The Leeds Conference

An article on the annual Leeds conference in the Chronicle of Higher Education has been making the rounds, but I liked this commentary from… Commentary:

Apparently, There Is an Academic Medievalist Far Left

Even “Game of Thrones” has not quite rescued medieval studies from its reputation for stodginess. Yet the organizers of this year’s International Medieval Congress must have thought their fellow scholars would think them a teensy bit cool for selecting the theme “otherness.”

There were plenty of panels on gender, gendering, ungendering, and various gendered things. There was one devoted to “Hagiography Beyond Gender Essentialism: Trans and Genderqueer Sanctity: Rethinking the Status Quo.” There was plenty on ethnicity, a bit on race, and, for those who like their politics unsauced, a panel entitled “The Historical Is Political: Understanding the Backlash against the Study of Race, Gender, and Representation in Medievalism.”

I note these titles not to bash the conference, whose program contains many interesting things, or to suggest that medieval studies can cast no light on contemporary problems. I am saying only that the 2,400 scholars from 56 countries who descended on England’s University of Leeds earlier this month may have thought they’d gone some way toward appeasing the academic left.

Nope. Some of their fellow medievalists are accusing them of abetting white supremacy.

This remarkable charge, though related to longstanding discontent about the field of medieval studies, is at the moment tied to a panel entitled “The Medieval Concept of Otherness.” For the sake of focus, invited panelists were all historians of the early Middle Ages. The idea behind the panel was that whatever the medieval understanding of “us” and “them” or “self” and “other” was, it is was quite different from what ours is today. So the Leeds International Medieval Conference had a white supremacy problem because—no, really—this one panel consisted of “white Europeans” who were not steeped in critical race and postcolonial theory. You cannot have a discussion of how people in the early Middle Ages thought of “the other” without panelists of color versed in highly politicized contemporary theories of oppression.

More at the link.

Symposium

I just received word of this. It looks interesting:

A SYMPOSIUM AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT ATLANTA

5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia
Saturday, September 16, 2017
9:00 – 4:30

The holdings of the National Archives at Atlanta include approximately 10,000 cubic feet of records relating to the World War I home front.  These records document the federal government’s attempts at food conservation, promotion of the war effort and the purchase of Liberty Bonds, as well intelligence investigations by the U.S. Navy. Other historical records tell the story of the 24 million men who registered for the Selective Service and of other men who were prosecuted and incarcerated for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917. This year’s symposium, The Great War Over Here: Stories from the Home Front, encourages research in these diverse records, features scholars whose published works were based on these holdings, and promotes the discovery of new scholars from universities and colleges across the Southeast and the nation.

Presenters Include:

Dr. Ernest Freeberg, Professor of History and Department Chair, University of Tennessee, Author of Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent 

Dr. Jeanette Keith, Professor Emeritus, Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, Author of Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War

Dr. Carol White, History Professor, Clayton State University, presenting on:Poetry of World War I

Nathan Jordan, Archives Specialist, National Archives at Atlanta, presenting on An Introduction to World War I Era Records Held at the National Archives at Atlanta

Joel Walker, Education Specialist, National Archives at Atlanta, presenting on Political Prisoners in the Atlanta Penitentiary: Anarchists, Socialists, Ministers, and More  

Pre-registration is required. Registration is free and limited to 200 participants.
To register online, go to: https://www.archives.gov/atlanta/symposiums/wwi
To register by email: atlanta.archives@nara.gov

Sponsored by the National Archives and Georgia Humanities.

Georgia Regional PAT Conference 2017

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On Saturday, April 1, Reinhardt student Kyle Walker, alumnus Alex Bryant, and Prof. Jonathan Good traveled to Macon to participate in this year’s Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference. Many thanks to Abby Dowling and John Thomas Scott for their hard work in putting together a good one. Mercer last hosted this conference in 2011, and it was a pleasure to return, as the Mercer campus is gorgeous, especially in the spring. The papers I heard were all very good – especially Kyle’s, who spoke of how the domino theory of Communist expansion in southeast Asia was applicable to Indochina only, largely on account of all parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos all having been part of the French empire. Communism did not spread beyond these places because Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, etc. had different histories (i.e., communism and nationalism did not converge there, as it did in Indochina). Plus, the US commitment to containing communism entailed a great deal of support for the non-communist governments of these countries, which helped to protect them from that particular ideology. This was the silver lining of the Viet Nam war – it didn’t prevent the North from taking over the South, and from backing the Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge as they took power, but it did prevent the spread of communism beyond Indochina.

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Kyle Walker ’17 at the Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference, Mercer University, April 1, 2017.

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Participants in the “Eastern Front” session: chair Joshua van Lieu (LaGrange College), MiKaylee Smith (LaGrange), Daniel Garrett (LaGrange), Kyle Walker (Reinhardt).

