Relevanz der Mediävistik
Das „Mittelalter“ als Teil unserer Gegenwart
The relevance of medieval studies and their future prospects are issues related not only to the humanities, but also to society at large and to its political and cultural sensibilities. The problem touches upon the relevance of the fields studied by medievalists, and of their research, for both present and future, especially for the general awareness of historical processes which are marked by complex dynamics and non-linear entanglements. One way to challenge received preconceptions and to sharpen the sensitivity in society and academia alike for the relevance of medieval studies, might be to question the appropriateness of the term ‘middle ages’ itself when designating an entire period of history. When reconsidering received wisdom concerning the definition of historical watersheds and chronological boundaries, we can become aware of the ongoing relevance of ‘medieval’ phenomena and of their transformations within ‘modern’ society. Such continuities can be illustrated by referring to various phenomena, including globalization, migration, mobility, multilingualism, national cultures and attitudes towards nature and the environment. In view of the fact that the fields studied by medievalists and the results produced by their research continue to be of critical importance for an understanding of modernity, medieval disciplines are called upon to develop guidelines and strategies for activities underlining and fostering their outreach, not only towards an academic public, but also towards political and educational actors, thereby heightening the awareness of the crucial importance of medieval studies for the cultural and political development of society in years to come. On the other hand, medieval studies – oriented towards the present and future – always have to bear in mind the historical conditions of their epistemologies, including their political implications and consequences. This is the only way to avoid an instrumentalization of medieval studies for political ends, e.g. by right-wing activists claiming support for their populist agendas by trying to reconstruct an imagined community of the ‘Christian west’.
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