#IMC2016: Hots and Nots

Seeing as it’s become a bit on an online trend to make a personal list of ‘hots’ and ‘nots’ after attending a festival, I’ve decided to do one for the 2016 International Medieval Congress.

Hots

  • Meeting incredible people: Spending a week surrounded by like-minded scholars, craftspeople and reenactors is just brilliant. It’s very rare that, standing at a bar, you can see ‘Vote Charlemagne’ t-shirts, ‘Embrace the FemFog’ badges, and hear conversations taking place about manuscripts and unicorns! I love medievalists.
  • #MedievalTwitter: It was wonderful to see so many medievalists taking to twitter to share the main points of certain sessions – especially when I had clashes with other interesting things.
  • Boydell & Brewer recipe books: This was such a good idea of Boydell & Brewer for a ‘food’ orientated congress. I was told they had 600+ copies and cleared the lot. Good work folks!
  • Brilliant papers: Without fear of exaggerating, I bet there were hundreds more brilliant papers, but my highlights included: Kathleen Walker-Meike’s ‘Swallow a Frog and Avoid Croaking’ (paper 137-b); Jan Cemper-Kiesslich’s ‘Famous Persons, Infamous Poisons’ (paCmhYi_OWIAAYKcEper 214-a); Hillary Burgardt’s ‘Looking for Epilepsy in the Medieval Record’ (paper 637-a); Carla Burrell’s ‘Focus on Paget’s Disease of Bone’ (paper 1614-a); and the Annual MAA Lecture ‘Manuscript Edges, Marginal Time’ presented by Elaine Treharne.
  • #IMCAntiBrexit: The general sense of solidarity at the IMC in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the EU was inspiring. I had been left heartbroken by the triumph of Brexit and the leave campaign, but the internationality and support at the IMC, coupled with the brilliant discussions in Tuesday night’s informal Post-Brexit chat were inspiring. Thanks go to Kathryn Maude and Kate Weikert for organising!
  • #Femfog: I don’t even know where to start with s1198 ‘Embracing the #FemFog’ – it was just so moving! Not only knowing that my own experiences are not isolated, but seeing so many people committed to combating the misogyny inherent in the academic system was reassuring – the future looks like one of solidarity and progress. I could say so much about this session, but think it would be best to direct you the the #FemFog hashtag on twitter for full coverage.
  • D-Art Francisca: Francisca Shilova is no stranger to exhibiting at the IMC’s annual Craft Fair and her work is completely stunning. Combining gold leaf, vintage watch-faces and manuscript marginalia, I first saw her jewellery at the IMC in 2015 and have been lusting after it ever since. You can find more information and some beautiful images on her website here!
  • Mankind: Directed by Matthew Sergi and Ara Glenn-Johanson, and performed by Poculi Ludique Societas, this free performance of a 15th century morality play combined medieval music, wonderful acting and improvisation to elicit laugh-out-loud moments and contemplative reactions from the audience. Mankind was spot on!
  • IMC Disco: Everyone knows that the disco is the highlight of the IMC – there’s nothing quite like seeing the author’s of your reading list dancing the Cotton Eye Joe. Although this year was super special, as Elaine Treharne briefly joined the band for a rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. Fantastic!

 

Nots

  • Congress Ale stall opening at 5pm: It was a pity the Old Bar was closed to begin with, but not being able to get my medievalist mitts on a Congress Ale before 5pm was positively tragic! Don’t the Terrace know that ‘acceptable’ drinking hours are a lot earlier than normal during the IMC?
  • Pub Quiz’s ‘Latin goes POP!’: Translating Latin scares me at the best of times. Translating Latin in public, after a couple of pints?..*shudders*CmipgFTWgAAb1Hh
  • #FemFog: Yep, this one makes both the hots and the nots list. Although this session was completely brilliant and undeniably emotional, it is worth pointing out that the audience was overwhelmingly young and female. Where were all the older, white male scholars? This session took place at LUNCH – so there couldn’t have been any clashes?! Although inspirational regardless, it would have been nice if this session hadn’t just been a case of ‘preaching to the converted’.
  • Thursday morning: Waking up after the disco… Need I say more?
  • The ‘Sampling of Traditional Cheeses’ selling out: I am a fiend when it comes to cheese, and was consequently so disappointed when I saw that this event was fully booked. Hosted by Andy Swinscoe, this tasting of eight traditional cheeses was accompanied by a talk about the medieval history of cheese tasting. I’d love to hear some more about from someone who was lucky enough to bag a ticket!
  • Secondhand & Antiquarian Bookfair: More like ‘Book-unfair’! The Secondhand Bookfair simply had too many gorgeous things! I don’t think I’m alone in caving to temptation and spending more on books in one afternoon that I would spend on a whole week’s rent!
  • Eating dinner after ‘Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog’: Witchcraft, Cannibalism and other forms of Food Adulteration (s1325): Finishing with at 6pm with Irina Metzler’s paper ‘Waiter, There’s a Hair in my Soup’, I couldn’t help but question how much saliva, mucus, skin flakes or other ‘bodily unmentionables’ had made it into my dinner that night. Yum!

