One Year Anniversary of Global Middle Ages Project Web Portal
Originally posted:
September 26, 2016

In October 2015, the GMAP web portal was launched with eight projects. One year later, we have added articles and teaching syllabi, and we have several new projects in the works for launching in the 2016-2017 academic year. Here are some statistics:

Total unique visitors: 9,414
Pageviews: 28,851

A few web links that have pointed to the site: 

International Advisory Board Established
Originally posted:
Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Stephen Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, has agreed to chair the International Advisory Board for the Global Middle Ages Project. A fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a prolific author, Nichols has long supported digital projects treating the middle ages.


Call for Papers: Medieval Literature and the Trans-National (journal)
Originally posted:
Friday, November 20, 2015

Literature Compass invites contributions for a special issue on transnationalism in medieval literature.

The period from c. 500 to c. 1500CE can be characterized by fluidity of borders and identities. While a town or individual might have belonged to a particular religious group or political division, such identities were highly variable, in an era before the nation state. Conversion and conquest not only altered the way people and places were named, they facilitated the exchange of ideas, technologies, and cultures. Building from the recent critical turn to transnationalism, this volume of Literature Compass explores the ways that texts created new identities, either by sharing literary or linguistic traditions, or through (re)casting stories to make new boundaries appear to be old. How far do premodern cultures of interconnectivity and exchange respond to the idea of the 'trans-national'? And how has modern scholarship understood, or misunderstood, medieval transnationalism through monoglot or nationalistic critical positions? Trans-national culture is often see as a symptom of modern capitalism - how far can medieval culture modify, or contribute to, this understanding?

Inquiries and Proposals should be sent to both editors of the special issue by: January 1, 2016 (later inquiries are acceptable provided the article submission deadline will be honored)

Article submissions by: March 15, 2016

More information on Literature Compass can be found here:

For more details on submission and the manuscript review process, please see:

Editors: Anthony Bale ( and Lynn Ramey (

News of the day
Originally posted:
Thursday, October 1st, 2015

1.Upcoming conference panel: 

MLA 2016, British, Or?

 Medieval literary history presumes that the national identity of Britain is established over time and in relation to other cultures. Literary studies today question the notion that British literature reflects or produces a nationalist empire; yet, we continue to debate the question of the relevance of Middle English, and of medieval literature based on narratives of linguistic difference, cultural capital, commerce, geography, and global exchange. What is British? Where and when is what we call “the medieval” in relation to that which we deem “British”? Or, is there another way we might come to speak of a cosmopolitanism of medieval literature?

 2. Suggested reading: Global Middle East, A: Mobility, Materiality and Culture in the Modern Age, 1880-1950 (Library of Middle East History) (2014)by Liat Kozma (Editor), Cyrus Schayegh (Editor)

The start of the twentieth century ushered in a period of unprecedented change in the Middle East. These transformations, brought about by the emergence of the modern state system and an increasing interaction with a more globalized economy, irrevocably altered the political and social structures of the Middle East, even as the region itself left its mark on the processes of globalization themselves. As a result of these changes, there was an intensification in the movement of people, …

3. The American Comparative Literature Society seeks submissions for the MA thesis award. Please send any theses that address literature in at least two languages to Erin Labbie ( We hope to award the student who has written the most comprehensive, eloquent, and well-researched thesis that was submitted as recently as January 2015 and which may be completed by January 30, 2016.

Posted by Erin Labbie

GMAP Web Portal Launch
Originally posted:
Thursday, October 1st, 2015

GMAP banner

The Global Middle Ages Project (GMAP) announces the launch of its web portal today, October 1, 2015. GMAP is an ambitious effort by an international collaboration of scholars to see the world whole, c. 500 to 1500 CE, to deliver the stories of lives, objects, and actions in dynamic relationship and change across deep time. GMAP grew out of a teaching experiment at the University of Texas in 2004, when 7 scholars of different specializations invited students to see what the planetary past looked like when teaching was not carved up into disciplines and departments, or bound by area studies and regional studies. The project has continued and grown since that time, now facilitating collaborations between medievalists in all disciplines from around the globe.

The web portal showcases the digital work of affiliated groups whose projects range from 3D visualizations to manuscript collections to social media experiments. In addition, the site makes available syllabuses and open-access research, all aiming to understand the Middle Ages from a global perspective. Visit the site at


New leadership for website
Originally posted:
Monday, September 29, 2015

Lynn Ramey of Vanderbilt University has agreed to serve as co-director (along with Noakes and Heng) of GMAP. Her focus will be on the Mappamundi website. Ramey has been involved in GMAP since 2008, when she began directing the "Discoveries" of the Americas web portal. "GMAP has been in great hands, and I'm excited to be a part of the re-launch of the website," Ramey remarked. "We have more and more digital projects, and I'm delighted to be able to help out." Her background in computer science along with her work on interactions between cultures in the Middle Ages will be an asset to GMAP.

