Medieval History and Marxist Thought

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies
contact email: 

CFP: 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies

Session Title: “Medieval History and Marxist Thought”

Session Organizer: Luke Fidler (Department of Art History, University of Chicago)


The discipline of medieval studies has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Marxist analysis. Marx and Engels themselves devoted much attention to medieval economies. Historians—notably those of the Annales School—drew on methodologies derived, in part, from Marxist thought. Marxist analyses of ‘feudalism’ contributed significantly to postcolonial thought, as evidenced by the work of the Subaltern Studies Group. A series of medieval art historians (e.g. Meyer Schapiro, O.K. Werckmeister, Jane Welch Williams) have helpfully drawn attention to problems of class, labor, and resistance in the production and reception of medieval objects.


But damning critiques have also been mounted against the utility of Marxist analysis for the medieval period. Is it anachronistic to use heuristics like ‘class-consciousness’ in, say, twelfth-century Saxony? Do medieval practices of gift-giving and sacralization destabilize fundamental Marxist notions of commodification and property? Didn’t Marx and Engels simply misconstrue the medieval world in their theorization of feudalism? This session will therefore query the degree to which Marxist thought has informed/deformed our understanding of the medieval world as well as asking how medieval subjects and objects can reconfigure the tenets of Marxist theory.


Papers from all disciplines are welcome. Possible topics may include (but are not limited to) applications of Marxist theory to medieval phenomena, historiographic readings of Marxist medieval scholarship, and the analysis of topics frequently discussed in Marxist scholarship (e.g. class, collective action, institutions, labor, production, protest, revolution, slavery, social relations, work). Please send brief abstracts (no more than 300 words) and a completed Participant Information Form ( to Luke Fidler ( by September 15, 2017.


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