Okay, so aside from the FemFog audience (and maybe the cheese tasting) my ‘nots’ aren’t that serious. In fact, I had a completely fabulous (and exhausting) week and felt very honoured to be surrounded by so many of my academic idols. Looking forward to the International Medieval Congress 2017 now! 

Let me know your own highlights in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “#IMC2016: Hots and Nots

  1. You express dismay that the FemFog session Had mostly mostly young and female attendees. Then you ask “Where were all the older, white make scholars?” What on earth does bring white have to do with your criticism? Is their lack of interest somehow less disturbing than that of male scholars of color? Your jab at white males is a reflexive politicization of what should be the real questions? Did the session have enough scholarly merit to attract a broader audience (such as females who are not “young” — do you object to their absence too?), or was its content more about the kind of identity politics boilerplate which is in such plentiful supply that one need not leave home to encounter it? — and, as such, with hundreds of specialized papers to hear on countless topics, and the challenge of picking out the fraction of them one can possibly attend, what would be the attraction of same-old-same-old feminism amid that massive menu?

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    • The point of the whole femfog thing is that there’s a problem with the dominating position of old white male scholars that seems to be at the exclusion of others. So, yes, it’s important that those who are argued to be causing a problem didn’t really attend in numbers.

      This was during a lunch session (1–2pm), in which there was only one other session competing with it. So, no, there weren’t hundreds of specialised papers competing with it for attention.

      I think an additional problem was that it was a late addition and didn’t make it in to the physical programme that was sent out to everybody well in advance. To know about it you had to either be paying attention to social media, look at the online programme instead of the physical copy, or look at the addenda/corrigenda that was handed out with the registration pack on site (this largely ignored, from what I understand).

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    • Hi there Winefred,

      First off, thanks for being the first person to post on my blog; I always enjoy receiving feedback of any sort. Just to make clear, the post that you have commented on was intended to be a brief summary of my IMC highlights this year. As a result, my discussion of session 1198 is not as well rounded as a whole article on my attitudes towards, and experience of, inequality in the academy would be – which I’d be happy to link you to if (no scratch that – when) I write it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but inferring from your comment it seems as though you didn’t attend the ‘Embracing the #femfog’ session, so to bring you up to scratch, there’s a fabulous storified account here:

      https://storify.com/MedievalPhDemon/femfog-at-imc-2016#publicize

      You ask, ‘what on earth does bring [sic] white have to do with your criticism?’ Unfortunately, harassment and prejudice are not only problems faced by women in academia, but also scholars of colour and those who identify as LGBT+. Although the session was grounded in the #femfog debate, the discussion considered the inclusivity of medieval studies more broadly, and asked how we can work together as peripheral minority groups to overcome the challenges faced by young, female, non-white and LGBT+ scholars. Consequently, it would have been reassuring to see older, white, heterosexual males in the audience as a sign of unity and/or awareness of both the micro- and macroaggressions faced by their colleagues, if nothing else. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

      Like I said, although the audience was primarily made up of young women, there was also a show of solidarity from older female scholars – including a number of older, established female academics on the panel (such as Liz McAvoy, Christina Lee and Elaine Treharne). Similarly, Stanton raised the potential benefits of mentoring schemes between established female academics and their younger counterparts, and this need for cohesion within the ‘marginalised’ academic community was talked about extensively in the conversations which followed.

      In regards to your point about the ‘scholarly attraction’ of the session, it was certainly timely – growing out of concerns relating to Frantzen’s (now infamous) blog post and work with MRAs. The discussion was also scheduled at lunch time to avoid clashes with the multitude of other sessions, and took place in one of Leeds University’s larger lecture theatres to ensure that all who wanted to attend could. Therefore, due to the timing and size, there was nothing (scheduling-wise) older, white male scholars from attending – which was why I was disappointed by the general turn out resulting in a case of ‘preaching to the converted’, however inspiring that might have been.

      I hope that answers some of your questions and clarifies my views.

      Best wishes,
      Rachael.

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    • Being white has a whole lot to do with this. Medieval studies, as a discipline, is primarily a ‘white’ discipline, and as such, it lacks the postcolonial contributions that scholars of colour have been able to bring to the field. If the attendees present in the Femfog session represented the general population of the field, or even just the delegates at IMC2016 – well, white male scholars, old or otherwise, would have been much more visible. Yet it was their absence that we noticed, not their presence. Like Trevor pointed out, the Femfog session was added late to the programme and many did not know about this, but on the other hand, many did. Our fear is that the absence of white male scholars and who have saturated the field throughout the entire existence of medieval studies might signal a lack of willingness to learn about the difficulties faced by women, LBGTQ+, and POC scholars. Read the much more informative, thorough, and thoughtful discussion by Dorothy Kim, one of the very few POC scholars in medieval studies that I can name: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2016/01/antifeminism-whiteness-and-medieval.html

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