Last week I attended the IMC in Leeds. The IMC (International Medieval Congress) is the largest conference of its kind in Europe. And although this is obviously not an event everybody can attend, I wanted to write a short post on it and share my experiences.
This annual conference is organised by the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds (which is, btw, where I am currently doing my PhD) and it is a place where the latest research ideas are presented, interdisciplinary discussions are held, and experiences and insights are exchanged. Besides the large number of papers, round-table discussions, and keynote presentations (over 2000!), the IMC is characterised by its variety of live entertainment including music, combat displays, dance, film showings, falconry, … and the list goes on.
The main theme of this year’s IMC was ‘Otherness’. Every year a committee comes together in order to think of what the conference’s thematic focus is going to be. In 2017, the ‘other’ appears to be an omnipresent subject – in socio-cultural developments and even the daily media – and thus mirrors what is going on in contemporary society.
Having an understanding of what ‘the other’ meant in the past, and the nature of medieval interactions with the other says a lot about both modern and medieval society.
For me personally, this was the fourth time I attended the IMC. I presented a paper on two late-fourteenth century tapestries and what their visual programme reveal about contemporary gender dynamics. To be more precise, I talked about representations of Amazons on tapestries (“these somewhat different women”) and what these figures symbolised. When presenting in front of an audience with different disciplinary backgrounds, you never know what kind of questions and reactions you will receive. But most of the times, this kind of diversity in the audience generates interesting perspectives. I actually left feeling inspired and (although I am always a bit nervous before presenting) I am glad to have presented bits of my latest research because, this way, I was able to have some fruitful conversations about it with people from different disciplines.
Next year, the special thematic strand will be ‘Memory’. Memory will be explored in its many forms and facets, no matter what kind of memory, whether personal and social, natural and artificial, or political and cultural.
Central in the process of storing, retrieving, and (re)constructing the past, memory is by no means a stable entity; it is always undergoing transformation.
FYI, next year’s Call for Papers is already open!