Lynn Ramey

The Black Death and the Global Middle Ages
Originally posted:
Monday, September 29, 2015

In November 2014, I had the great privilege of publishing, as guest editor, the inaugural issue of a new journal, The Medieval Globe. Carol Symes, who is the founding and managing editor of the journal, and her Editorial Board, had taken a great leap of faith that our new synthesis on the Black Death would offer both compelling questions and bold new methodologies for thinking about global connections in the medieval world. Having now passed the 5000 mark in open-access downloads of the volume (just seven months after its debut), we feel our goal of sharing this new synthesis with scholars around the world has already been achieved.

Royal 6 E VI  f. 301  The British Library

London, British Library, MS Royal 6.E.VI, f. 301rb. An image of leprous clerics that was falsely circulated as if it were a depiction of plague

The driving question of the volume was simple: what difference did the “new genetic synthesis” on the evolutionary history of Yersinia pestis, the causative organism of plague, make for the history of the largest known pandemic in human history? Microbiological genetics has achieved two breakthroughs with respect to Y. pestis in the past 15 years. First, it has shown that all the strains of the organism currently known in the world (and it is still present on all continents save Australia, where it has not been found since the 1930s) can be shown to belong to the same family tree. The entire history of the organism may be only a few thousand years old. Second, a type of research called aDNA (“ancient DNA”) has been able to reconstruct the entire genome of Y. pestis from victims of the Black Death (as well as the earlier Justinianic Plague, c. 541-c. 750). This is tour de force science, among the most exciting work being done in genetics today. Still, the historian must ask, “So what?” How does that change how we, as humanists (working with human cultural sources), view this pandemic?

We proposed to take the evolutionary leap with these scientists and let their understandings of Y. pestis be our guide. The geographic origin of Y. pestis, including strains immediately ancestral to the strains that caused the Black Death in Europe, was not western Europe or even anywhere nearby. It was the highlands of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in what is today China. Immediately this pushed the Black Death’s story into the realm of the global—or at the very least, the hemispheric. And how did this single-celled organism that has no mechanism of self-propulsion get from China to the lands where we normally situated the Black Death (Kaffa, Messina, Marseille, Cairo, Barcelona, London)? How did a disease that does not normally inhabit human bodies (unlike, say, tuberculosis or leprosy) travel nearly the entire length of Eurasia? And did it perhaps even go beyond Eurasia? Again, the genetics gave us data we could not explain as historians: the extant strains of Y. pestis that are most closely related to the strain found in 14th-century London are not found anywhere in Europe, or central Asia. They are found in sub-Saharan Africa. A global Middle Ages indeed!

The volume brought together 17 researchers: not simply historians of various stripes, but also anthropologists and archeologists, and two microbiologists. Topics ranged from the case study of an excavation of a Jewish community in Spain attacked during the first wave of the Black Death in 1348 to an essay on the continuing threats of plague in the present-day world, where antibiotic resistance may be even more of a threat to our ability to control plague than bioterrorism. Our geographic coverage ranged from the Gansu corridor in China to Egypt to London to Uganda and Kenya. Our sources ranged from medieval and early modern texts (including a widely disseminated but misdiagnosed “plague” image) to maps to gravesites to the most complicated modern genetics. In short, by tracking this single-celled organism halfway across the globe, we were able to begin to reconstruct extraordinarily complex systems of human (and animal) interactions from the time of the earliest Mongol conquests up to the present day. 

What’s next for this “new synthesis” on the history of plague? Various scientific labs continue their own research not simply on Y. pestis aDNA, but also climate patterns and animal host dynamics that may have contributed to plague’s evolution or movement across species and landscapes. Certain of our contributors have already moved into new topics such as the pre-existing conditions that made populations vulnerable to plague’s effects, or comparative work with the most recent epidemic threat, Ebola. Although our project had no Digital Humanities component, it is  obvious that that will be the next horizon, as we need to gather and assess massive amounts of data to bring our new, enlarged geography and chronology of the Second Plague Pandemic into focus. Quite simply, we have the potential now to reconstruct the history of the Black Death as the ultimate model of pandemic disease. As the world has learned through the hard lessons of the West African Ebola outbreak, and as my own students learn when I tell them why we have plague today in Arizona, there is still much we can learn from studying the Global Middle Ages.

Monica Green, Arizona State University,

Brandon Schapekahm: Serious Games
Originally posted:
Friday, May 21st, 2010

Brandon Schapekahm is part of the Johnson Center for Simulation (JCS), which is part of the Pine Technical College in Pine City, Minnesota. JCS was founded as part of a regional project to extend East Central Minnesota’s technology infrastructure and services and their projects include scenario and procedural training applications, military immersive simulations, and game development.

