What's in a Name? (Ab)Use of Anglo-Saxon in English-speaking cultures and elsewhere

deadline for submissions: 
December 20, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Alessandra Petrina / University of Padua, Italy

What’s in a Name?
(Ab)Use of Anglo-Saxon in English-speaking cultures and elsewhere

Padova 6-7 June 2022

Since the seventeenth century, the use of the term Anglo-Saxon has been characterised by a strong identity and ideological
acceptation. The nationalistic sentiment grown after British imperialism obtained legitimation in the appropriation and remodelling
of Britain’s own past, conferring on Anglo-Saxon meanings that were increasingly connected with national and racial
identity (Horsman 1976, 1981; Greenberg 1982).
This fictitious idea of ancestry has exerted a special fascination on collective imagery also thanks to the cultural movement known
as ‘medievalism’, a recurrent theme in British and American art which also characterises the contemporary political debate in
those countries. In America, far-right (pseudo-)political groups make large use of medievalism, and, in particular, of their alleged
‘Anglo-Saxon’ origins in the attempt to back their xenophobic and racist claims, based on white supremacy.
A connection between Anglo-Saxon and whiteness has also emerged within Medieval Studies and this gave birth to firm and,
sometimes, drastic reactions. In recent years, a movement formed of women researchers of non-Western origins voiced vibrant
protests against the treatment they have been suffering in this academic field, which they consider racist, sexist and xenophobic.
In this regard, they have identified the terms Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Saxonist as the most obvious expressions of this attitude.
This debate concerns the specifically ideological and extremist uses of Anglo-Saxon, but little attention has been devoted to the
use of this term in all forms of communication and the semantic values it has received in history, not only in English, but also in
other languages and cultures. Beyond the ideological dimension that seems to prevail in some contexts, how and to what purposes
has Anglo-Saxon been employed? And to what extent does this term eventually designate an exclusive and superior racial or
cultural origin?
The purpose of this conference is to investigate this phenomenon across time, languages, and media. The topics include (but are
not limited to) the use of Anglo-Saxon (and its corresponding forms in other languages) in:
- Literature
- Journalism
- Political discourse
- Performative arts (theatre, cinema, TV and web series, etc.)
- Gaming
Please send an abstract (roughly 500 words) and a short curriculum by 20 December to Omar Khalaf omar.khalaf@unipd.it