The plenary session at lunch featured a very interesting presentation by Maurice Hobson of Georgia State University, professor of history and African-American studies, whose book The Legend of the Black Mecca: Myth, Maxim and the Making of an Olympic City is about to be released by UNC Press. Dr. Hobson’s talk, entitled “Using Hip Hop as History: From the Black New South to the Dirty South,” referenced W.E.B. Dubois, Atlanta’s first black mayor Maynard Jackson, the 1996 Summer Olympics, artists like OutKast and Goodie Mob, the Atlanta Child Murders, and Hobson’s own personal history, to demonstrate how not all African-Americans were uplifted by Jackson’s post-segregation New South.

Georgia Gwinnett College (home of former Reinhardt professor Pat Zander) has agreed to host this conference next year.

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Alex Bryant ’15 and Kyle Walker ’17 flank a Mercer bear.

Announcements

For those in the area:

Please join us on Saturday, February 4, 2017, when the Bandy Heritage Center presents the 2017 Civil War in the Western Theater Colloquium “Written in Blood and Carved in Stone: Remembering the Civil War at Chickamauga, Shiloh, and Vicksburg.” Three prominent scholars will discuss how the nation’s earliest military parks came into existence, how each contributed to the memory of the war, and how their commemoration of the historic landscape changed over time. The program starts at 10:00 a.m. and will be held in the Lecture Hall of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center (2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, Dalton, GA 30720) in conjunction with the Chickamauga Civil War Show.

*****

Looking for a date night idea in Cartersville?

January 28, 2017, 7:00-10:00 p.m.

Red, White, and You!
Live Jazz – Dancing – Cocktails – Refreshments
Come dressed in 1940’s attire
(Rosie, WACS, G.I., Starlet, Comic Book Hero, etc.)
Obtain your enlistment papers (tickets)
www.BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
For more information call our recruiter, Nicole Masters, at 770-382-3818, ext. 6288 or email her at nicolem@BartowHistoryMuseum.org.
Bartow History Museum
4 East Church Street, Cartersville, GA 30120

 *****

Evening Lecture: Touring the Wilderness of North America with Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer
January 19, 7:00 pm

Bergman Theatre, Booth Western Art Museum.

Join the Prince of Wied, Maximilian, as he takes you on a tour of North America as he saw it in 1832-33-34. Using Karl Bodmer’s illuminating illustrations, Prince Maximilian will escort the audience on an adventure from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the Great Falls of the Missouri River, from New Harmony, Indiana to New Orleans, Louisiana. Travel with this intrepid explorer to meet America’s best scientific minds, explore the West in the wake of Lewis and Clark, camp among the Mandan, Lakota, Crow and Omaha and participate in traditional American Indian drumming songs. Storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into the shoes of Prince Maximilian allowing the audience to step back in time. Blending history, science, art and cultural anthropology, the Prince gives us a unique view of America as he saw it in the early 1830s. Much of the text for this performance comes directly from his journals. The backdrop includes the landscapes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life painted by Karl Bodmer. Program included with admission.

Helpful Hints for Conferences

1. Just because you have written a paper, does not mean that you have a presentation. Papers are meant to be read silently to yourself, and when you do so, you can go at your own pace, and reread sections that you might not have gotten the first time around. For a live performance, however, you need to overcome the fact that people can’t do this, so don’t just read your prose word for word quickly, in a monotone, and without ever looking up. (As someone said once: “We know you can read. So can we.”) At the same time, don’t simply give a “report” on what you are working on (“now, in this section I explore some of the implications…”). I am amazed at how many academics continue to do either of these things. No, if you give even a little effort, you can craft a genuine presentation, in which you actually engage the audience with your message, which should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. I am only too aware of the criticisms of PowerPoint, but it can be used effectively, and frankly it’s pretty much standard these days – why not show key points and a gratuitous illustration or two on principle? (Although there is a problem with this that I have not seen addressed elsewhere. If you are going to use PowerPoint, just make sure that when you insert your thumb drive, and open it, that you do not display to the entire room all your personal files. Empty the drive of anything but your talk, or make sure that the projection screen is off when you download it.)

2. If you are the session chair, here are a few things you can do to make things run properly:

  • State your name and affiliation clearly, and welcome the audience graciously
  • Clearly explain the theme of the panel and why it has a claim on people’s attention
  • Clearly introduce the panelists
  • Tell everyone to silence their cell phones 
  • Keep everyone within their allotted time
  • After the talks, mention how you enjoyed the papers, and if at all possible point out some commonalities (don’t just pop up and say “any questions?”)
  • Manage the questions gracefully

It helps if you have gotten all the papers beforehand, and read them, but this is not always possible.

