Tag Archives: medieval history

Hold My Mead: A Bibliography For Historians Hitting Back At White Supremacy

On September 6, 2017, medieval historian David Perry published an article in the Pacific Standard remarking on how medievalists can counter the use of medieval history by White Supremacists. As Prof. Perry noted in his post, “…mostly we’re just a collection of predominantly white scholars who are surprised and disturbed to discover our classes and books might be well-received by white supremacists.” The piece hit home for many classicists as well; a field which has also grappled with the appropriation of antiquity by white supremacists. What follows is a bit of an outline of the articles written in the past year which explain the state of the problem and provide some steps towards countering this abuse of the historical record. I have never seen the medieval and ancient worlds as two different realms. Thus this short bibliography melds the two together in hopes that we can see each field’s efforts to combat this problem.

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Bishop Petros with Saint Peter (974– 997 CE) by Unknown and from Faras. Now at The National Museum in Warsaw.

Ancient History: 

Beard, Mary, “Roman Britain in Black and White,” A Don’s Life: Times Literary Supplement (August 3, 2017).

Bond, Sarah E, “A Short History Of Torches And Intimidation,” Forbes (August 15, 2017).
_____”Why We Need to Start Seeing the Classical World in Color,” Hyperallergic (June 7, 2017).

Futo Kennedy, Rebecca, “We Condone It by Our Silence: Confronting Classics’ Complicity in White Supremacy,” Eidolon (May 11, 2017).
_____”The Ancient Mediterranean Was Diverse. Why Do Some People Get So Upset When We Talk About It?” Classics at the Intersections (August 8, 2017).
_____”How is the Ancient Mediterranean Diverse If Everyone There Is “White”?” Classics at the Intersections (August 17, 2017).
_____”Blood and Soil from Antiquity to Charlottesville: A Short Primer,Classics at the Intersections (August 17, 2017).
_____”Using Genetics to Prove Ancient Greeks Were “White”?”Classics at the Intersections (August 26, 2017).
_____”Why I Teach About Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World” Eidolon (September 11, 2017).

McCoskey, Denise Eileen, “What Would James Baldwin Do? Classics and the Dream of White Europe,” Eidolon (August 24, 2017). Please note that this is essential reading by a leading scholar in the field of race in antiquity.

Morley, Neville, “Diversitas et Multiculturalismus,” The Sphinx Blog (August 2, 2017).

Robey, Tracy E. “The Long History of Damnatio Memoriae and the Destruction of Monuments,” Jezebel (August 16, 2017).

Umachandran, Mathura, “Fragile, Handle With Care: On White Classicists,” Eidolon (June 5, 2017).

Withun, David, “African Americans and the Classics: An Introduction,” Black Perspectives (AAIHS) (September 7, 2017).

Wenger, Ayelet, “‘Our’ ‘Classics’: Problems of Difference in Western Civilization,” Eidolon (August, 28, 2017): A great question to begin with: “The Greeks and Romans of yore are dead. The Europeans of now speak tongues only distantly related to theirs. So, the question: whose Classics are they, anyway?”

Zuckerberg, Donna, [Just Read Everything]. Dr. Zuckerberg is the editor of Eidolon. She frequently writes on this topic, and thus I would suggest just reading everything she has to say on the topic. Particularly her piece on “How to be a Good Classicist Under a Bad Emperor” November 21, 2016.

Medieval History: 

Gabriele, Matthew, “Islamophobes want to recreate the Crusades. But they don’t understand them at all,” Washington Post (June 6, 2017).

Dark Age, Dr. @drdarkage [Added by Prof. Dorothy Kim]

Harland, James M.,”‘Race’ in the Trenches: Anglo-Saxons, Ethnicity, and the Misuse of the Medieval Past,The Public Medievalist (February 17, 2017).

Kim, Dorothy, “Teaching Medieval Studies in a Time of White Supremacy,” In the Middle: Peace, Love & the Middle Ages (August 28, 2017).

Livingstone, Josephine, “Racism, Medievalism, and the White Supremacists of Charlottesville,” New Republic (August 15, 2017).

The Public Medievalist,Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages,” (Blog Sub-Heading).

Washington Post Staff, “Deconstructing the symbols and slogans spotted in Charlottesville,” Washington Post (August 18, 2017).

Vikings: 

Hartsuyker, Linnea, “We shouldn’t let the racists own the Vikings,” RawStory.com (August 24, 2017).

Khazan, Olga, “How White Supremacists Use Victimhood to Recruit,” The Atlantic (August 15, 2017).

Perry, David, “White supremacists love Vikings. But they’ve got history all wrong,” Washington Post (May 31, 2017).

Truitt, E.R., “Fantasy North: The top of the globe has always meant fantasy, myth, adventure. What explains the icy northern grip on our imagination?” Aeon (February 15, 2016). [Article submitted by Prof. E.R. Truitt]

Varghese, Sanjana, “White supremacists are embracing genetic testing – but they aren’t always that keen on the results,” New Statesman (August 18, 2017).

