Women's Studies Spring Lecture Series: "The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages"

A lecture by Geraldine Heng, Perceval Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Women's Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Texas at Austin
Monday, February 7, 2011
6:00-7:30 PM

Ella Weed Room, 2nd Floor Milbank Hall
"The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages” questions the widely held belief that “race” is a category without purchase before the modern era. Surveying a variety of cultural documents from the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries—chronicles, hagiography, literature, stories, sculpture, maps,canonå law, statuary, illustrations, religious commentary, and architectural features—"Invention" considers racial thinking, racial law, racial formation, and racialized behaviors and phenomena in Europe before the emergence of a recognizable vocabulary of race. One focus is how a political hermeneutics of religion—so much in play again today—enabled the positing of fundamental human differences in biopolitical and culturalist ways to create strategic essentialisms demarcating human kinds and populations. Another focus is how race figures in the emergence of homo europaeus and the identity of Western Europe (beginning as Latin Christendom) in this time. "Invention" surveys the current state of race theory, outlines architectures supporting racial formation in premodernity, and identifies and analyzes specific concretions of medieval race.
Prof. Heng's lecture is sponsored by the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies (CCIS) and Department of Women's Studies, Barnard College.