Professors to host lectures on exploitation of medieval rhetoric by white supremacists

UMKC professors of medieval studies will host a series of lectures revealing the exploitation of medieval imagery and language used by white supremacists starting Monday, Feb. 11.

In response to current discourse in the medievalist community and the current sociopolitical climate in the United States, French professor Dr. Kathy Krause and her colleagues decided to join the discussion and initiate a series of lectures called “The Medieval Then and Now: Race, Gender, and Identity.”

“[The lecture] has been occasioned by the rise in visibility of neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” said Krause. “They have been given extra prominence and feel validated.”

The lecture series will cover a variety of topics, all aimed at refuting the erroneous rhetoric surrounding the Middle Ages that is pushed by neo-Nazis. Krause said the lecture series represents academia’s self reflection on institutional racism and the need for more action.

“The Crusades are an easy thing to grab ahold of,” said Krause. “It fits with the rhetoric [of white supremacy] if you don’t really know what you’re talking about.”

She also cites the long-standing romanticizing of the Middle Ages and its popular themes as reasons that white supremacists have latched on to the language and symbolism as a way to further their own cause.

The series will commence at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library and will feature Dr. Sierra Lomuto, an assistant professor of English at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Lomuto will be speaking about Belle da Costa Greene: a famous medievalist who spent her life hiding her African-American heritage while helping J.P. Morgan curate New York City’s Morgan Library.

“She was the first woman who was a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America,” said Krause.  “She was also the first African-American woman, but they didn’t know that.”

The lectures will be held once a month from February to May, with the last lecture scheduled for May 16. They will feature speakers from Macalester and Wellesley Colleges, Pennsylvania State University and UMKC. The full schedule is as follows (courtesy of Dr. Krause):

February 11, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. | Plaza Branch, Kansas City Public Library, Cohen Conference Center

“Belle da Costa Greene: A Medievalist Luminary and the Shadow of White Nationalism”

Speaker: Dr. Sierra Lomuto, Assistant Professor of English, Macalester College

March 7, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. | Plaza Library

“She Nourishes Them According to Her Religion: Interfaith Marriage, Conversion, and Transmission of Culture in the Medieval Islamic World”

Speaker: Dr. Janina Safran, Associate Professor of History, Pennsylvania State University

Co-sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library

April 12, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. | UMKC, 101 Katz Hall

“White Supremacy and the Alt-Right’s Middle Ages”

Speaker: Dr. Cord Whitaker, Assistant Professor of English, Wellesley College

May 16, 2019 | 6:30 p.m. | Plaza Library

“Gender and Sexuality: How Medieval Are We Still?”

Speakers: Drs Virginia Blanton, Professor of English; Kathy Krause, Professor of French; and Linda Mitchell, Martha Jane Phillips Starr Missouri Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, UMKC

Co-sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library

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