Woke Medievalists Emotionally Labor Against Their Chosen Profession’s Eurocentrism


It’s not just Classicists who are getting woke. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Medievalists, Recoiling From White Supremacy, Try to Diversify the Field

By J. Clara Chan JULY 16, 2017

… The criticisms of the conference’s diversity stems from problems in medieval studies for decades — that it is still too Eurocentric, male-dominated, and resistant to change. … “The worry I would have is that, is the field going to be forever linked to white supremacy?”

The alt-right’s “fantasy” of the medieval past couldn’t be further from the truth, says Suzanne Akbari, director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies. …

Medievalists from underrepresented groups say they see this as a watershed moment for them to speak up and change the status quo.

… Although conversations about increasing the diversity and inclusivity of scholarship are hardly unique to medieval studies, scholars in the field say that it has been slow to change, and that it still struggles to confront xenophobia, racism, sexism, and ableism within its scholarly community.

The medievalist Eileen A. Joy believes the problems stem from a combination of factors: The subject matter itself can be Eurocentric, the institutions that have served as the centers of medieval scholarship are places where avant-garde research is often not welcome, and some scholars may be attracted to medievalism because of its focus on whiteness and Christianity.

“The field has been rather proud of its resistance to critical theory, which then just attracts even more people to the field who themselves want to be resistant to theory and see medieval studies as a safe place — a safe place to be elitist, a safe place to be white, a safe place to be Christian, Eurocentric, misogynist, etc.,” Ms. Joy says.

“It just takes a long time and a lot of emotional labor to push back against those tropes and those stereotypes,” says Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America. “Sometimes, I think, for the people who are really engaged in that emotional labor, it really feels like you’re just howling into the wind, and then no one is listening.”

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