Still others have addressed at length and without decisive conclusion the question of whether modern racial discourse can be profitably and responsibly deployed in medieval studies. postmedieval’s mission to develop a “present-minded medieval studies” makes it the perfect forum in which scholars might proceed from the standpoint that the benefits of locating the pre-history of race in the Middle Ages outweigh the potential pitfalls. The editor invites scholars of literature, history, art history, and related fields to focus on how race can best be examined through medieval cultural materials. For instance, contributors may examine medieval representations of bodies and cultures that purport to be different from one another. More often than not, borderlines between bodies or cultures become most interesting when they are transgressed; there is much to be learned from instances when borders are (or are not) reestablished. Articles may also investigate the relational dynamics between the individual body and communal identity in the medieval construction of race. In addition, articles may address the role of spiritual conditions and religious doctrines in the development of race. This special issue will explore in-depth medieval articulations of racial difference even while it asserts the place of race in medieval studies and the place of medieval studies in the study of race. The issue as a whole seeks to ask, how did the Middle Ages make race matter? (“Matter” can be taken as a verb, meaning become important, or the second term in a compound noun, meaning material pertaining to race.) And how can we best illuminate the ways race matters to the study of the Middle Ages and vice versa?

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