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IPPS statement in support of Dorothy Kim

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We, the undersigned members and friends of the International Piers Plowman Society, express our support for Vassar College assistant professor of English and medievalist Dorothy Kim, who became the target of a racially inflammatory blog post by medievalist Rachel Fulton Brown of the University of Chicago on Thursday (9/14).

In her blog post, Fulton Brown mocked Kim’s outspoken anti-racism and her efforts to decolonize the field of medieval studies, a field in which white scholars have been historically and continue to be overrepresented. The blog post began by highlighting Kim’s body as a woman of color and went on to tokenize William Chester Jordan of Princeton University, an eminent medieval historian and a black man, playing images of the two non-white medievalists off of one another. Fulton Brown’s blog post prompted the noted far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to publish a blog post on Friday (9/15) that effectively targets Kim for harassment by his readers.

This public attack by a white tenured medievalist on an untenured medievalist of color does not represent the intellectual or social values of the IPPS. Fulton Brown’s closing injunction to Kim to “Learn some f*cking medieval western European Christian history” falls far below the level of professional courtesy we all have a right to expect from one another. In the tradition of the struggle for social justice—a tradition that includes Piers Plowman—we condemn the harassment of junior colleagues and medievalists of color and reaffirm the importance of actively opposing white supremacy in our research and teaching. We stand in solidarity with Dorothy Kim, with the Medievalists of Color collective, and with all our untenured colleagues.

In closing, we reiterate the words of the statement by multiple medievalist organizations, including the IPPS, in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August: “Institutions of scholarship must acknowledge their own participation in the creation of interpretations of the Middle Ages (and other periods) that served these narratives [of racial purity and white supremacy]. Where we do find bigotry, intolerance, hate, and fear of ‘the other’ in the past—and the Middle Ages certainly had their share—we must recognize it for what it is and read it in its context, rather than replicating it.”

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