This symposium contributed to a burgeoning body of scholarship on the meaning of the “medieval” and “Middle Ages” in increasingly interdisciplinary and cross-regional conceptions of the premodern world. The symposium contributed to current scholarship by demonstrating that Europe was not necessarily at the center of the global Middle Ages and, especially, by offering new perspectives from other areas of the world.
This symposium both complemented and departed from recent attempts to diversify approaches to the medieval. Initiatives such as the Global Middle Ages Project (UT Austin) and the journal The Medieval Globe (Arc Humanities Press) give evidence of the growing interest in and demand for a more global view of this period of history. However, current critical analyses of human differences and global connectivity within “the global Middle Ages” (e.g. by Geraldine Heng and Dorothy Kim) still retain a substantively Eurocentric focus. What work does the idea of “the medieval” do, and for whom? What do we gain and what do we lose by insisting on a shared notion of the medieval? What do we gain and lose by conceiving of a more diverse Middle Ages characterized by mobility and connectedness rather than isolation and limited travel? This symposium considered what the “medieval” means for various geographic regions, such as the Americas, Africa, and Asia, in hopes of facilitating a dramatic shift in our scholarly visions of what it means to do medieval history, and global history more generally.
The symposium brought together a number of existing forums for scholarship on the premodern, such as the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Michigan Medieval Seminar, the Forum for Research on Medieval Studies, the Early Modern Colloquium, and the editorial board of Fragments: Comparative Studies in Ancient and Medieval Pasts, as well as collaborate with the Global Middle Ages Project, presently one of the most prominent advocates for globalized view of medieval studies.
a. The symposium brought together thirteen scholars from institutions in the US, Canada, and the UK and an enthusiastic audience to share insights and materials that contributed to a more inclusive, truly global view of the premodern world that de-centered European interpretations of the Middle Ages and recognized the significant mobility and connectivity of this period. Different from most symposia, “De-centering the Global Middle Ages” embraced an innovative format and asked for tangible, public-facing outcomes that included bibliographies and primary sources that can be incorporated into teaching and used in the classroom.
b. The symposium made an immediate connection to undergraduate students through Twitter. One of the presenters, Courtney E. Rydel (Washington College), gave a presentation on using GIS in her global medieval literature classroom. In connection with her course, she created an assignment linked to our symposium whereby students had to follow live-tweeting of the event on our symposium hashtag #DGMA19 and their class hashtag #GlobalMiddleAgesWAC. Several graduate students (Luis Miguel dos Santos, Talia Lieber, Manuel Giardino, and Stephanie Leitzel) at varying points in their academic careers also participated in the symposium as presenters and audience members. As for future impact on students, the digital outcomes of the symposium (in the form of bibliographies) are public and will be used to help scholars and educators diversify their teaching of the global Middle Ages.
c. For courses impacted by this project, see b.
The bibliographies created by participants who presented are now public resources available on the symposium website (https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/globalmiddleages/bibliographies/). These will soon be linked to the Global Middle Ages Project hosted by University of Texas at Austin (http://globalmiddleages.org/). We are presently developing plans to hold a secondary event at the University of Michigan which invites back some of the speakers to workshop their papers (along with additional invited speakers/writers), with the aim of publishing a special issue with the new journal The Medieval Globe. We are currently in discussion with the chief editor of this journal, Carol Symes, as to how these future plans will take shape.
As stated above, the bibliographies created by participants who presented are now public resources available through the symposium website and will be linked to the large Global Middle Ages Project shortly. Some of the papers produced for this symposium are to be developed into articles for The Medieval Globe journal, which makes its articles digitally available to the public. Live-tweets of the event have also been organized and made easy to access publicly on one of the organizer’s personal websites (http://prcurtis.com/events/GMA/)