Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Networks & Neighbors: Exciting New Journal in Early Medieval Studies


Given postmedieval's recent issue on Medieval Mobilities, and our interests here at In The Middle in actor-network theory, post-human studies, collaborative scholarship, global history, and scholarship of a certain creative-narrativistic bent, I'm thrilled to announce that punctum books has recently joined hands with Networks and Neighbours, a new international collective of historians (initially, from the UK, Brazil, and Israel) dedicated to "the networking poetics of life in early medieval studies." They hosted their first international symposium at the University of Leeds just this past June on "Early Medieval Correlations," concerned with varying types of interconnectivity in the early Middle Ages [the next symposium, in 2014, will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil] -- and I would note that the diversity of presenters (from universities in the UK, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Israel, Hungary, and Austria) at their first symposium is really noteworthy for a gathering in the UK in early medieval studies.

They have inaugurated an open-access journal of the same name, Networks and Neighbors, which aims, in the words of the editors,
to promote the study of how people and communities interacted within and without their own world and localities in the Early Middle Ages. Our ultimate discourse is amenable to intellectual events that emerge from N&N but inceptively we set out with the view that if texts present directed meaning because they are sets of signifiers and our minds are developed so as to expect, anticipate and subsequently comprehend complex information through sets, or networks, of ideas, then we can argue that it is the respective, local topology of a past situation, or rather of its functional and malleable discourses, that can provide the modern ‘reader,’ or historian, with the framework through which s/he can write a story of the past.   

We maintain that identity and meaning were not determined by fixed sets and integers, but by a complex network of interrelated signs. In practice, this suggests that a single person within their personal world could have travelled within various worlds and realities, identifying with various neighbours at even single overlapping points of identity; one did not encounter another as a fixed category, either of ‘self’ or ‘other’. Therefore, by ‘network’ we do not mean a fixed identifier, a singularizing category, but refer to the complex ways that individuals, groups, institutions et cetera constructed self-considered, coherent and singular existences from the multiplicity of mental activity, perceptions, ideas, and the varying confrontation with images, physical and non-human being, languages, sounds, senses, ‘discourses’ and all else that was life in the period.  This, then, is how we would like to make sense of the concepts of ‘continuity’ and ‘change’, particularly as they happened ‘on the ground.’
The editorial board of N&N consists of established leaders in the field as well as emerging young scholars working in early medieval studies, who wish to advance early medieval scholarship in radical directions and towards truly alternative ways of thinking and engaging the early medieval past.   

The editors (Michael J. Kelly, Tim Barnwell, Jason R. Berg, and Richard Broome) welcome anyone interested in the serious reconsideration, revisiting and re-presenting (via text, image or sound) of the historical sources, patterns, inventions, representations and historiographies about early medieval worlds to submit a piece to N&N. You can contact them at: 


And stay tuned to their website HERE for forthcoming CFPs. The journal will be available in both open-access and affordable print editions. Medieval studies needs more journals such as this one [there is, I really believe, more exciting work being undertaken in medieval studies right now than there are outlets in which that work can appear, and without overlong lag times, and the fact that this journal concentrates on EARLY medieval *historical* studies is like ... an extra bonus!].

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