What constitutes speech? What is a public space, and how is it policed? How are the boundaries drawn between those who want to be seen and heard, and those who want them to remain absent? This interdisciplinary symposium will address how the permeable boundaries between public presence and absence were created, enforced, and challenged in the medieval and early modern periods. Ada Palmer, professor of history at the University of Chicago and renowned author, will deliver the keynote address, “The Modern Political Impact of How We Talk about Premodern Censorship,” on Thursday afternoon and will participate in the final roundtable.
Through roundtable discussions and collection presentations, the symposium will explore how various premodern publics were formed and contested by a range of cultural forces. Possible topics include social mobility, public spaces, printing and censorship, control over one’s body, slavery and personhood, representation aurally or visually of minority groups, and tolerance or intolerance of religious sects.
This virtual symposium will frame discussions about these premodern subjects as part of a larger conversation about the ways that rights exist as cultural artifacts with premodern histories, as well as how premodern scholars can best bring these histories about premodern publics into contemporary public conversations.