Cultures of Modernities in the Pre-Modern and Early Modern Period

15-18 June 2016
Prof. Sahar Amer and Dr. Hélène Sirantoine (University of Sydney); Prof. Louise D’Arcens and Dr. Clare Monagle (Macquarie University)
Sahar Amer, Francesco Borghesi, Louise D’Arcens, John Gagné, Clare Monagle, Hélène Sirantoine.

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This inaugural conference of the Global Middle Ages Faculty Research Group at the University of Sydney focuses on Cultures of Modernity in the Pre-Modern and Early Modern Period. Encompassing medieval studies and medievalist approaches, it aims to expand the traditional focus, disciplinary constraints, geographic reach, and historical periodization of the Middle Ages and early modern period. Contesting the largely Eurocentric bent of much scholarship on the pre-modern period, this conference questions the assumed linear trajectory of Europe, the conventional categories of “center” and “periphery,” highlighting in the process the crucial role of “peripheries” in the construction of European modernity.

During the two day conference, invited speakers and panelists will challenge the notion oft-repeated in world history that Western powers were constituted in the fifteenth century or the Renaissance and gave rise, only then, to a capitalist modernity. They will revisit this dominating grand (meta)-narrative of Euro-centric modernity with its teleological, stage-oriented histories, and its associated categories of “progress,” “industrialization,” and “civilization.”

This conference will reflect more specifically on the technologies, translation projects, intercultural engagements, and cultural sophistication of earlier empires. These have begun to rewrite the history of our contemporary world, the narrative of the Enlightenment and of our assumed modernity. They are also having an impact on contemporary theorizations of postcolonialism, capitalism, feminism, race, and material cultures. Our conversation will revolve around the importance of this pre-modernity in discussions of contemporary forms of modernity and of the value of the past to contemporary understanding of the present.

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together three international keynote speakers (Prof. Laura Doyle, UMass-Amherst; Prof. Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut University, and A/P Geraldine Heng, University of Texas-Austin) who will share with us their research on “interimperiality” (Doyle), the Global Chaucer Project (Barrington), and the Global Middle Ages Project (GMAP) as well as MappaMundi digital initiatives, & Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages (Heng). The conference will also feature our international visiting scholar-in-residence Professor Lynn Ramey (Vanderbilt University) and her digital humanities work on “Cyprus” Crossroads of the Medieval Mediterranean.”

In addition, we will have five panels with a number of speakers from Australia and New Zealand.

For more information please contact Hélène Sirantoine: