At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017, neo-Nazi demonstrators marched with symbols from the Middle Ages. Earlier this year, the Christchurch terrorist, who killed fifty-one people at a mosque in New Zealand, included Odin’s cross in his manifesto and made reference to Valhalla in his final social media post. Scholars of medieval studies and classical antiquity are confronting the appropriation of these histories and cultures by the alt-right, who often use medieval iconography, Norse mythology, ancient texts, and racist notions of a pure Greco-Roman “Western civilization” to prop up white nationalist ideologies.
For today’s episode, we investigate this issue with professors Dorothy Kim, Denise McCoskey, and Sarah Teets. Along the way, they discuss Charlottesville, the history of whiteness, video games, misplaced nostalgia, pre-WWII rhetoric and the rise of Nazism, the racist roots of medieval and classical studies, and the future of these disciplines as they respond to questions of race and identity.
Dorothy Kim is assistant professor of English at Brandeis University, where she teaches medieval literature. Her research focuses on race, gender, medievalism, digital media, and the alt-right. She is currently working on her next book, Race, the Crusades, and the Katherine Group.
Denise McCoskey is professor of classics and affiliate in Black World Studies at Miami University in Ohio. She is the author of Race: Antiquity and its Legacy.
Sarah Teets is a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. She holds a PhD in classics from UVA.
Cover photo: “Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally (August 12, 2017)” by Rodney Dunning licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0