Brandon Schapekahm

For this session, Schapekahm chose some good examples of serious games that JCS has developed. An interesting discussion ensued, on comparing what Second Life and other 3D game engines such as UDL and Ogre can offer the historical reconstruction of historical sites. We saw some example of the kind of detailed textures allowed by UDL and discussed the pertinence of this vis-a-vis the social aspect of a (proprietary) platform such as Second Life.

This discussion triggered the idea that it would very useful to have the same historical site reconstructed using a number of engines (and approaches) so that the team can effectively evaluate the direction to  pursue. We discussed the possibility of an award to be announced to both the social/serious games and the scholarly communities.

By Ana Boa-Ventura

Bissera Pentcheva: the aesthetics of the sea
Originally posted:
Friday, May 21st, 2010

The morning of the second day, Bissera Pentcheva (Stanford) made a wonderful and poetic presentation on ‘Hagia Sophia and the Asthetics of the Sea’, where she stressed the importance for the Byzantines of the integration of aural and visual experiences. Pentcheva stressed how central this interconnection of sound and sight needs to be in any modern attempt to experientially reproduce Hagia Sophia’s space.

Bissera Pentcheva

She referred us to the texts by Deborah Howard on the importance of the interconnection of senses when considering the modern reproduction of sites.

By Ana Boa-Ventura

William Phillips: “making the world available”
Originally posted:
Friday, May 21st, 2010

meeting for william phillips

(from left to right: Bissera Pentcheva, Susan Noakes, Rachel Gibson, Mary Griep, and Marguerite Ragnow.)

By then it was clear to him that there was the need for a global re-contextualization of the Middle Ages. It was around that time that Phillips first heard of the project through Geraldine Heng’s paper published on the Medieval Academy of America newsletter. Visiting the University of Texas at Austin, he had the opportunity of meeting and talking to some of the faculty members who had co-taught the course with Heng and participated in that unique experience.

Phillips stressed how current technologies, which can be easily applied to this project , such as GoogleEarth are accounts of the present and very incomplete and inaccurate (or even non-existing) accounts of the past.

On the other hand, examples that integrate this diachronic aspect of ‘places’ – such as the UCLA resconstrucion of Santiago de Compostela require large computing centers and that one actually is at UCLA to experience ‘being in Santiago’.

Phillips believes that one fundamental aspect of SCGMA will be to bring the global Middle Ages to anyone accessing from any laptop: “making the world available from our own computer units”.

By Ana Boa-Ventura

SCGMA: the Istanbul/Constantinople project kicks off!
Originally posted:
Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This week I am honored to be part of a meeting taking place at the Universiy of Minnesota. A small group of scholars is discussing the Istanbul/Constantinople project, part of a larger group and community: SCGMA.

Brandon Schapekahm and Susan Noakes

SCGMA stands for the Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages, a multi-campus, international group of scholars from various disciplines including Anthropology, Archeology, History and Information Library Science and dedicated to the study of the Middle Ages.

The meeting is taking place at the University of Minnesota from May 19 thru the 23rd, and is the initial planning workshop for the SCGMA members working in the Istanbul/Constantinople project.

Susan Noakes is hosting this workshop. Unfortunately, Geraldine Heng cannot be present due to family reasons.

From Noakes’ introductory comments for the seminar, which I try to document next, I will stress two for those who cannot read this whole posting:

- The importance of friendship in academic collaboration and in the very genesis of a research project;
- SCGMA is a project with a 20 year timeline.

The genesis of a project

On Wednesday and kicking-off the workshop, Dr. Noakes made what Dr. William Phillips called the most detailed account of SCGMA genesis he had heard so far. It was also a very auto-biographic account of how Noakes met Geraldine Heng after reading her2004 article entitled “Global Interconnections: Imagining the World, 500–1500″, reporting the experience of designing and teaching a course in global middle ages at the University of Texas in Austin.

A friendship developed between the two, as well as a wish to repeat that, which today would be called a very expensive curriculum! In fact, in spite of its size UT Austin did not have 6 scholars ready to teach this course. So, three scholars traveled from other parts of the country to teach their sections of the course. Given the cost of the curriculum, the College has not been able to afford to repeat this experience, which several students have referred to as a ‘life-changing experience’.

As Noakes stressed, the idea of studying the middle ages globally rather than European really started when Heng stated her course at the University of Texas at Austin. Heng wanted to begin pushing the borders of medieval studies and re-contextualize them.

Around the time that Heng conducted the course, Noakes became director of the Center for Medieval Studies at UMN. She invited Heng to UMN and both met with James Parente, Dean of Col. Of Liberal Arts. Lee Gayle DUbro, who headed the Graduate school UMN was able to fund a seminar that Heng conducted.

