"Otherness" at IMC in Leeds: An Open Letter

Ayanna Thompson
Anonymous 262 Comments
1,020 Signatures Goal: 1,000

UPDATE: Professor Axel Müller notified me today (8/1/17) that the IMC website has been changed to include a statement about the value of diversity and an apology "for any offence caused by comments made during the introduction to Monday’s opening lecture". These are steps in the right direction, and I hope the IMC continues to diversify: https://www.imc2017.co.uk/news/otherness-imc-2017/

Thank you for your support!

*************************************************************************************************************

Dear Professor Axel Müller, Director, International Medieval Congress,

I am writing to express my concern about the recent events at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, U.K. as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Medievalists-Recoiling-From/240666. As a Shakespeare scholar who has worked to make the study of Shakespeare, literature, and the humanities more inclusive and welcoming, I was shocked to learn that your panels on “otherness” were not only not diverse, but also that the conference organizers have not addressed adequately the offending comments made by one of the session moderators.

In this political-historical moment when the value of the study of the humanities and social sciences is constantly questioned and indeed threatened with vast institutional cuts, I find it dismaying that to date the IMC has only offered a bland statement that the organizers “welcome the fact [that] the debate continues.” What is there to debate when your own members of color no longer feel comfortable attending the conference? We need as big a tent as possible if the study of the humanities and the social sciences are to survive.

I urge you to act more swiftly by offering an apology for any bad feelings generated by the insensitive remarks and creating a statement about the value, importance, and necessity of diversity in medieval studies.

The Shakespeare Association of America values and fosters inclusivity in our profession. As part of a multi-year programming initiative, the conference organizers in coordination with SAA leadership hosted “The Color of Membership” plenary session at the 45th Annual Meeting of the SAA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f8_sOAucWw. The IMC may well wish to explore similar initiatives.

While I have sent this letter to you as an individual, I hereby publish this letter online for others to co-sign.

Sincerely,

Ayanna Thompson
President-Elect, Shakespeare Association of America
Professor of English, The George Washington University

Note to Signatories: Feel free to sign and use the comment function if you wish to provide your professional title and affiliation.

  • Ms Linda Perry
    Ms Linda Perry United Kingdom, Edinburgh
    Oct 08, 2017
    Oct 08, 2017
    Had a black mistress , wrote black characters. Come on. Do better.
  • kayla
    kayla United States, Brooklyn
    Oct 06, 2017
    Oct 06, 2017
    People of different backgrounds need to be involved in medieval studies because there has never been just once race in this world, we've all existed throughout time and haven't just disappeared and repapered in history. We need scholars who reflect the world so that the history being recorded reflects that as well.
  • Judith Tarr
    Judith Tarr United States, Tucson
    Oct 05, 2017
    Oct 05, 2017
    MA (Cantab) Classics, PhD (Yale) Medieval Studies. Novelist with many works set in the Middle Ages. It's critical that we be allowed to see the full spectrum of the period, for the sake of accuracy and completeness. Or what's scholarship for?
  • CE Murphy
    CE Murphy Ireland, Drogheda
    Oct 05, 2017
    Oct 05, 2017
    Novelist based in Ireland. A disabled woman of color medieval studies scholar has literally changed thousands of peoples' perceptions of the middle ages--including my own, and I'm a history major myself. Diversity in medieval studies is critical, enlightening, and world-changing.
See More
1020

Signatures

  • 2 months ago
    Danielle Clarke Ireland
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Ms Linda Perry United Kingdom
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Aden Kumler United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    kayla United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Aleksandra Baltrusaitis United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Thomas Crofts United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Kyle A Thomas United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Charlie Boyd United Kingdom
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Meadow United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Courtney Catherine Barajas United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Elizabeth Tabbernor United Kingdom
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Carrie Griffin Ireland
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Anne Burner United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    Judith Tarr United States
    2 months ago
  • 2 months ago
    CE Murphy Ireland
    2 months ago
See More