The IMC provides an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of all aspects of Medieval Studies. Proposals on any topic related to the Middle Ages are welcome, while every year the IMC also chooses a special thematic focus. In 2024 this is ‘Crisis’.
‘Crisis’ has long been used when writing about the Middle Ages – incorporating climate and environmental issues such as epidemics, famines, and floods, political issues such as the breakdowns of dynasties and popular revolts, and socio-cultural issues such as religious apocalypticism and the questioning of faith. Yet while crisis is a concept deep-rooted in a wide range of scholarship, it has also recently been reconsidered. Rather than seeing whole periods as characterized by crisis conditions, medievalists now explicitly ask ‘crisis for whom?’ Medieval institutions and systems could be resilient, surviving challenges and pressures. Yet people simultaneously suffered hardships, even if not everyone suffered to an equal degree. Medievalists are also interested in how individuals and communities coped with crisis. Indeed, medieval societies had their own perception and understanding of risk and found ways to adapt. An important component of this was the construction of crisis narratives, sometimes informed by religious beliefs – stories that changed across time, place, and audience. Temporality is also fundamental to medievalists’ understanding of crisis, offering important counter-perspectives to views of linear progress and modernization paradigms often seen in crisis historiography. While substantial crises could serve as short-term ruptures and turning points, crises also provoked more incremental changes within economies, institutions, and cultures over time. Some things stayed the same despite crises and, thus, continuity remains important.
A new language of resilience, vulnerability, and adaptation has become prominent within medieval studies in recent years: stimulating new kinds of questions and new approaches to old issues, as well as allowing medievalists to engage with other disciplines. However, to what extent are these old ideas just repackaged with new terms? How we can define, measure, and test these concepts?
IMC 2024 invites a plurality of viewpoints and critical engagement with these concepts. We hope to engage scholars working at a variety of geographical scales – from the global to the micro-community, and over a variety of timescales – from those linking the Middle Ages to Antiquity or the early modern period to those focusing on an individual year. The proportion of IMC sessions focused outside Europe continues to grow – a trend we hope to see again in 2024. We welcome approaches from across medieval studies, including economic, political, social, cultural, demographic, linguistic, artistic and visual, religious-historical and intellectual, environmental, as well as those relating to landscape and material culture, and approaches that engage those working outside the disciplines of medieval studies per se, integrating relevant evidence from genetics, bio-archaeology, historical climatology, and much more!
Themes to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:
- Critical discussion of relevant terminology – crisis, collapse, adaptation, risk, resilience, transformation, vulnerability – and pathways forward
- The creation of crisis narratives and stories
- Who is to blame during crises? Scapegoating, hate, compassion, and cohesion
- Medieval crisis-related datasets, their application, pitfalls, and uses
- Inequalities, and the unequal impacts of crises
- Explicitly gendered approaches to crises
- Entangled scales, global pressures/hazards played out at local or micro levels
- Early modern and modern representations of medieval crisis
- The interaction of religious and institutional responses to hazards
- Intersectional considerations in responses to crises
- Demographic approaches to hazards and disasters: deaths, births, marriages
- Material culture and conceptualizing crisis – objects and rituals
- Hazards, shocks, disasters, and their redistributive impact
- Textual representations of crisis and its impact on human agents – trauma, emotion, physical, and mental responses
- Concepts of longing for crisis – the signs of apocalypses, revolutions, and renewals
- Methodological insights – how to define, measure, and test medieval crisis ‘outcomes’
- Medieval crises represented in visual culture, music culture, and the arts
- Medieval climate change and its interaction with socio-ecological context
- Crises occurring or conceptualized across borders
- Settlements: adaptation and continuity under stress
- Human-animal connections and their place within crisis contexts
- Medieval studies and the natural sciences: how can we help each other?
- Hazards, the managed environment, and the body politic
- Medieval religious and intellectual responses to crisis in the Middle Ages
The IMC welcomes session and paper proposals submitted in all major languages.
The Special Thematic Strand ‘Crisis’ will be co-ordinated by Daniel R. Curtis (School of History, Culture & Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam).
How to Submit
Don't forget to read our Participation and Acceptance Criteria before submitting your paper or session proposal.
Proposals opened on 26 July 2023. Submit your Paper, Session or Round Table proposal here.
Paper proposal deadline: 3 September 2023
Session proposal deadline: 30 September 2023
Format: Coronavirus restrictions permitting, we are planning to host an in-person gathering in Leeds, with virtual involvement possible for those who are unable to attend in person.
You will be asked when submitting your proposal about whether you would prefer to present your paper or session in-person or virtually and we will follow-up with you following receipt of your submission to confirm this. It is important that you let us know your preference, as this information will inform our planning of both virtual and in-person elements.