A 20 year timeline

During their meeting at UMN, Heng and Noakes thought that it would be good to have an initial focus on travel, trade, city planning; also the history of science as practiced outside the western as well as within the western world.

After the UMN seminar, both Heng and Noakes identified who was interested and who would have enough a commitment to this large project. This project will involve the massive digitalization of collections using methods that are not always recognized in this field’s scholarship. Only a focus on research could draw the commitment to the project by young faculty and doctoral students.

As Noakes noted though, archeologists, anthropologists of acoustics… are not used to working together. So these groups need to develop modes of collaboration and etiquette by developing ways of sharing, attribution, etc… in sum by investing in a commitment to work through and around those issues!

For all these reasons, this will be a project that will need to count on the continued commitment from a body of scholars, probably traversing several generations.

I will stop here - Susan Noakes offered a truly insightful recount of how SCGMA came to be. There could be so much more to say.

For this week, the short term goal for this SCGMA planning workshop is to get the Istambul/Constantinople project off the ground. One of the reasons to start with this are is that not many medievalists are up-to-date in the Byzantium.

One point I would like to leave my reader with is that both Noakes and Heng are adamant about ensuring the full participation from scholars originating from the areas being studied. As a rule of thumb, the decision was made right from the start that at least one third of participants should be from the part of the world being studied.

By Ana Boa-Ventura


SCGMA & Early Ottoman Workshop
Originally posted:
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The initial planning workshop for the  Constantinople / Istanbul project (part of the Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages) will take place at the University of Minnesota from May 19 to May 23.

SCGMA history department  banner

We will be blogging the workshop as it takes place!


  • History Department conference Center | 1210 Heller Hall | University of Minnesota


  • May 19 - 23, 2010

Digital Humanities Observatory - Dublin, June 2010
Originally posted:
Friday, February 19th, 2010

If you happen to be in Europe this Summer you may consider attending the Digital Humanities Observatory Summer School in Dublin.

This year, like last year, the Summer School happens in conjunction with NINEs and the EpiDoc Collaborative… And this year a novelty are mid-week, and one-day workshops.

Digital Humanities Observatory banner

A number of subsidised places are available for attendees at HSIS institutions. For more information about these places, please contact the DHO Consultative Committee representative at your institution. Names of representatives can be found at:

Full details of the workshop strands, lectures and guest speakers can be found on the Summer School website at:

One word on the EpiDoc collaborative on the next post!

Posted by: Ana Boa-Ventura

Digital media and learning competition to participate in President Obama new Science-Education effort.
Originally posted:
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

This just in… [quote from HASTAC-web listserv]

HASTAC is playing a major role in the new White House campaign to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The third-annual Digital Media and Learning Competition will award $2 million in support of participatory learning experiences that incorporate STEM principles. The competition launches Dec. 14 and winners will be announced in spring 2010.”

The competition is funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and will be administered by HASTAC. Awards will be given in two categories: “ 21st Century Learning Lab Designers” and  ”Game Changers” awards.

Call for Papers: Essays on Welsh Mythology in Popular Culture
Originally posted:
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Essays On Welsh Mythology in Popular Culture
Kristin Noone (UC Riverside) and Audrey Becker (Marygrove College), eds.

In recent years, interest in Welsh mythology and legendary figures has grown exponentially in popular culture, with appearances in diverse arenas ranging from fantasy fiction to role-playing games, from children’s literature to tourist sites and even Celtic-inspired rock music and heavy metal. We are seeking essays that explore the uses and appropriations of these legends into “popular” spaces, hoping to trace the patterns of interpretation and reinscription to offer some insight into what meaning “Welsh mythology” retains in an increasingly postmodern, global society.

Sample topics (contributors are by no means limited to these) may include:

Depression-era fantasy and Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion Tetralogy;
children’s literature and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence;
Diana Wynne Jones’s otherworldly Wales in Howl’s Moving Castle;
Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series and/or the film The Black Cauldron;
translations and adaptations of Welsh legends over time;
Welsh influences in online role-playing games such as Mabinogi or World of Warcraft, or action-adventure games such as Legend of Zelda;
the 2003 Welsh film and graphic novel Y Mabinogi
Twm Sion Cati, or the Welsh Robin Hood;
Welsh mythology in music, for example the Moody Blues’ “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” or Spring’s “Grail”;
tourism and tourist sites such as Caerleon or Machynlleth

McFarland & Co. has expressed interest in publishing this collection as part of the Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy/Folklore and Mythology Series; therefore, we will be submitting an official proposal once we have made final decisions on all submissions.

Please send titles and descriptions (600-700 words, or full papers if completed), of proposed essay contributions to Kristin Noone ( or Audrey Becker ( by September 1, 2009.

