Saturday, July 14, 2018

Kalamazoo ICMS - two letters, and asking for your support


Writing quickly from the last morning of the New Chaucer Society in Toronto to ask you to read two recent letters about the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo.

The first is by Seeta Chaganti, whose letter, at the Medievalists of Color website, begins like this:

I can no longer participate in nor support the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo. While performing a seemingly virtuous commitment to academic freedom, the actions of this organization’s leadership not only silence marginalized voices but also enable racially-based harassment. More than one organization whose intellectual profile reflects a commitment to politically progressive critical theory along with social and racial justice has found its voice minimized in the planning for next year’s conference. In what follows, I address this issue regarding one such organization. But I additionally point out that an environment permitting such minimization also facilitates harassment and potential harm. It is an environment entirely inimical to genuine academic freedom.

It's an important letter, and a welcome to challenge to the problem any community faces when confronted with bad actors.

Meanwhile, the BABEL working group has created a letter on the topic of next year's program. It begins like this:

We have two concerns. The first is that there seems to be a bias against, or lack of interest in, sessions that are self-critical of medieval studies, or focused on the politics of the field in the present, especially relative to issues of decoloniality, globalization, and anti-racism. The second is that there is a profound lack of transparency around the process by which ICMS programming decisions are made, an opacity that is out of line with the norms of academic conferences and harmful to ongoing conversations in the field.

The letter has data on the program supporting this charge. BABEL is asking for two key things:

As a gesture toward addressing inclusion and diversity at ICMS 2019, we ask that Medievalists of Color be given the option -- should they choose upon deliberation to exercise it -- of reinstating at least 2 co-sponsored panels of their choice (of the 4 rejected). Responding to the field's evolution would mean acknowledging its heightened interest in the perspectives of scholars of color and creating space for these underrepresented voices.

To address the lack of transparency that characterizes the ICMS conference committee, we request (at a minimum) that the committee be changed to include a non-anonymous and rotating set of members, at least some of whom are from outside the Institute. 
If you support the letter, I join the BABEL Working Group in asking that you add you name to the list of its supporters. Please scroll to the bottom of the page here to add your name.

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