IMC 2003: Sessions

Session 1701: Is Pan-European Medieval Studies a Chimera or a Coming Reality? – A Symposium to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the IMC and the CEU

Thursday 17 July 2003, 14.00-16.30

Organisers:József Laszlovszky, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest
Axel E. W. Müller, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds

The IMC was established to give Europe a worldwide forum for scholars involved in medieval studies. From the outset the involvement of scholars from Central and Eastern Europe was welcomed. This has remained a forte of the Congress, and the Department of Medieval Studies at the Central European University in Budapest has played a pivotal part. On the occasion of the tenth IMC and the tenth anniversary of Medieval Studies at the CEU it is appropriate to examine the directions that medieval studies should take in Europe and whether and how it can be more truly pan-European, whilst retaining a global reach.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s, Europe has changed profoundly. Much of Central and Eastern Europe is now integrated into NATO and will soon be joining the EU. In the discipline of medieval studies we can observe a similar trend towards integration. We may wonder, however, how profoundly this has occurred. Parts of Central and Eastern Europe may have opened themselves to the West, but has this been reciprocated in Western scholarship, and Western outlooks? We might argue that scholarly areas traditionally strong in Central and Eastern Europe, such as historical anthropology and semiotics, have already been influential in the increasingly interdisciplinary character of research into and study of the Middle Ages. So too, Central European archaeologists have made an impact working in the West. But a thorough all European comparative enquiry, including social, economic and intellectual history, is yet to be done. One should also note that Western European scholars usually rely on Eastern Europeans learning their languages.

Central and Eastern European countries offer particular challenges and opportunities for Medieval Studies. Civic neglect or civil strife, as well as over-rapid transformation into a denationalised, capitalist economy often endanger historical monuments and demands public action directed at the preservation of the cultural heritage of this part of Europe. At the same time, state involvement in this field has frequently led to a political and ideological use of the Middle Ages. Clearly these are territories where co-ordinated pan-European initiatives and a continuous exchange of information between professionals and institutions active in this field could do much for re-establishing a right balance.

From a more global perspective we can also recognise that the scope of and participation in medieval studies has widened. Today interesting works by scholars from the Caucasus and Central Asia are more easily accessible to Westerners; while Chinese byzantinists or Hungarian Anglo-Saxon specialists, say, are no longer curiosities in their particular fields. Yet, there is still much to be done for situating Medieval Europe in the broader context of medieval oikumene: the Arab Caliphates, the Mongol Empire, international trade relationships reaching to remote regions of China, India and Africa.

This symposium intends to focus particularly on the development of relations between Central and Eastern Europe and Western lands within the field of medieval studies. How have these changed relations influenced research, and to what extent? How effectively have institutional frameworks of medieval studies, centres, associations, and international gatherings incorporated a pan-European or more globalised approach to the Middle Ages?

The symposium is intended to open up issues in the above areas. Speakers will be encouraged to indicate practical ways forward and demonstrate successes and failures. More specifically, this symposium could serve as a launch-pad for the International Medieval Congress 2004, which has selected “Clash of Cultures” as its special thematic strand.

Each participant is invited to present a brief description (of approx. 5 minutes duration) of his/her research and experiences in these areas, and to address the question of whether a more pan-European and globalised approach to medieval studies is desirable or achievable.

Participants of this symposium include János M. Bak (Central European University, Budapest), Richard K. Emmerson (Medieval Academy of America), Wilken Engelbrecht (Univerzity Palackého, Olomouc), Simon Forde (Brepols Publishers, Turnhout), Hans-Werner Goetz (Universität Hamburg / Mediävistenverband), Emilia Jamroziak (University of London), Gerhard Jaritz (Institut für Realienkunde, Krems), Gábor Klaniczay (Central European University, Budapest), Zoltan J. Kosztolnyik (Texas A&M University), József Laszlovszky (Central European University, Budapest), Axel E. W. Müller (University of Leeds), Margaret E. Mullett (The Queen’s University, Belfast), Thomas F. X. Noble (University of Notre Dame), Leonard E. Scales (University of Durham), Ian N. Wood (University of Leeds) and Barbara Woroncow (Yorkshire Museum Council, Leeds).