I’ve been very glad to see that the word’s been getting out about what I’m doing here with my research. What started out as a little project that I assumed would just just one more art blog in the sea of tumblr, turned out to be a much-needed resource in not only online activism and student-oriented academia, but in the larger face of popular culture misconceptions about race, media, representation, and what it means to be “historically accurate”.
After some active threads on popular blog sloggers like Metafilter and features on art-related sites like Hyperallergic and ArtInfo, I noticed that a lot of other sites were using medievalpoc as a source for materials on other topics as well. Clutch Magazine used some of the information I’ve gathered here to respond to Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly’s assertion of the “historically verifiable” whiteness of Santa Claus, and Feministing.com did a brief writeup on medievalpoc for their news feed. I also did a round table interview with Gene Demby for NPR’s Code Switch blog, along with two art history professors/authors, as well as a current graduate student of art history.
What I do here is an attempt to bridge the gap between popular/social media and the dusty vaults of academia. I want to shine a light on the way in which our culture is shaped by media we consume that claims to show events from history, but declines to reflect the diversity of its audience or that of its own sources.
More than anything, I want to make these concepts accessible and tangible for all people, whether they’re interested in military history, contemporary art, fantasy books and shows, science fiction, intersectional social justice, or just plain like to see beautiful art that features familiar styles with unfamiliar faces. I want to have in-depth discussions with the people affected by the political, social, and financial forces that shape the way we, as Americans, are educated about our history and how that affects our current circumstances.
Something difficult for “pure” historians to understand is that, while the intent of the artists and the historical contexts in which these works were created is relevant, it is not the main goal of this blog to teach or talk about that. It is about bringing these works into our current context, and ask ourselves why they seem anachronistic to so many people. It is about analyzing our responses to these works, and to show whether they adhere to or refute the narratives we are told during our educational journey in the United States.
To see this conversation reaching an ever-increasing audience gives me more hope for our future, as Americans who have been marginalized within our culture, than I have had for a long time. Although some historians believe that this blog is merely reflecting a “trend” in academia, ushered in by exhibits like Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, and Black is Beautiful: Rubens to Dumas, I believe that a more overarching analysis that includes Critical Race Theory is something that can be the most relevant for young people moving in the belly of the academic beast today.
Social media has ushered in platforms where interdisciplinary research can be liveblogged and read by as many people as are interested in the topic. Anyone can give their opinion (for good or ill), and sometimes, the most valuable starting points are ignited by the misconceptions spawned by popular films, fantasy novels, Renaissance Faires, Disney animated epics, and the question of why we spend so much time thinking about, writing about, and poring over the minutiae of Medieval Europe in the United States.
In many ways, the future of academia in the U.S. is happening on social media. Voices, topics, and people who have gone without or been denied funding, acceptance, or have faced insurmountable institutional or financial barriers have found a place to explore some of the most cutting-edge topics at a high level of integrity. The increased accessibility of academic journals through digitization as well as the pooling of knowledge through communication technology has given birth to an entirely new breed of academics. Although sourcing is often omitted and plagiarism by freelance writers for online magazines is rampant, I believe we are changing the face of public discourse through our very existence.
So, I raise my metaphorical glass to all of you who continue to delight and astound me with your passionate contributions, questions, reflections, and readership.
Here’s to you, readers.