Official Statements from Academic Societies:

Medieval Academy: On August 18, 2017, the Medieval Academy condemned “the appropriation of any item or idea or material in the service of white supremacy. In addition, we condemn the abuse of colleagues, particularly colleagues of color, who have spoken publicly against this misuse of history.”

Society for Classical Studies: In a statement from the SCS Board of Directors, the organization noted: “…the Society strongly supports efforts to include all groups among those who study and teach the ancient world, and to encourage understanding of antiquity by all. It vigorously and unequivocally opposes any attempt to distort the diverse realities of the Greek and Roman world by enlisting the Classics in the service of ideologies of exclusion, whether based on race, color, national origin, gender, or any other criterion. As scholars and teachers, we condemn the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.”

#Syllabi: 

Classics and Social Justice: The mission of this group is stated thusly: “Outreach that brings classics out of the academy and returns it to the least privileged in our society.” A section heading of their blog brings together a number of syllabi addressing social justice topics in the study of antiquity. 

Futo Kennedy, Rebecca, “Bibliography for Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World,Classics at the Intersections (August 14, 2017).

Eidolon: A new feature area for the online Classics journal is #syllabi, which reacts to the use of various classical authors and issues within the zeitgeist with sets of reading on the issue. The first one is on Thucydides and is written by ancient historian Neville Morley.

  1. Morley, Neville, “Thucydides and Contemporary Politics: A Syllabus,” Eidolon (September 1, 2017).
    a.  Mendelsohn, Daniel, “Theatres of War: Why the battles over ancient Athens still rage,” The New Yorker (January 12, 2004).

Hsy, Jonathan and Julie Orlemanski, “Race and Medieval Studies: A Partial Bibliography” [Crowd-Sourced and by far the very best resource for the issues dealt with this summer in respect to diversity, race, and inclusion in medieval studies.]

Medieval People of Color Tumblr: My suggestion is to include a number of posts in your next Western Civilization or history course. This is also a fantastic image resource.

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August 2017 archive screenshot from the “People of Color in European Art History” Tumblr. 

As per usual with all of my previous bibliography, if you have something to add, please do so in the comments section. You will be credited for your contribution.

Legitimizing The Blog: On Reading, Citing & Archiving Blogposts

Over at the Forbes blog this week, I wrote about an issue within academic blogging that has been bugging me for a long time: Why aren’t more academic blogs cited in the footnotes of journal articles and within academic books? While there are certainly still specious blogs that abound on the web, the number of trusted, well-sourced, and highly researched academic blogs is on the increase. This post was meant to point out some blogs that are dependable and quite rigorously reviewed, to demonstrate how they might be cited, and then to show readers how to archive a blogpost. I will briefly go through these steps below.

  1. The Blogs: There are myriad blogs (Fun fact: In the plural, a Greek myriad=10,000) focused on classical antiquity. Tom Elliott (NYU-ISAW) runs a comprehensive feed aggregator called Maia Atlantis that will allow you to explore almost everything posted on the web having to do with the ancient world. In terms of my morning blog habits? While sipping coffee, I tend first to turn to the Rogue Classicist and then to move onto the medieval world by skimming any new posts from Littera Visigothica or Medieval Books.Trust and familiarity are big parts of reading and then citing academic blogs, but you will quickly come to learn the notable professors, librarians, scientists, and researchers in each field who post reliable content; however, just like anything else, you are still responsible for evaluating each post. Reading academic blogs may require a bit more source criticism and critique, but they are a great way to hear new ideas, to find out about recently discovered archaeological remains, or to find out about news fast. For instance, the AAIHS’ Black Perspectives blog is rigorously peer reviewed and contributed to by numerous scholars that provide citations and copious bibliography, all while reacting to current issues in real time.
  2. The Citation Format: Once we have a blog post we wish to cite in our own book manuscript or journal article, it is time to properly cite according to the accepted style manuals. There are standard formats for citing a blog post in MLA and Chicago Style, which can then easily be integrated into your footnotes and bibliography.First name Last Name, “Title of Blog Post,” Blog Title (blog), Publisher/Sponsor of Blog (if applicable), Month Date, Year of post, URL.Here is the Chicago Style format for a blogpost from Kristina Killgrove on crucifixion:Kristina Killgrove, “Line on the left, one cross each: Bioarchaeology of Crucifixion,” Powered by Osteons (blog), November 4, 2011, http://www.poweredbyosteons.org/2011/11/line-on-left-one-cross-each.html.

    I find that using the Zotero extension for your browser helps you keep track of online reading. This open source citation tool (originally created at George Mason University) will allow you either to find the proper citation through a Worldcat search or you can take a snapshot of the webpage and then cite that.

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    Screenshot that exemplifies how to use the Zotero extension in the Chrome browser.

    3. The Archive: On my own blogs, I tend to cite primary sources by giving the classical citation  (as stipulated by the Oxford Classical Dictionary [PDF]) or by hyperlinking back to the texts themselves. Usually this means a link to the Perseus Project or to LacusCurtius. I trust both Tufts University and LC’s Bill Thayer, who respectively run these sites, and also have confidence in their stable URIs. However, there are still a lot of dead or broken links when you only hyperlink back to either a primary or secondary source, and certainly this won’t work well for an ebook or journal article. The fear of corpse-links is not only founded, it keeps people from citing blogposts or webpages.

