The diversity bug is definitely a thing that seems to be infesting everything these days. The latest example is in the realm of medieval studies, of all things.
A growing concern among Medieval Studies scholars is that the field is too dominated by white, male scholars who appreciate its link to Christian values and the fact that it’s been somewhat resistant to identity politics changes seen in other humanities departments.
The issue has been compounded by the concern among Medieval Studies scholars that white supremacists and the alt-right have co-opted crusade themes in memes to push for violence against Muslims and people of color.
Currently some scholars are planning a “Crusades and Alt Right” symposium this October to discuss the issue, an effort led in part by Virginia Tech medieval studies Professor Matthew Gabriele, who has argued the crusades have been misunderstood and misused throughout history to advance xenophobic nationalism.
Hundreds of Medieval Studies professors have also signed their names to a petition calling on the International Medieval Congress to create “a statement about the value, importance, and necessity of diversity in medieval studies.”
The unease came to a head recently after many scholars attending the annual International Medieval Congress complained that the panels were too dominated by white males, and a moderator made a tasteless joke about sun tanning and race, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
Anytime someone complains about the lack of diversity of a given group, I ask one simple question: What is being done to keep women and/or minorities out of said field?
Feminists talking about the lack of women in STEM fields, for example, can at least argue that women have long been discouraged. While that was true at one time, it’s not these days, but at least they can answer it.
In the case of medieval scholars, what barriers exist that prevent minorities from pursuing that field?
Any barriers that may exist come from the minority communities themselves. After all, there are people who believe the history of minority cultures is the exclusive domain of the minorities themselves. It’s not a massive leap to envision this sort of tribalism swinging the other way, where minorities have no interest in medieval history because it’s primarily a European area of study.
In other words, how is diversity a problem if everyone who wants to study the period is permitted to?
Or are we simply going to continue with the nonsense about outcomes being all that matter?