Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Open letter by Luiz Felipe Anchieta Guerra
Mestrando em História e Culturas Políticas - PPGH/UFMG, Brazil
My fellow medievalists, memedievalists, enthusiasts and classics scholars alike, last week something deplorable happened here in Brazil, a small group of people entered an online lecture and immediately started shouting things like, “you are all bums,” “praise Bolsonaro” amongst more offensive terms - and one of these invaders started to broadcast a pornographic website on the live feed - which led the organization of the event to end the call.
That in itself would already be something completely absurd, but as if it wasn’t enough it is important to emphasize during which of our meetings this happened. This was not the first and certainly will not be the last virtual presentation organized by Vivarium - Laboratory for the Study of Antiquity and the Mediaeval, or by other groups of classical or medieval studies, but it is extremely symptomatic that the attacks occurred precisely at the round table entered around themes on Africa and Asia. Furthermore, it is worth noting that similar attacks have recently been occurring in lectures and meetings by Africanist researchers. Therefore, these attacks are not just bad jokes or based on a general hatred against public universities and academic research. They are deliberate racist attacks with specific targets.
For a long time we stood apathetic to what happened outside of our research objects (which have the privilege or curse of being very distanced from us temporally and sometimes geographically), and now we are scared and surprised by problems that our colleagues from other areas are well used to experiencing. The consequences of this indifference are knocking on our door now, and making a blatant statement of the importance of effectively creating ways of acting outside the traditional academic scope and the simple debate among peers. In times of fake news and Templar Knights asking for military coup d’etats, the popularization of scientific knowledge and the establishment of dialogue with a real audience has never been more important. We are experiencing a real war for the media and the spaces of speech outside our “little academic cabales”, a war that we continue to lose due to apathy or lack of mastery of these media. It is in this context that initiatives like the Public Medievalist or the Brazilian website Café História, and specially of content creator and fellow colleague Lívia Teodoro, are even more important and should be a true source of inspiration.
Disapproval notes like this one, or the one you just read, are still very important for the visibility of what happened, but it is pivotal that we take more concrete measures, and soon.votal that we take more concrete measures, and soon.