IMC 2017: Sessions

Session 1414: The Medieval Concept of Otherness: A Round Table Discussion

Wednesday 5 July 2017, 19.00-20.00

Organiser:Hans-Werner Goetz, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg
Moderator/Chair:Hans-Werner Goetz, Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg
Abstract

The diverse sessions and papers of IMC 2017 confirm the wide spectrum of approaches and the multiple possibilities involved in the study of ‘Otherness’. Much of the work presented includes theoretical and methodological discussions of the topic, but, judging from the titles and abstracts provided, very few are concerned with the medieval comprehension of what we would describe as ‘Otherness’. Nevertheless, this is a very important aspect of the topic, since we cannot assume that medieval understanding of ‘the Other’ is necessarily similar to our own (or that the medieval concepts are necessarily homogeneous throughout the Middle Ages). None of the pertinent medieval Latin expressions, such as alienus, advena, exter/extraneus, or peregrinus, really designates the ‘stranger’ (or German Fremder) in a strict modern sense. While it cannot be doubted that medieval authors and people had a certain concept of ‘Otherness’, it is nevertheless difficult to define it with any precision. This round table discussion will, of course, not be able to solve the problem, but it will discuss (a) the specific medieval comprehension of ‘Otherness’, (b) its relationship to our modern understanding, and (c) possible approaches of historical investigation.

This round table discussion aims to address these three areas utilising different perspectives, including terminology, perceptions of other peoples, religions, or cultures, as well as considering issues of gender and social exclusion. Although the participants are deliberately chosen from among historians of the Early Middle Ages, it is hoped that their contributions will provide a springboard for discussion, with members of the audience offering viewpoints from other periods and disciplines.

Participants include Anne-Marie Helvétius (Université Paris VIII – Vincennes-Saint-Denis), James Palmer (University of St Andrews), Steffen Patzold (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen), and Rachel Stone (King’s College London).