Session Title

How Global Were the Middle Ages? (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Interdisciplinary Graduate Medieval Colloquium, Univ. of Virginia

Organizer Name

DeVan Ard

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Virginia

Presider Name

Zachary E. Stone

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Virginia

Paper Title 1

Discussant

Presenter 1 Name

Christina Normore

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Northwestern Univ.

Paper Title 2

Arabic's Gutenberg: Cultural Difference through the Lens of Print

Presenter 2 Name

Erica Machulak

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Notre Dame

Paper Title 3

Discussant

Presenter 3 Name

Dorothy Wong

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Virginia

Paper Title 4

The Role of Political Memory in the Assessment of Historical Periods

Presenter 4 Name

Aman Nadhiri

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Johnson C. Smith Univ.

Paper Title 5

Discussant

Presenter 5 Name

Raihan Ahmed

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Univ. of Virginia

Start Date

11-5-2017 10:00 AM

Session Location

Valley II LeFevre 201

Description

The failures of traditional periodization are nowhere more evident than when Western scholars approach non-Western cultures, religions, and/or political formations under the rubric of “middleness.” Even as projects such as the “Global Middle Ages” seek to broaden the geographic scope of medieval studies, which has for too long ignored the cultural production of non-European, non-Western societies, such endeavors import assumptions about modernization and enlightenment that may obscure as much as they reveal about the peoples and places they study. And if scholars such as Charles Taylor and Talal Asad have re-shaped our understanding of secularization over the past two decades, they have no doubt also reinforced the contingency of that process and the vulnerability of a hermeneutic of progress.

The expansion of the Islamicate empires (Abbasid, Ayyubid, etc.), for instance, is often treated as paradigmatically medieval, primarily due to the cultural flourishing of Baghdad and Andalusia during the period 1000-1400. Yet many of the constitutive cultural, political, and economic features of these empires lived on into the twentieth century with the Ottoman Empire, which was abolished only in 1922. Further examples could be adduced to demonstrate the limited applicability of the “medieval/modern” binary to economies, societies, and cultures of Asia and the global South. For those who study issues and text beyond the Latin West, the narrative of modernization and enlightenment serves little purpose beyond the administrative necessities of the contemporary university.

This roundtable invites scholars to discuss the effects of studying global cultures with and without the optic of Western European periodization. What alternative periodizations do these cultures offer? And how might they in turn reconfigure the conception of “middleness” in study of Western Latin culture?

DeVan Ard

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May 11th, 10:00 AM

How Global Were the Middle Ages? (A Roundtable)

Valley II LeFevre 201

The failures of traditional periodization are nowhere more evident than when Western scholars approach non-Western cultures, religions, and/or political formations under the rubric of “middleness.” Even as projects such as the “Global Middle Ages” seek to broaden the geographic scope of medieval studies, which has for too long ignored the cultural production of non-European, non-Western societies, such endeavors import assumptions about modernization and enlightenment that may obscure as much as they reveal about the peoples and places they study. And if scholars such as Charles Taylor and Talal Asad have re-shaped our understanding of secularization over the past two decades, they have no doubt also reinforced the contingency of that process and the vulnerability of a hermeneutic of progress.

The expansion of the Islamicate empires (Abbasid, Ayyubid, etc.), for instance, is often treated as paradigmatically medieval, primarily due to the cultural flourishing of Baghdad and Andalusia during the period 1000-1400. Yet many of the constitutive cultural, political, and economic features of these empires lived on into the twentieth century with the Ottoman Empire, which was abolished only in 1922. Further examples could be adduced to demonstrate the limited applicability of the “medieval/modern” binary to economies, societies, and cultures of Asia and the global South. For those who study issues and text beyond the Latin West, the narrative of modernization and enlightenment serves little purpose beyond the administrative necessities of the contemporary university.

This roundtable invites scholars to discuss the effects of studying global cultures with and without the optic of Western European periodization. What alternative periodizations do these cultures offer? And how might they in turn reconfigure the conception of “middleness” in study of Western Latin culture?

DeVan Ard