Medievalists Without Borders: Cooperative Projects on Popular Culture in Islamic and Christian Lands (A Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University
contact email: 


Kalamazoo, MI

May 10-13, 2018

This session came about when we the organizers discovered that we each work on very similar topics in medieval popular culture, one of us primarily in Arabic and one of us primarily in Latin. We seek to build a roundtable at Kalamazoo as a kind of collaborator matchmaking site, finding scholars working on popular culture east and west who could benefit from knowing one another, and asking these pairs to present the results of their collaboration at the conference.

In so doing, we aim to break down some of the artificial barriers between the popular cultures of different civilizations during the European medieval period. Despite the artificial disciplinary boundaries within which we commonly work, dividing these societies into Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other groups, they were actually quite mobile and intertwined, and their folklore and popular culture shows a great deal of overlap and influence. Our title, “Medievalists Without Borders,” is a gesture toward this breaking down of walls and barriers between scholars, an act we find especially needful at a time when we are witnessing an intensification of disciplinary borders, of disparities between tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty, and of cultural isolationism.

We propose to set up a coterie of collaborations between scholars working primarily in Latin or in the vernacular languages of “Western” Europe and scholars working in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, or other languages of North Africa and the Middle East, all in the field of popular culture. We will accept proposals both from pairs of scholars who wish to use this as a forum to collaborate and from individual scholars whom we will match with other applicants. The session is open to literary, artistic, historical, folkloric, and musical forms of non-elite production. Because the elite / non-elite divide of “popular culture” has been challenged, we also welcome proposals for work which pushes at this boundary. We are especially seeking inclusivity in our group of participants: not only do we wish to encourage proposals from scholars at all stages and from all types of academic careers, but also from scholars who are marginalized or who work on marginalized populations.

We will accept proposals in two forms:

  1. A joint proposal from two scholars, no longer than 300 words, suggesting a collaboration, or

  2. A request to be paired with a like-minded scholar, consisting of a CV and/or short bio, and a brief description of your interest in popular culture.

Please send materials to Amanda Steinberg ( and Kaitlin Heller ( no later than Sept. 1, 2017. Proposals should be accompanied by the Participant Information Form, available at