Friday, July 24, 2015

Where Else? Far Out! (BABEL CFPs for Kzoo 2016)

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Please submit your abstracts for these two great sessions for Kzoo 2016!

Where Else? [Roundtable]
Session Sponsors: BABEL Working Group
Session Organizer: Suzanne Conklin Akbari (University of Toronto)

During ICMS 2015, a number of different events (such as the Richard Utz plenary, “Ye Next Generacioun” roundtable featuring younger scholars, and the Material Collective’s meta-session) culminated in calls for attendees to acknowledge the current Anglo-European (and Anglophone) center of gravity of medieval studies and to engage more proactively with perspectives from outside the Latin West and a predominantly Anglo-European academy. Academic medieval studies (especially scholarship on literature, arts, and culture) has been increasingly mindful of the linguistic, cultural, and religious heterogeneity of the Western Middle Ages. Suzanne Akbari, Karla Mallette, Jeffrey Cohen, and Geraldine Heng (to name a few) have advanced important cross-cultural, polyglot, and multi-faith approaches to the historical past. David Wallace’s forthcoming literary history of Europe (which includes contributors from many countries) rethinks the very contours our conceptions of medieval “Europe” by attending to interconnected urban trajectories spilling over into Africa, Central Asia, and the North Atlantic rather than reifying emergent European nation-states. What remains less explored at this point is how the (Western) medieval past reads differently for modern scholars who are not of Anglo-European ancestry or who work in areas outside of Europe or Anglophone contexts. Cord Whitaker and Helen Young have recently argued that professional medieval studies and non-professional forms of medievalism can perpetuate a myth of a “monochrome” medieval past that denies the coeval status of people of non-European backgrounds (especially people of African or Asian ancestry). Michelle Warren, Kathleen Davis and Nadia Altschul have focused not so much on race but on expanding the cultural geographies of modern medievalism, exploring how notions of “the Middle Ages” have been deployed in historical contexts outside of Europe. The “Middle Ages in the Modern World” conference series, the Studies in Medievalism monograph series, and the Global Chaucers project are further examples of scholarly communities that have begun to take seriously how Europe’s medieval past is mediated, adapted, or transformed across contemporary non-Anglophone settings.

This roundtable solicits a range of voices to explore “where else” medieval studies might move—in rethinking the past, and reshaping a medievalist community in the present. How might academic medieval studies more effectively expand beyond the Latin (Christian) West to encompass other cultural perspectives? What forms of knowledge and expertise—academic or non-professional—can restructure implicitly Anglo-European frames of reference? What other paradigms for engaging with a “medieval” (or classical) past emerge outside of European cultures? How do departmental boundaries limit the projection of modern national or linguistic taxonomies into different orders of the Middle Ages? How might, for example, the presumptive parochialism and canonicity of an “English” department be understood in relation to the (perhaps equally) presumptive expansive boundaries of “Art” and “History” departments? Ultimately, this conversation hopes to entertain new approaches to the heterogeneity (racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious) of the historical past as well as broader range of perspectives (linguistic, national, and geographical) in our present.

BABEL invites speakers from any field or theoretical approach and on any subject relating to where else medieval studies might like to go. Please send abstracts of 300 words, a brief bio, and the ICMS PIF ( to Suzanne Conklin Akbari ( by Sept. 15, 2015.

Far Out! [Roundtable]
Session Sponsors: BABEL Working Group
Session Organizer: Suzanne Conklin Akbari (University of Toronto)

The second of the BABEL Working Group’s linked panels will discuss methods, affiliations, and inquiries that come close to--or even cross--the limits of “serious scholarship” and “acceptable work” in medieval studies. We seek examples of eccentric researchers, inconvenient amateurs, crazy ideas, and questionable medievalisms as material for thinking about what our disciplines and institutions will tolerate, what they will not, and why. Have we, as a field, abandoned interesting ideas and approaches because they are too far from the mainstream? Scholars such as Candace Barrington, Brantley Bryant, Louise D’Arcens, Carolyn Dinshaw, Stephanie Trigg, Richard Utz, Lawrence Warner, and Anna Wilson  have productively raised the issue, and the Material Collective hosted a rich session at the ICMS in 2014 on “Faking It.” As a favorite phrase of the North American counterculture, “far out” expresses enthusiasm as well as surprise at the unexpected; in this spirit, we seek to locate the points at which medieval scholarship or medievalist creations hover provocatively between genius and junk.

Presenters may discuss, among other topics: hippie/New Age medievalisms, wishful thinking, terrible reconstructions, tattoo Celticism, Beowulf for capitalists, discredited research, fanfic and cosplay, argumentative wrong turns, poetics and performance art, conspiracy theorists, ciphers and cryptology, gaming communities and online collectives, and academic distaste. Alternately, they may propose projects, pedagogies, and perspectives that are utterly and unabashedly “out there.”

BABEL invites speakers from any field or theoretical approach and on any “far out” subject. Please send abstracts of 300 words, a brief bio, and the ICMS PIF ( to Suzanne Conklin Akbari ( by Sept. 15, 2015.

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