Medieval Studies

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The Black Death and Beyond: New Research at the Intersection of Science and the Humanities"

Event Type
Program in Medieval Studies
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, 606 S. Gregory
Jan 29, 2015   7:30 - 9:30 pm  
Special Guest Robert Hymes (H. W. Carpentier Professor of Chinese History, Columbia Univ.); Carol Symes (History, moderator); Antoinette Burton (History and Global Studies); Craig Koslofsky (History); Benito J. MariƱas (Civil and Environmental Engineering); Gene E. Robinson (Institute for Genomic Biology); D. Fairchild Ruggles (Landscape Architecture); James M. Sclauch (Microbiology); Rebecca Lee Smith (Veterinary Medicine); Richard Tapping (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
Carol Symes

A campus-wide discussion of the "Black Death" from humanist and scientific perspectives, marking the publication of the inaugural issue of the academic journal The Medieval Globe, sponsored by the UIUC Program in Medieval Studies (Carol Symes, UIUC History, Executive Editor).  The special issue on Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death, edited by Monica Green (Arizona State Univ.) brings together scholars from the humanities and social and physical sciences to address the question of how recent work in the genetics, zoology, and epidemiology of plague’s causative organism (Yersinia pestis) can allow a rethinking of the Black Death pandemic and its larger historical significance.  Topics include:

• The status of plague in the modern world and the relevance of historical
research to contemporary concerns about emerging infectious diseases
• New discoveries and analytical methods in archeology that foster more
integrated comparison with documentary sources for plague’s effects –
including new archeological evidence for the Black Death’s impact on a
Jewish community in Catalonia
• Investigation of the causes and consequences of plague persistence and the
establishment of enzootic foci in Western Europe and the Ottoman world
• The effects of long-term depopulation and changes in the immune profile
of surviving populations
• The implications of evolutionary genetics for postulating a much wider geographic
extent of the late-medieval pandemic than hitherto imagined, and
the benefits of “global health thinking” for expanding analysis even further
• A hypothetical scenario for the origin of the Second Plague Pandemic in
Central Asia
• Correction of a misdiagnosed “plague” image and reflection on the nature
of knowledge-production in a digital age.
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