3. If you are organizing a conference, why not consider reviving the medieval custom of the academic debate? Think of Johann Eck vs. Martin Luther in 1520, or Peter Abelard vs. William of Champeaux in the twelfth century. The fall of this form, I assume, has to do with the denigration of scholasticism and the dialectic mode of enquiry that it promoted; lately, we’ve all become “professional” as well – we’d never publicly contradict a colleague! But I think it could be a lot of fun if you actually got two people, each representing a different side of an issue, and let them go at it. It might even lead to greater clarity of thought.

Phi Alpha Theta Georgia Regional Conference

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Spelman College in Atlanta yesterday hosted the Georgia Regional Phi Alpha Theta conference (the same one hosted by Reinhardt last year). Thanks to Charissa Threat for organizing such a good one. 

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In addition to several excellent student papers (there were thirty-five all told, from students at nine different schools), attendees also enjoyed a tour of Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art by Mora Beachamp-Byrd, visiting scholar of art and art history at Spelman.

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Mora Beauchamp-Byrd and Charissa Threat outside Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art.

The current exhibit, Black Chronicles II, explores the black presence in late nineteenth century Victorian Britain through studio portraiture, including some thirty portraits of The African Choir, which toured Britain between 1891 and 1893, and a selection of popular cartes-de-visite. (One of these made me smile: a Zulu warrior from “Farini’s Friendly Zulus.” “The Great Farini,” né William Leonard Hunt, hails from my hometown of Port Hope, Ontario. He first gained fame as a tightrope walker and later became an African explorer and entertainment promoter. Shane Peacock’s book about him has more detail.)

The keynote address, entitled “Women and Violence in the Grassroots Anti-Abortion Movement in the United States,” was delivered by Karissa Haugeberg of Tulane University. Based on her forthcoming book, it was a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of 1980s-era pro-life activism and the women who participated in it. (We’ve been conditioned to think of abortion opponents as men trying to keep women down, but according to Haugeberg women have always made up a majority of the movement, often for feminist reasons – widespread abortion, they believe, frees men from their responsibilities to the women they impregnate. This fundamental divide over the significance of the sexual revolution – is it empowering, or degrading? – is still not resolved, as one can see in the debate over hook-up culture on campus today.)

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Karissa Haugeberg.

Reinhardt was represented by recent graduate Alex Bryant, whose paper “The New American Revolution: A Brief History of the Internet” sparked quite a bit of discussion afterwards.

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Alexander Bryant.

This is the seventh PAT annual conference I’ve been to. It is always fun, and this one was one of the best.

GMG @ UNG

Announcement:

The fall 2015 meeting of the Georgia Medievalists Group will be held on October 24, in Young Hall 202 on the campus of the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.

The best place to park will be in front of the building on College Circle. If there isn’t any room, there is a parking garage at the end of College Circle and it is free on the weekend.

Directions:

http://ung.edu/campuses/dahlonega/maps-directions.php

On this map, Young Hall is #2 & #113 is the parking garage.

http://ung.edu/campuses/_uploads/…/Dahlonega-3DCampusMap.pdf

Schedule:

11:00-11:30 Timothy May, University of North Georgia: Chinggis Khan and Climate Change

11:30-12:00 Tom MacMaster, Morehouse College: “Poena divinitus illata est servitutis”: Christian attitudes towards slavery at the end of antiquity

12:00-1:30 Lunch at Shenanigan’s

1:30-2:00 Kevin Kritsch, Kennesaw State University: Ælfric, Kingship and the Tension between Free-Will and Predestination

2:00-2:30 Elizabeth Carson Pastan, Emory University: Embroidering the Bayeux “Tapestry”

2:30-3:00 Glen Kyle and Ken Johnston, Northeast Georgia History Center: Anglo-Saxon and Norman Arms and Armour

3:00-4:00: Viewing of the Bayeux Tapestry

4:00: Drinks and Dinner at Bourbon St. Grill.

Kalamazoo

This past weekend marked the fiftieth annual International Medieval Congress, hosted by the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan). I first started attending these when I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto in 1995; since then I have gone fourteen times. It is a massive event: this year there were 567 sessions with an average of three papers delivered in each one over the course of four days, plus representatives of all the major academic presses (including Boydell and Brewer) and a few antiquarian book dealers. Like a good megachurch, the Kalamazoo conference is several conferences in one; I tend to hang out with the White Hart Society, whose name derives from one of Richard II’s heraldic badges, and which exists to promote study of late fourteenth and early fifteenth century England. My own paper, “For God, Harry and Saint George? Agincourt and the ‘National’ Saint” went well, and it was great to see old friends and make new ones.

WMU has a pond in the middle of campus, and a resident pair of swans. This year they were raising a brood of cygnets.