    Taking the attitude that webpages are ephemeral and thus unworthy of proper citation is something we have got to abandon. My institutional repository scrapes my blogs and then archives my posts in my individual IRO account. However, you don’t have to have an institutional repository in order to create an archive of your own blogposts or of the ones you wish to cite. We have at our disposal a number of citation tools (e.g. the aforementioned Zotero snapshot) and archiving sites that can allow us to archive a post in order to verify the words we quote for future audiences or to provide a later reference. Over at the Internet Archive, there is the so-called WayBack Machine. This service has permitted thousands of datasets from the federal government to be recorded, saved, and archived prior to their deletion under the Trump administration. It can also allow you to save a webpage and then site a stable, archived version via a link provided by the site.

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Screenshot of the Internet Archive’s ‘WayBack Machine’ interface. Just capture a web page’s current content by entering the URL and then hitting “save page.” The you can use the link in your bibliography, footnotes, or research records.

Academic blogging is a rather thankless task at times, but take heart: the visibility and recognition of blogs as valid publications is increasing. As authors, bloggers are still responsible for what they publish and should be held accountable for the things they say. But that means that readers must, in turn, cite the blogposts they are using in their own work. Over the years, I have seen a number of the ideas, images, and translations that I have posted reused without attribution. I am not here to point fingers, I am simply going to state the obvious: We live in a digital world, but plagiarism is still plagiarism, whether you copy and paste from a book or a blogpost. Our citation habits must expand to include the academic blog if we are to further legitimize them as publications. There really are no more excuses.

 

‘The Eagle Huntress’ And The Ancient History Of Falconry

Over at the Forbes blog this week, I discuss the ancient and medieval history of falconry in the Mediterranean. After seeing the new documentary film ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ about a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan learning to become an eagle hunter with her father in Mongolia, I went back to some class notes on Greco-Roman attitudes towards the eagle and the later development of falconry. This post was a good excuse to emphasize that there is little material evidence for falconry in the Roman world until the period of Late Antiquity. It is possible that the Vandals or Visigoths popularized the sport within the late Roman world. During the early middle ages, falconry and particularly the use of not only falcons, but also hawks, became popular among both male and female elites. Falconry was a courtly sport and in the late medieval period, we even have writings from women on the topic. I am certainly not a bird expert, but writing this piece was one way to commemorate the majesty of birds of prey and to establish humanity’s long connection to them.

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“Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a lady observing her hawk bringing down a duck, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 73v.” Image and caption via the British Library Blog and is in the Public Domain.

Numbering The Stars: Remembering the Contributions of Medieval Muslim Astronomers And Catalogers

This week over at the Forbes blog, I discuss the International Astronomical Union (IAU)‘s publication of an official catalog of 227 star names. The list was published this week in order to further standardize how we reference stars and constellations, since each one has had numerous monikers in Greek, Roman, Chinese, Arabic and many other languages over the many millenia that people have been studying the stars.

Although I laud the IAU’s attempt to streamline naming, I was dismayed to see that in the section of the website recounting the history of cataloguing of the stars, the association begins with the western astronomers that worked during the European Renaissance. By crediting Johann Bayer’Uranometria atlas of 1603 as the first such popular catalog of stars, they in fact omit the great contributions of ancient astronomers and Muslim celestial cataloguers in particular. I attempt to remedy that by recounting a short history of Muslim mathematicians and astronomers (as well as a few forgotten medieval women).

I am also posting a list of digital resources and manuscripts below that I consulted for this article, so that you too can investigate the myriad contributions of Muslim scientists via the manuscripts themselves:

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Ursa major (الدب الأكبر) as viewed on a celestial globe (upper) and as viewed in the sky (lower) (Or 5323, f.8v). Image via the British Library and is in the Public Domain.

  1. Library of Congress, “Astronomical Innovation in the Islamic World”
  2. Marika Sardar, “Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World
  3. Abd-al-Rahman al-Sufi, “Tables from the Book of the constellations of the fixed stars (Kitab suwar al-kawakib) in a Latin translation,” via the British Library
  4. Ursula Sims-Williams, “Arabic scientific manuscripts go live in Qatar Digital Library,” Asian and African Studies Blog, via the British Library.
  5. The J. Paul Getty Museum, “Astronomical and Medical Miscellany: Toledan Constellation Tables; De Dispositione Aeris; De Prognosticationibus Egritudinem; etc., English, late 14th century, shortly after 1386Ms. Ludwig XII 7
  6. Elly Decker, Illustrating the Phaenomena: Celestial cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
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I am grateful for the help given to me by the University of Iowa’s Special Collections librarians. Map librarian Paula Balkenende pulled a number of celestial maps for me and then gave me a special look at Lanciani’s Forma Urbis Romae–just for kicks.