Kalamazoo 2010: Sponsored Session - SCGMA
Originally posted:
Friday, August 28th, 2009

“Global Progeny: Medievalisms in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature” - (Kalamazoo 2010)
Sponsored Session–SCGMA

Children’s and young adults’ fantasy works are often rife with
medievalisms, and in the past few decades the impact of globalization has emerged in the expanding scope of fantasy worlds.

For example, children’s literature often features a big desert to the south inhabited by turbaned, scimitar-wielding neighbors who are typically enemies. In recent years, these “others” have been brought to the forefront and are heroes/allies rather than villains.

Tamora Pierce’s feminist children’s fantasy series Protector of the Small, for instance, includes a cultural exchange with the “Yamani Islands’—basically a representative of medieval Japan. In addition, Linda Sue Park’ book A Single Shard (2002 Newberry Medal winner) details the life of a girl in mid- to late- 12th century Korea, while Kevin Crossley Holland writes about a boy’s experiences on the Fourth Crusade, and a girl’s on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in his Arthur trilogy and its companion book, Gatty’s Tale.

While we’ve detailed modern interpretations in this proposal, this session invites papers not only on modern re-interpretations of global perspectives of the medieval, but also presentations on medieval fantasy texts written outside of Britain/Europe addressed to or focused on children and young adults.

Please submit a 250-300 word abstract for a 20 minute paper to gabriel gryffyn ( by 15 September 2009.

“Globalizing the Middle Ages?” - (Kalamazoo 2010)

The Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages’
mission statement indicates that it “seeks to reconceive the field of Medieval Studies not in terms of Europe alone but also in relation to Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, and Asia.”

As scholars, we strive to bring a larger perspective into our work as well as our classrooms. When most of Medieval Studies is focused on western culture, how can we incorporate a global perspective—whether we study non-western texts directly or compare eastern and western texts as part of our studies?

This panel is open both to presentations on how to incorporate global texts/ideas into scholarly work and class settings, and also to papers which analyze global perspectives of western or non-western texts.

Please submit a 250-300 word abstract for a 20 minute paper to gabriel gryffyn ( by 15 September 2009.

Visualizing the genesis of a medieval text, layer by layer
Originally posted:
Monday, August 24th, 2009

In the study of urban life during the Middle Ages in Europe, municipal statutes can provide great insight.

LLC 24 cover

The latest issue of the Literary and Linguistic Computing Journal includes an article by Malte Rehbein (National University of Ireland) entitled “Reconstructing the textual evolution of a medieval manuscript”. The article shows how a multi-layered text can be used to organically show how a text evolved: in this case, the text is Göttingen’s ‘kundige bok’.

Full reference: Rehbein, M. (2009). Reconstructing the textual evolution of a medieval manuscript. Literary and Linguistic Computing 2009 24(3):319-327

Posted by: Ana Boa-Ventura

Visiting SDSC!
Originally posted:
Friday, May 22nd, 2009

…baby and teddy bear included!:)

Left to right: Astrid Ogilvie (U of Colorado), GH, Stephennie Mulder with baby Daniela (U of Texas), William Phillips (U of Minnesota), Benjamin Liu (U of California, Riverside), and Roger Hart (U of Texas).


Photos by Alan Craig


SCGMA Zotero 2.0 Group
Originally posted:
Sunday, May 17th, 2009

With the release of Zotero 2.0, it’s now possible and easy to share bibliographies between people with similar interests. You simply need to register for an account, then find a relevant group or create your own. So, I created an SCGMA group that I hope you will join. It should allow us to share our current research interests, our finds from various databases, and discover new things to read. Of course, Zotero only works with Firefox, but since it is the best browser on the market, there’s yet another incentive to switch for those who haven’t.

While Zotero was relatively useful and interesting before, the bibliographies compiled through it were stuck on a single computer and restricted to a single person. Since both of those limitations are now gone, it promises to be a far more useful tool. 2.0 is still in beta, which means it may well have bugs remaining, but it should be useable already and will only improve as the bugs get ironed out. So far, the sync functionality works just fine for me.

Right now I’ve only shared one item (the book I most recently finished that’s also directly relevant to the Middle Ages), but I will continue adding items as I research and test out this new version. Because of its previous limitations, I had installed and tried Zotero, but never relied on it much. Now, however, since I’m trying to move almost everything I do onto the cloud (I work from at least 3 different machines), I suspect I’ll find it much more valuable. And, as with most collaborative tools, the more people who join in and try it out, the more useful the collected data becomes.

Posted by Michael Widner

Online archives on manuscripts: the popular vote
Originally posted:
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

WSJ page showing the 'Discuss' section

You may have received an email from me when I added you to this SCGMA blog. I maintain this blog, and in fact my interest in the Global Middle Ages project has a social media spotlight.


