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Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies holds lecure confronting white supremacy

The center hopes to challenge misconceptions of the middle ages and its ethnic makeup.

Members+of+the+far+right+have+taken+to+medieval+symbols+to+emulate+the+Knights+of+the+Ku+Klux+Klan.+The+Center+for+Medieval+and+Renaissance+Studies+will+host+a+lecture+Wednesday+to+confront+this+movement+of+white+supremacists.
Members of the far right have taken to medieval symbols to emulate the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will host a lecture Wednesday to confront this movement of white supremacists.

Members of the far right have taken to medieval symbols to emulate the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will host a lecture Wednesday to confront this movement of white supremacists.

Courtesy of The Public Medievalist

Courtesy of The Public Medievalist

Members of the far right have taken to medieval symbols to emulate the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will host a lecture Wednesday to confront this movement of white supremacists.

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While medieval renaissance usually muddles down to the workings of dungeons and dragons, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will be taking on a much scarier topic this Wednesday — white supremacy.

The center will be hosting a lecture at 4 p.m. in the Anatol Center titled “Confronting White Supremacy and Decolonizing the Middle Ages” by Dr. Dorothy Kim from Vassar College.

The lecture is prompted by recent events including the Charlottesville protest where white supremacists rallied for recognition and white supremacist propaganda video “Who Are We” which prompts white people to be more prideful in their race. Both instances used medieval symbols to promote their ideas rooted in white supremacy.

Sponsor Ilan Mitchell-Smith helped organize the event and emphasized the need to confront the medieval past and its ties to white supremacy.

“Some extremist groups that have to do with white supremacy appropriate images and symbols from the medieval past for their political agendas and it doesn’t match what actually happened,” Mitchell-Smith said.

The center is one of many in the medieval academia who have taken it upon themselves to challenge these messages. University of Minnesota medieval studies professor, David Perry told CBC Radio back in September about the responsibility he felt to teach his students the realities of the Middle Ages, rather than the ones being pushed by white supremacist groups.  

According to Mitchell-Smith, the root of these images is in the misconception most people have about the middle ages and the racial and ethnic breakdown of that time.

“[White supremacists] have this idea that the Middle Ages was ‘pure’ and that this area was all white, and it’s rooted in this desire for people to be all white,” Mitchell-Smith said. “But when you look into the actual past, that’s not the reality. It wasn’t all white people and it doesn’t justify the notion that they’re trying to pass on.”

He said by teaching the actualities of this time to students, it will help them “to fight against the medieval past becoming the de facto historical period identified with white supremacy,” according to the organization’s flier about the event.

Following the lecture will be a roundtable discussion at 6 p.m.geared toward specific questions and issues students want to discuss about race and white supremacy in the context of medieval times.

While the lecture and roundtable might be catered to a particular niche, Mitchell-Smith said he hopes the discussion will reach anyone interested not only in the Middle Ages, but in challenging ideas of white supremacy.

“For many people studying this…it’s their favorite and most interesting time period,” Mitchell-Smith said. “So we want to look at how can we as academia, as students, as teachers and as people identify these problems and confront them and respond in an academic way.”

Medieval and Renaissance Students Association, who is affiliated with the center, has a few members who have expressed interest in the event and what it has to offer. Graduate student in English literature and treasurer of the association, Jillian Sutton is one of those members.

“I’m super excited about the event. I think it’s an important conversation to have, the way medieval culture is being appropriated for these evil ideas,” Sutton said. “I’m looking forward to to hear what academics are saying about it now. I like that it’s available to the student body and I’m excited to be present in the conversation, especially in this political climate.”

The event will be free and is meant to reach students and faculty in order to inform them and incite a response.

“The action we’re taking here is one of academic nature,” Mitchell-Smith said. “We’re looking at ways to teach, learn and think about things. If a student was thinking this before, we want them to leave and not be able to think that time period was only white people.”

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