Decolonising the Vikings: The Midlands Viking Symposium 2019

Posted by vm167 at Apr 02, 2019 12:25 PM |
"The 2019 Midlands Viking Symposium will take place at the University of Leicester on Saturday the 27 April - this year's theme is "Decolonising the Vikings", so we'll be looking at the portrayal of Vikings in TV shows; concepts of nationalism, ethnicity, and gender in the Viking Age; and the (mis)use of Vikings in contemporary politics.

The 2019 Midlands Viking Symposium will take place at the University of Leicester on Saturday the 27th of April. The symposium is open to everyone, no matter how much - or how little - you already know about Vikings, so we hope you'll join us for presentations and discussions of the latest Viking research by Midlands-based scholars!

This year's theme is "Decolonising the Vikings", so we'll be looking at the portrayal of Vikings in TV shows; concepts of nationalism, ethnicity, and gender in the Viking Age; and the (mis)use of Vikings in contemporary politics.


Registration

As we have been generously sponsored by the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society and the Viking Society for Northern Research, tickets are just £12. This includes the full day's programme, tea and coffee during breaks, lunch, and a wine reception at the end of the event.

Register here: https://shop.le.ac.uk/product-catalogue/events-at-leicester/school-of-arts/midlands-viking-symposium

A small childcare grant can be made available, please contact the organiser, Dr Luke John Murphy for details.


When and Where

The Symposium will be held on the 4th floor of the Charles Wilson Building on the University of Leicester campus. Free parking is available at WQE College via Campus Entrance 1.

More details on getting to the University of Leicester can be found here: https://le.ac.uk/study/life-in-leicester/city/travel

0900-0930 Coffee, registration, marketplace

0930-0945 Welcome: “What do you mean “Declonise the Vikings”? And Why Bother?”, Dr Luke John Murphy (Leicester)

0945-1045 Keynote: ““A Wave of Danes, accompanied by their sisters” – the riddle of the shield-maidens or how to think about the Viking Age”, Prof. Judith Jesch (Nottingham)

1115-1145 Coffee & marketplace

1145-1245 Session: “Who were the Vikings Anyway?”, Dr Roderick Dale (Nottingham), Rachel Evans (Leicester), Will Pidzamecky (Nottingham)

1245-1345 Lunch & marketplace

1345-1515 Round Table: “Communicating the Vikings”, with representatives from the publishing, museum, and education sectors

1515-1615 Coffee & marketplace

1615-1715 Session: “Vikings Today”, Dr Philippa Semper (Birmingham), Prof. Howard Williams (Chester)

1715-1730 Conclusions

1730-1830 Wine Reception


Presentation Abstracts

Prof. Judith Jesch (Nottingham): “A Wave of Danes, accompanied by their sisters” – the riddle of the shield-maidens or how to think about the Viking Age”

While public interest in female Viking warriors can be traced at least as far back as Saxo Grammaticus in 1200 CE, this interest has increased exponentially in the last few years, fuelled by both social media and open access publication of academic studies. Yet our ability to understand what actually happened in the Viking Age has not improved at the same rate, in spite of advances in both scientific techniques and interpretive models in the humanities. We still have to negotiate the perils of combining fragmentary evidence from a variety of disciplines, to recognise and understand the effects of chronological and geographical variation in the period, and to arrive at definitions that do not depend too much on 21st-century conceptual frameworks. The talk will use the example of the discussions around the chamber grave Bj 851 from Birka in Sweden to explore how both academics and the interested general public can and should think about the Viking Age.

Dr Roderick Dale (Nottingham): “It’s Reigning Men: The use and abuse of Viking masculinity”

The number of Viking-themed television shows, movies, books, bands and other expressions of interest in the Viking past appears to be on the increase. To some, the Vikings represent an ideal of masculinity unfettered by modern concerns. In this paper, I examine how those who seek to adopt Viking identities in the modern world have co-opted the Vikings, and especially the hypermasculine figure of the berserkr, in the pursuit of their own identities. I shall compare and contrast Viking Age ideals of masculinity with recent depictions to show how popular culture reinforces specific ideas about the Vikings while discarding others. In doing so, they produce a concept of the Viking warrior that tells us more about modern concerns than it does about the Viking Age.

Rachel Evans (Leicester): "Valhalla and hygge: the far-right appropriation of the vikings and #knittersofinstagram"

In this talk I will explore how the perceived whiteness of the vikings and contemporary hand-knitters feed into a troubling discourse that normalises white dominance as a historical and cultural reality. At first glance, knitting and the Viking Age have absolutely nothing in common; a closer look, however, reveals that there are similarities between how and why the far-right and white supremacists appropriate the popular representation of both of these socio-cultural groups. By focussing on textiles as a common denominator between these two disparate and seemingly unconnected subjects, I will explore the cultural diversity behind historic and contemporary textile production, as mediated through the early medieval The Sagas of Icelanders and the contemporary social media platform, Instagram. I will also look at how these same textiles and practises can be weaponised in order to erase diversity in favour of an ethnically homogenous past which supports white-supremacist narratives and violence.

Will Pidzamecky (Nottingham): “Two Worlds, One Family: The Rus’ and Constructing Identity and National Narrative”

Constructing national narratives from a shared history with carefully selected facts is not a new concept and one which has created long-lasting tensions between nations, such as Russia, Ukraine, and, in part, Sweden. The formation of a Kievan Rus’ polity, its role in building national narratives, and the Normanist Controversy are some contentions which have sparked much debate in the name of nation-building. I intend to explore how this history has been used in creating the national narratives of Ukraine and Russia as well as the debate over the role of Scandinavians in the building of the Kievan Rus’ state.

Round Table: “Communicating the Vikings”

This session will reflect on how professionals in a range of industries - museums, universities, publishing and more - present their takes on Vikings. Who are their audiences, and what do they focus on? How “accurate” do they try to be, and how do they achieve this? The session will include time for the symposium audience to ask their own questions. Confirmed participants include:

  • Dr Erik Grigg, Education Officer, Lincolnshire County Council

  • James Aitcheson, Historical Novelist & PhD Student at the University of Nottingham

  • Adam Parsons, Archaeological Illustrator & Reproduction Craftsman, Oxford Archaeology/Blueaxe Reproductions

  • Prof. Christina Lee, University of Nottingham

  • Dr. Rosie Bonté, Brepols Publishers

Prof. Howard Williams (Chester): “Death rituals, Viking archaeology and TV: What Vikings gets right and gets wrong about Viking-period mortuary practice”

Inspired by later medieval sagas and Viking Age historical sources, but underpinned and enriched by archaeological evidence and themes, the History channel’s Vikings (2013–) is a unique drama series exploring the late eighth/early-mid ninth-century conflicts and culture of the Northmen, aimed at a global television audience. This presentation will introduce the series and its varied portrayals of death rituals and commemorative practice. I identify key archaeological themes behind the treatment of mortality in the show, and pose the question: what does Vikings get right, and what does it get wrong, about Viking-period mortuary practice? I suggest that the show is an important focus for critical enquiry into the public archaeology of death, operating as education, entertainment, but also reflecting on present-day anxieties over the nature of human mortality.

Dr Philippa Semper (Birmingham): TBC

Abstract here


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