This is why last Friday’s May 8 Wall Street Journal article entitled ‘The Next Age of Discovery’ resonated with me… in particular, a small section featured on the side-bar, under “Discuss”…

The article describes some of the digital techniques used in the recovery of manuscripts. If you scroll down, under the “Discuss” section you can read (as you can see on the screenshot):”What are the best online archives for historical documents, art and artifacts? Share your favorite sources at  Journal Community.”

If you select that area, you will be taken to a blog-looking section where you can post your favorite archives. By 4PM CST of May 12 there were (only?) 3 suggestions by readers.

I could not stop wondering that we do not see this type of popular vote in this type of topic. Though it is arguable how ‘popular’ the recommendations of the Wall Street Journal readers are… I was still intrigued about tools out there to assess (and effectively visualize) popular preferences in topics that are often thought of as being exclusive to the academic arena… and how that information is being incorporated in academic research.

Your thoughts are welcome, as always!

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

SCGMA scholars in Pittsburgh!
Originally posted:
Friday, May 8th, 2009

SCGMA scholars return from Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center workshop (left to right: Anne Zimo, David Crane, Susan Noakes, Gabriela Ilnitchi Currie).  Not pictured: Herbert Kessler.  The group spent two days learning about TeraGrid and the possibilities it offers for research on the Global Middle Ages, especially tracing through iconography the migration of musical instruments westward through Western Asia and the Balkans and the mapping of Mediterranean trade and communications.  Professor Kessler, President of the Medieval Academy of America, discussed prospects for connecting medievalists working in digital technology with TeraGrid.

Photo by Alan Craig

Posted by Susan Noakes

Call for papers: Mapping Medieval Geographies
Originally posted:
Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Thanks to Dr. Anne Hedeman at UIUC we are posting this information on the following conference taking place next month.

Mapping Medieval Geographies: Cartography and geographical thought in the Latin West and beyond: 300-1600
Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Thursday May 28th - Saturday May 30th 2009

Full program  Save the dates!
Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Metadata for medievalists: 2 workshops
Originally posted:
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Medieval Academy of America’s Committee on Electronic Resources is organizing two workshops on metadata specifically in medieval studies.


If you’re working with data collections and/or in text analytics in this area you may want to attend any of these workshops, which will take place during the International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, MI - May 2009).

Both workshops will be on Thursday, May 7 (sessions 54 and 166) 

Complete conference schedule

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Historical maps on GoogleEarth
Originally posted:
Monday, March 2nd, 2009

GoogleEarth skipped the 3rd dimension and went straight into the 4th one. If you want to see historical maps - and if you have GoogleEarth installed in your computer, - you simply need to expand the Featured Content -> Rumsey Historical Maps (Layers panel).

Unfortunately, no Medieval maps are available yet. Some of the earliest maps available are of Asia 1710 , Paris 1716 and Africa 1787.

However, it would be technically possible to have a Middle Ages map. In fact, how interesting would it be to have the our perception of the world through time?…

I am not sure whether the modeling required for these layers that juxtapose to Earth are flexible enough to allow a juxtaposition of the Earth the way that Lactantius or Cosmas Indicopleustes proposed…

And this is where Digital Humanities becomes so wonderfully complex. A historical problem becomes a problem of Mathematics, CAD and programming. How to juxtapose a flat texture to an interactive 3D model?:) Maybe virtual worlds such as Second LIfe offer some interesting approaches, as they constantly need to map 3D structures on 2D surfaces.

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Best practices - scholarly use of historical digital images
Originally posted:
Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Posts to this blog have been scarce. This is normal in a young blog such as this one.

However, we want to encourage you to post more. We are all extremely busy but posting in a free form style is ok. I will take a first stab at that style. : )

Consider this the first of a series of free form blog posts on topics that are related to the Global Middle Ages, though that connection may be indirect.

At this time, I would like to call your attention to a recently Call for Open Access to Digital Images issued by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG).

max plank

The set of recommendations are aimed namely at the publication of historical digital images, which are core to the GMA project - hence, this post…

The MPIWG, which co-initiated the OpenAccess movement, just launched on its website a  set of recommendations on the scholarly use of visual media. The material is the result of careful consultations the Institute conducted with scholars and representatives of leading museums, libraries, image archives and publishers.

More than best practices, the documents now published aims at creating “a network of mutual trust and cooperation between scholars and curators of cultural heritage collections with a view to facilitating access to and the scholarly use of visual media”.
This set of best practices are downloadable from the Institute’s website.
The document is addressed at curators - for example it exhorts them to accommodate scholars’ needs by
providing access to high-resolution images for a low cost (or no cost).  It also addresses scholars exhorting them to recognise museums and libraries as the custodians of physical objects of cultural heritage. Furthermore, the document stresses the importance of the role of all stakeholders in the process as “guarantors of authenticity”.

