Welcoming Comments of the DVMA President to the September 16th Meeting

Greetings colleagues, and welcome to our first meeting of the Delaware Valley Medieval Association of the 2017-18 school year. I am Dot Porter, the Curator of Digital Research Services here in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania, and this is my first year as president of the DVMA. I want to start by thanking the Kislak Center for hosting today’s meeting, in particular the Director of the Kislak Center Will Noel, for allowing us to meet here and for sponsoring the coffee breaks and reception. I would also like to introduce the rest of the Executive Council, many of whom are with us here today:

Vice President Ana Pairet, Rutgers
Secretary Elly Truitt, Bryn Mawr
Treasurer Thomas Izbicki, Rutgers
Graduate Student Representative Marina Mandrikova
Helmut Reimitz, Princeton University
Alicia Walker, Bryn Mawr College
Adam Miyashiro, Stockton University
Sara S. Poor, Princeton University
Rachel Smith, Villanova University
Carissa Harris, Temple University
Kara McShane, Ursinus College

The DVMA has been meeting regularly since 1979 - almost 40 years - to celebrate the work of medievalists from New York to Maryland and beyond. We are the scholarly association for medieval studies in our region, affiliated with the Committee on Centers and Regional Associations of the Medieval Academy of America, and we have the responsibility of growing the field and the people who practice it. 

As stated on the About Us page on the DVMA website: “The purpose of the meetings, and the association in general, is to share members' current research and to make connections and forge relationships that support, sustain, and advocate for all aspects of medieval studies in the Delaware Valley region.” To do this we hold four annual meetings, at different institutions around the region, one of which is designated a Graduate Student event. Our next meeting will be in December at Princeton, a Graduate Student workshop will be on February 17th at Temple, and the Spring meeting will be in April at Villanova. More details on all of these are coming soon.

Right now is an interesting and difficult time to be a medievalist. It wasn’t even a year ago that I found out that white supremacists use medieval and medieval-influenced icons in their imagery, and that they imagine a white European state that has a basis in an imagined white European past; in the past few months there have been stories about this in major newspapers, and it’s hard to avoid the topic. Everyone in this room knows that, for its many ugly issues with religions and cultures competing for dominance throughout the middle ages, there were constant contacts between European countries, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia during the periods we study. We as professional medievalists need to work harder to ensure that these contacts and links are discussed in our introductory classes, no matter the subject, and within DVMA we must likewise make space for an insight into medieval studies that is global in scope. I have attempted to do so in the organization of today’s meeting, and I look forward to seeing more non-European perspectives in future meeting as well. To recognize this responsibility the DVMA has co-signed the Medieval Academy of America’s document “Medievalists Respond to Charlottesville,” along with almost 30 other scholarly associations. This document both pushes against the adoption of medieval icons by the far right, and also acknowledges that medievalists must do better in representing the middle ages to their students, and to the wider public. This year’s Graduate Student workshop will focus on the topic of diversity and inclusion in medieval studies, which will be an opportunity for our students to discuss this issue in more detail and to learn practical approaches on handling potentially sensitive topics in the courses they teach.

In closing, the DVMA exists for us to “make connections and forge relationships that support, sustain, and advocate for all aspects of medieval studies in the Delaware Valley region.” I want to stress that this supporting, sustaining, and advocating, this connecting and forging, is what builds our community. We are scholars and students, and we are individual people, and as the President of DVMA I intend to encourage a community in which individuals support each other, where senior scholars, junior scholars, librarians, and students take the time to hear one another’s scholarly arguments and debate in good faith.

Our Thanks

The DVMA would like to offer its sincere gratitude to the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and the Princeton Index of Christian Art for their continued support of our programs.

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