The National Association of Scholars has written a letter addressed to my university and to the Medieval Academy of America asking them, as institutions, to affirm that I remain a scholar in good standing based on my conduct over the past year while under fire from my own colleagues in academia.
The issue is not about politics so much as it is about the culture that we would like to have in academia: whether it is to be a culture in which we support vigorous academic debate or one in which name-calling (“fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist”) is going to be allowed to shut down debate. As Milo put it in his coverage of the NAS appeal,
Although universities generally refrain from taking sides in academic debates, the NAS open letter is asking Chicago and the MAA to do something different, and merely affirm that Fulton Brown is an academic in good professional standing who has not harassed or discriminated against her colleagues. This is a matter of historical record, and should not be …
1. When white women (see Marie de France and Eleanor of Aquitaine) invented chivalry and courtly love, white men agreed that it was better for knights to spend their time protecting women rather than raping them, and even agreed to write songs for them rather than expecting them to want to have sex with them without being forced.
2. When white men who were celibate (see the canon lawyers and theologians of the twelfth century and thereafter) argued that marriage was a sacrament valid only if both the man and the woman consented, white men exerted themselves to become good husbands rather than expecting women to live as their slaves.
3. When white women (see Christine de Pizan, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the suffragettes) invented feminism, white men supported them (see John Stuart Mill) and even went so far as to vote (because only men could vote at the time) to let them vote, not to mention hiring them as workers and supporting their education.
It’s back to class for those of us who teach in medieval studies, and my medievalist colleague Dorothy Kim, Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College (pictured in 2014), wants to make sure you understand the stakes.
The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.
That does sound bad. But, wait, it gets worse!
Don’t think western European medieval studies is exceptional.... ISIS/ISIL also weaponizes the idea of the pure medieval Islamic past in their recruiting rhetoric for young male Muslims. If the medieval past (globally) is being weaponized for the aims of extreme, violent supremacist groups, what are you doing, medievalists, in your classrooms? Because you are the authorities teaching medieval subjects in the classroom, you are, in fact, ideological arms dealers. So, are…
“to say nothing of all the stuff I do behind the scenes I can never tell you about.”
Not sure why you're defending the indefensible.
—JustJinxed, commenting on Three Kraters Symposium, Episode 58: Politicon Caves to Twitter Outrage and Pulls Milo from Lineup
I get this kind of comment a lot from my academic colleagues, even those who are otherwise sympathetic to me. They don’t know how much I am in contact with Milo or the kinds of things he and I have been talking about, and they tend to assume that Milo is as he has been portrayed in the mainstream media or by Buzzfeed: an agent provocateur, someone who is outrageous purely for material gain, a grifter, not a serious interlocutor, doing what he does for the sake of publicity and nothing else. How is it possible for me to defend such a person? Surely doing so, as one friend recently put it, is at odds with everything I am as an intellectual.
Well. My first response must be of course, “Have you read much of my blog?” But I kn…
As I am sure you are all aware, a few weeks ago, John Ellison, the Dean of Students in the College at the University of Chicago, sent a letter out to all of our incoming freshman in which he described some of the things that they should expect--and not expect--to encounter as students in the College. "One of the University of Chicago's defining characteristics," he told them, "is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.... Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."
Not, arguably, all that remarkable a claim, you might think. Of course our students should expect to feel…