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Seeking partners in Canada and the UK for a NEH+NSF+JISC+ SSHRC co-funded grant: Digging into Data
Originally posted:
Monday, February 9th, 2009

A group of researchers at UT Austin - in the Humanities and Advanced Computing areas - is seeking partners in Canada and the UK interested in applying to the Digging into Data Challenge, an international grant co-funded by the research agencies you may read on the subject.

Announcement of the grant here


Letter of intent - March 15

Final application(application form not yet available ) - July 15.

Our interests revolve around the topic of Holy War. We will use a number of databases (JSTOR being one of them) that we will query using a number of text mining processes. Depending on the specific interest of your institution we may look at the same databases and use different processes or look other aspects of “war”- Cold War, colonial wars, etc.

If interested please comment this post or email or Dr. Geraldine Heng at

Thank you

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Seminar at UCLA - Mediterranean Studies: East and West at the Center, 1050-1600
Originally posted:
January 26th, 2009

Mediterranean Studies: East and West at the Center, 1050-1600 is a series of seminars organized by Professor Zrinka Stahuljak (UCLA French and Francophone Studies, and CMRS Associate Director for Medieval Studies) and funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

[The seminar] “will consider the Mediterranean as a geographical and environmental entity, the center for both East and West, and the site of a world system rather than a line of separation between the emerging “West” and an exotic “East.”

Mediterranean Studies: East and West at the Center, 1050-1600

Schedule for upcoming seminars:

Monday, January 26, 2009, 3:30-6:30 pm, Royce 306
Professor Valerie Ramseyer (History, and Director of Medieval-Renaissance Studies at Wellesley College)
“Religious Boundaries and Intersections in Medieval Southern Italy”

Monday, February 2, 2009, 3:30-6:30 pm, Royce 306
Professor E. Natalie Rothman (History/Anthropology, University of Toronto)

Monday, February 9, 2009, 4-7 pm, Humanities Building 193
Professor Zdenka Janekovic Roemer (Institute for Historical Studies, Dubrovnik, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts)
“Dubrovnik (Ragusa) in the Eastern Mediterranean”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 4:30-7:30 pm, Royce 306
(New time–originally scheduled for 3:30-6:30 pm.)
Professor Geraldine Heng (English, University of Texas-Austin)
“Fantasies of Civilizational Identity”

Monday, February 23, 2009, 4:00-7:00 pm, Humanities Building 193
Professor David Wrisley (American University of Beirut)
“Lusignan expeditions seen from Cyprus and Egypt”

Monday, March 2, 2009, 3:30-6:30 pm, Royce 306
Professor Maria Mavroudi (History, UC Berkeley)
“Byzantium and the Arabs; Bilinguals in the Middle Ages”

Posted by Ana Boa-Ventura

Hindu Hagiography, Secularism, Islam and Resistance
Originally posted:
Sunday, January 11th, 2009

This is Ishan Chakrabarti, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. Broadly speaking, I work on medieval and early modern literature from South Asia to the Middle East (Sanskrit, Bangla, Hindi-Urdu, Farsi, Arabic) focusing on themes of religion and cultural difference. I am currently working on furthering two connected projects.

The first of these traces Muslim figures through a variety of Vaishnava Hindu hagiographical compendia produced in the 16th and 17th centuries, immediately before the colonial encounter. The majority of the Muslims one encounters in these texts are kings. The kings have heard of the fame of the poet-saints and summon them to court, asking them to sing their devotional songs and perhaps a praise-poem for the king. The saints all refuse to do so, rejecting the king’s authority by adhering to the higher authority of Krishna. The kings attempt to give the saints gifts, but the only gift the saint-poet wants is to never have to see the king ever again. The king, after getting over being angry, realizes that this refusal of power is the mark of true devotion.

Contemporary South Asian politics would read the above as disclosing communalism. It would see in this narrative proof that the origins of the present-day communal strife between Hindus and Muslims lie in the pre-modern period, and that the blame for such lies with Muslim rule. In this vision, our saints would use Hinduism to resist Islam, embodied in the figure of the Muslim king. But we must read otherwise, and we must do so for a whole host of reasons: political, literary, theoretical and more.

I track narratives in the same texts where the saints meet Hindu kings. In those narratives, the exact same things happen, in the exact same order: Hindu saints resist Hindu kings. The tale isn’t about communalism at all, but rather centers on devotion and asceticism as a mode of life that necessarily rejects power. The incidental Islamic identity of some of these kings is merely that: incidental.

The second of my projects crosses over from the world of the saint to the world of the king and examines Farsi and Arabic texts on ethics and governance in attempt to sketch a genealogy of another secularism. I understand secular to mean not just a division of powers between religious institutions and the state, but also to mean a particular attitude toward religious difference (tolerance partially describes such an attitude, but is inadequate to a theorization of the secular) and the elaboration of an ethics without direct reference to any particular religion.

