CFP: Decolonizing (Medieval) Historiography

Call for papers: Panel and Roundtable at the North American Conference on British Studies, Providence, Rhode Island, October 25-28, 2018

Decolonizing (Medieval) Historiography

Since before Albion was folded into Journal of British Studies, scholars of Britain’s medieval past have struggled to find a place within the field of British Studies. Surely our time has come. Today, England’s medieval colonial history is widely recognized. At the same time, scholars from literature, Iberian Studies, Art History, and other disciplines explore links between medieval England and west and north Africa, the Levant, and beyond. These interactions predate the period of British global colonialism and provided a cultural foundation for it. Scholars even consider the medieval past as having been colonized by more recent history: the English notion of the medieval was invented in direct connection with the legal construction of the Indian subaltern. The British Empire deliberately rooted itself in its medieval past, and created cultural, social, and legal narratives based on the story it told of its own history.

In short, perhaps the wider field of British Studies needs to reconsider scholars of its medieval past and the work that we do, as we actively labor to decolonize its very historiography, and begin to imagine a new, inclusive future for the field.

We seek presentations from scholars in any discipline who consider medieval British historiography and the roles colonialism plays within it. We also welcome scholars crafting this new historiography, who consider concepts like the global Middle Ages, periodization, medieval diversity, medieval studies as medievalism, modern medievalism, and modern appropriations of the Middle Ages.

Some possible questions:

How does the historiography of British studies fit into the broader endeavors of medieval studies, and related fields beyond that focus?

What is the broad scope of “British studies” and how can we engage with those who work outside of traditionally defined fields around this concept?

How can we link the historiography of medieval British studies and the wider, global Middle Ages?

What is the role of colonialism in medieval British historiography and how can we address it?

How might we redefine “the Middle Ages” as an object of study, and “medieval studies” as a field?

How might we reconsider periodization in light of colonial appropriations of the Middle Ages?

How might we consider “medieval studies” and “medievalism” in more sustained, critical ways?

We hope to host both a panel of papers and a discussion-oriented roundtable at NACBS. Please send abstracts (250-300 words) for papers or roundtable presentations by March 23 to Brandon Hawk, at bhawk AT and Kathleen E. Kennedy at kek16 AT


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