Representations of Race in the Early Modern Period

Please submit 250-300 word abstracts for 15-20 minute papers to Elizabeth Mathie (mathie@umich.edu) or Kyle Grady (kcgrady@umich.edu) with the subject heading “EMC: Representations of Race” by December 19th, 2013. The Early Modern Colloquium is an interdisciplinary graduate student group at the University of Michigan and will give priority to abstracts submitted by graduate students.

PROGRAM AND THEMATIC EMPHASES

Keynote Speakers

Professor Arthur Little (Department of English, University of California- Los Angeles)

and

Professor Peter Erickson (Department of Theater, Northwestern University)

This interdisciplinary conference will engage with the fruitful field of early modern critical race studies, examining the myriad ways in which racial ideologies were represented, deployed, and undermined in the period, and exploring the scholarly possibilities for discussing, theorizing, and historicizing race.  Discourses of difference, seen through the art, literature, and historical records of the period, can be both strikingly familiar and entirely alien to a contemporary observer.  Scholars of geo-humoral theory, for example, have demonstrated that to many in the period, physical ethnic difference was, to some extent, a mutable feature, changeable in relation to one’s latitudinal deviation from a central Mediterranean.  Moreover, some early modern scholars contend that contemporary racist discourse was not yet available in the period, as a European notion of fixed and hierarchical racial categories was concomitantly undeveloped.  Despite these arguments, a number of scholars cogently demonstrate the racialized aspect of moral and aesthetic discourse, examining the European, and particularly Elizabethan, privileging of “fairness” and the pejorative moral rhetoric concerning darkness.  Such arguments are often also supported by European involvement in the slave trade and Renaissance colonial practices.  Another complicating component to the conversation is, as Ania Loomba writes in her introduction to Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism, that “in early modern Europe the bitterest conflicts between European Christians and others had to do with religion.”  Thus, we can see how a number of issues including knowledge production, artistic representation, and the construction of identities-- national, ethnic, sexual, and religious-- intersect with and are shaped by debates surrounding race.

This conference seeks papers that interrogate representations of race in art, literature, and other media of the late medieval, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries or think critically about the possibilities for scholarship addressing questions of race and its representations in the period. Salient topics in early modern studies that might overlap with questions of race include, but are by no means limited to: sexuality, gender, nationality, religion, medicine, aesthetics, class, performance, ability and embodiment