The texts I read are Islamic philosopher al-Ghazzali’s 12th century text Nasihatu l-Muluk (Counsel for Kings) and Nasiruddin Tusi’s 13th century Axlaq-i Nasiri (Nasirean Ethics). The kings represented in the hagiographies extensively studied such texts: in governing over a largely non-Muslim population, the techniques of difference-negotiation theorized in these texts informed their praxis.

al-Ghazzali’s concern over the role of the Caliph (the religious head) in state affairs opened the discourse of secularism. In his theorization, the Sultan (political leader) had all constituent authority, but was to be appointed by the Caliph, and had to swear an oath of allegiance to him. It was a compromise between State and Religion that did not dispense with Religion altogether but moved it away from the work of the State, that is, from governance. In practice, the Caliph’s role was reduced to that of a figurehead: Saljuq-era coins depicted the Caliph’s face even as the Saljuq regents – and not the Caliph – governed the city of Baghdad, the seat of the Caliphate.

Another nexus for secularism lies in al-Ghazzali’s treatment of what I call Islam’s “virtuous pagans,” to borrow a metaphor from the European Middle Ages. al-Ghazzali highlights the pre-Islamic (Sassanian) Zoroastrian kings of Persia as the highest exemplars of justice. In his history, the Prophet Muhammad is glad to have the good fortune to be born during the reign of Anushirvan the Just. The “virtuous pagans” in al-Ghazzali’s text serve as a model of conduct for Muslims, and this influence permeates Islam from its very origins.

Nasiruddin Tusi, commissioned by Mongol non-Muslim kings, theorizes an ethics independent of religion that focuses on the concept of Love/Justice. The two are related insofar as Justice is the juridical name of Love: Justice supplements and makes up for the fact that Love does not necessarily exist between all subjects.
Tusi never mentions the word ‘Islam’ and only states that the king needs proper religion: he does not need to be of the proper religion. In order to sustain an irretrievably plural society consisting of many religions, the king must dispense justice without attending to religious difference, and the subjects in turn must love one another disregarding their differences. But such Love/Justice, aimed at the sustenance of the state, ends up as another name of power.
This is where my two projects connect.

The Muslim kings of the hagiographies utilize the Nasirean ethic: they tolerate, dispense justice to, love and appreciate their Hindu subjects. They believe that non-Muslims can be exemplars of an ethical life, and divorce their acts of governance from religion. This is why such kings call Hindu saints to their court. But the subjects do not return this love/justice: the saints refuse their audience, reject the king and ask only that he never come to them again. What happened to the subject’s love for the king?

I propose that devotion – called bhakti in Hindi, Bangla and other Indic tongues – forms another ethics: an ethics of resistance to power. As noted earlier, this has nothing to do with communal politics. The ascetic has no interest in sustaining an elitist and statist politics/ethics, but desires rather to upset and reverse the power structure of the king. The ascetic, then, resists such power, and uses religion to articulate this reversal.
Is this resistance limited to Hinduism? Certainly not. The word used for Love in Tusi is muhabbat, but there is another: `ishq. That word is more central to the world of devotional Islam (Sufi or otherwise). I wonder if those Sufi orders that resisted temporal powers did not articulate their resistance in terms of this other love, another love that perhaps – like bhakti - would not just be a name for power.

boats at sea
Thanks for reading, and I openly welcome any comments, criticism or suggestions. I have much more written on all of the ideas above, and if anyone would like to read it, I would be happy to send copies.

My next post will examine manuscript differences in the hagiography of Kabir: a non-Hindu and non-Muslim ascetic consistently eulogized in Hindu hagiographies. I seek to relate these minute shifts in manuscript to a history of communal difference. Such a task is all the more crucial given the urgency of the present political situation in India, where, in the name of fighting terrorism, communalism and hatred are once again on the rise.
Posted by Ishan Chakrabarti

Third Annual Sacred Leaves Graduate Symposium
Originally posted:
Saturday, December 6th, 2008

February 19-20, 2009
University of South Florida, Tampa Library, Tampa, FL

Rachel Gibson, a doctoral candidate in French at the U of Minnesota, will be presenting a paper on her work on parallels between Persian poetry and troubadour poetry. The conference includes a keynote address by Michael Sells, John Henry Barrows Professor, University of Chicago entitled “Mysticism, Longing and the Erotic in the Writings of 13th-century Sufi Master Ibn al-Arabi.” 

Conference News
Originally posted:
Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

SCGMA will run 3 panels, including a roundtable forum, at the Medieval Institute’s 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies in May 2009. SCGMA will also have a panel at the annual conference of the American Historical Association in 2010.