The social justice warriors’ quest to erase and rewrite the past now extends past monument destruction. One group has zeroed in on the field of medieval scholarship, criticizing it for not being concerned enough with present-day progressive activism.
On July 11, the BABEL Working Group published an open letter to the organizers of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), which is planning to host its annual conference of about 3,000 academics at Kalamazoo College in May 2019, outlining two “concerns” about the conference.
“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 letter explains, adding that the second concern relates to an alleged “lack of transparency around the process by which ICMS programming decisions are made.”
ICMS had rejected riveting panel topics such as — yes, really — “How to Be a White Ally in Medieval Studies 101,” “Toxic Medievalisms,” and “Intersectionality and the Medieval Romance.”
In other words, ICMS rejected panel topics that intended to hijack scholarship of the medieval period to create yet another venue for spreading the progressive ideology.
The thing is, medieval scholars — like most academics — trend towards the left on the political spectrum. I’m sure if asked, you’d find they side with social justice warriors on a wide variety of issues. What they don’t want is to have that ideology overtake the purpose of medieval study, which is … medieval study. Yes, these are just a few panel topics — but if you think that’s where it’ll stop, you haven’t been paying attention. The open letter even alludes to bigger intentions:
The rejection of multiple sessions co-sponsored by Medievalists of Color (MOC) in particular minimizes the intellectual guidance that scholars of color would provide at the conference, when these scholars are already severely underrepresented in the field.
Why should the ICMS accept “guidance” from a group that has only a handful of members and clearly does not intend to advance knowledge within the field, but to co-opt the stage? A group that thinks the race of a scholar objectively qualifies that scholar for a “guidance” position.
Frankly, if this is the way these Medievalists of Color want to contribute to the field, then it doesn’t sound like the field is missing out. And other minority Medievalists who reject the use of race to push an agenda probably have something to say about what Medievalists of Color is doing, too.
ICMS spokeswoman Paula Davis told Campus Reform that conference workshops are chosen based on specific criteria such as “the intellectual justifications offered for individual sessions,” “the balance of topics addressed,” “the balance of sessions of various formats,” and “apparent redundancies among proposed sessions.”
In other words, nothing that was suggested by Medievalists of Color met any of those criteria.