IMC at Kalamazoo 2020: “Medieval Counter-Cultures: Then and Now” (A paper panel and a roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Medieval Studies Institute, Indiana University
contact email: 

Call for Papers

“Medieval Counter-Cultures: Then and Now”

A paper panel and a roundtable

International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo, May 7-10, 2020

Sponsored by the Medieval Studies Institute of Indiana University, Bloomington

The Medieval Studies Institute of Indiana University invites proposals for its two sponsored sessions at the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 7-10, 2020) at Kalamazoo: A paper panel on “Medieval Counter-Cultures I: Then” and a Roundtable on “Medieval Counter-Cultures II: Now.”

Prompted by the recent appropriation of medieval symbols, themes, and/or histories by dissenting communities in our own moment, our two sessions aim to offer the opportunity for reflection on how minority and majority cultures interacted in the Middle Ages. We understand “counter-culture” broadly: as small, secondary, or subordinate cultures that develop out of protest against or desire to reform dominant cultures. Counter-cultures have their own norms, practices, beliefs, texts, and symbols, which they often employ to distinguish themselves from the mainstream culture. 

We hope that papers will examine the category of “medieval counter-cultures” broadly and creatively.  To this end, we invite papers and provocations that query the concept of a medieval “counter-culture” itself, considering whether or not such a category may be useful in thinking about the relationship between dominant and minority cultures in a period still sometimes considered to be lacking significant communities of dissent. We also invite papers that offer more local studies of reformist or heretical groups or movements, medieval activism or dissent, oppressed or marginalized communities in the Middle Ages, the development of minority cultures, and moments of cultural clash or tension (such as revolts and rebellions). Attending to counter-cultures may also provide a means of reflection on the norms, structures, and assumptions of the dominant or mainstream culture.  How, why, when, and where do counter-cultures form in the Middle Ages?  What kinds of relationships exist between dissenting communities and the larger social structures that they necessarily inhabit?  How do different classes, estates, or religious groups become or engage counter-cultures?  How is counter-culture manifested in the material and textual worlds?  In objects, architecture, or art? In literature or documentary culture? How do official histories and documents represent counter-cultures?


Taken together, these two linked sessions are interested in papers from any discipline across the global Middle Ages that explore medieval counter-cultures in innovative ways, though the two sessions emphasize two distinct vantage points on the topic: the paper panel (“Medieval Counter-Cultures I: Then”) will offer a series of perspectives on dissenting communities and practices in the Middle Ages; the roundtable (“Medieval Counter-Cultures II: Now”) will focus on the afterlives of these cultural modes and debates, with contributions considering ways that “the medieval” provides the (pseudo-) history, symbols, or discourses for dissenting or subordinate cultures in our own moment, whether those are gaming cultures, religious cultures, Med-Ren Faires or SCA, or the Alt-Right.  Please send 200-300 word proposals for either the panel or the roundtable to Shannon Gayk at by September 15, 2019.