Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paging Jeff Sypeck …

… Medieval Video Games — White Supremacy | National Review Online.

Jaw-droppingly dumb. Let's hope the people in charge of granting her a doctorate clear things up for her.


  1. I'm really reluctant to comment on this, because I suspect that for a day or two, there's going to be the conservative version of a Two Minutes Hate directed at this graduate student based solely on a summary of a summary of her conference paper. I don't want to contribute to that.

    I will say this: It's undeniable that white supremacists and nationalists do use the Middle Ages for their own agendas. But everyone uses the Middle Ages for their own agendas! (I've kept a blog going for eight years by intermittently writing about examples.) Heck, in the '60s, the American counterculture "hijacked" (to use a term attributed to Cooper in the summary) the medieval world for its own agenda with the creation of the first Renaissance festivals and the Society for Creative Anachronism. They stripped the Middle Ages of religion to create what they now call "the Middle Ages as it should have been." People who participate in those events are allowed to be playful, subversive, and even historically ignorant if they so choose; no one asks them to submit (as Cooper suggests ought to happen to gamers) to "the inspection of their identities." Of course, no one is going to "interrogate" those sorts of jolly (and mostly left-leaning) reenactors and cosplayers with the assumption that their motives are sinister. A medievalist who did so would rightly be seen as a jerk.

    To single out gamers as uniquely "misappropriating" history is too redolent of tedious culture wars—but weirder to me is Cooper's assumption that her audience agrees with her understanding of the right and wrong ways to use history. In my experience, guidelines for right and wrong uses of medieval history invariably align with the political biases and agendas of whomever's making the claim. Documenting the phenomenon can be worthwhile; judging it is nothing more or less than one soul's humble opinion.

    To be fair, I'd also point out that Cooper is at Leeds. Folks on the other side of the Atlantic aren't wrong to be more sensitive than we are in the U.S. to the connection between medievalism and nationalism. But there are much bigger things going on in medievalism; I find that talking about it with culture-war/Gamergate rhetoric is stifling rather than productive.

  2. Thanks, Jeff. Just the sort of perspective I was expecting from you.