Modern Extremism and the Medieval World Lecture and Workshop

The legacy of the medieval world is still felt strongly today. Whether it is through films, TV shows, or video games, this era is an enduring staple of our popular culture. Yet, representation of the period often draws on medieval stereotypes that are unsupported by the source evidence. What is of greater concern, however, is that that mischaracterizations of the period have also become central to the identities and recruitment strategies of extremist groups. Scholars from across medieval studies have responded by offering targeted research, opinion editorials, podcasts, and academic lectures. This work highlights the true cultural complexity of the period and undescores the danger of twisting medieval narratives for political ends. However, such academic content still rarely reaches a broader public audience. The Medievalist Toolkit, a public history project founded at Columbia University in 2017, seeks to extend that scholarly reach beyond the ivory tower. Building a bridge between academic efforts on one side and K-12 educators, journalists, social workers, and others on the other side, the Toolkit’s provides de-politicized and de-radicalized resources about the medieval past in easily accessible formats and language.  


Since September 2022, a course based on the work of the Medievalist Toolkit has been taught at three major educational institutions in New York State, at Union College, Cornell University, and Fordham University. These seminars teach students about how the Middle Ages has become politicized in the modern world, and also equips them to create research-driven digital content for the programing of the Medievalist Toolkit.  


Cornell University, in partnership with Union College and Fordham University, is pleased to offer this Medievalist Toolkit event. The day will begin with a public lecture from Sammy Rangel, a leading deradicalization expert and former director of Life After Hate. Mr. Rangel will share his insight into how history feeds into radicalization across the political spectrum, and the verbal delicacy and empathy necessary to formulate an effective resistance. The lecture is open to the public and all are welcome. 


Following this talk, the Medievalist Toolkit will host a workshop for the undergraduate and graduate students who have taken or are currently taking the same course on the intersection between modern extremism and medieval history at Union College (Assistant Prof. Sarina Kuersteiner), Cornell University (Dr. Adam Matthews), and Fordham University (Dr. Robin Reich). Students will have an opportunity to receive feedback on their projects from Mr. Rangel, Prof. Andy Guess (Political Science and Media, Princeton University), and the directors of the Medievalist Toolkit. 

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Modern Extremism and the Medieval World