Medica CFP for the 57th International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 9-14, 2022

William H. York's picture

Medica: The Society for the Study of Healing in the Middle Ages is seeking paper proposals for sessions to be held at the 57th International Congress on Medieval Studies hosted by Western Michigan University's Medieval Institute. Due to continued pandemic scheduling challenges, the 57th ICMS will be live on the internet Monday through Saturday, May 9-14, 2022. Medica aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars (historians, archaeologists, art historians, literary scholars, paleopathologists, etc.) focusing on health and healing in the Middle Ages.


Medica seeks proposals for the following sessions:


1)   The ‘New Paradigm’ of Plague Studies: Expanded Geographies and Chronologies of the Medieval Pandemics


DESCRIPTION: In 2014, Monica Green wrote “the field of historical plague studies … must be redefined in three dimensions: its geographic extent, its chronological extent, and the methodological registers we use to investigate it.” Since then, work on the full extent of both the 1st and 2nd Plague Pandemics has continued as Green anticipated, now encompassing the Mongol Empire (and perhaps the Xiongnu before them) and extending, perhaps, into sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas prior scholarship focused on the Mediterranean and Europe, pandemic studies must necessarily cast a wider net. This panel invites presentations of the latest work in the field.


METHOD: This panel is grounded on the fact that the history of plague (and other infectious diseases) is now being written not only by traditional historical methods (interrogation of written records), but also by scientific techniques that reconstruct the history of both the pathogens and the human beings afflicted by them. The sciences are important because they can push beyond both the geographic and chronological limits of written sources and help us reconstruct the lives and health circumstances of populations otherwise unrecorded. How many more millions of stories are yet to be told?


2)   The Globalization of Medieval Medicine: Ideas, Authorities, and Products 1000-1600


DESCRIPTION: This panel explores the globalization of medieval medicine, beginning in the eleventh century via the Silk Road and continuing through the early modern era of exploration and discovery.  It will look at how medieval European medical practice and theory changed due to the influx of new ideas, practices, and pharmaceutical products.  Panelists will also consider how medical consumerism and the transmission of ideas were affected by economic, religious, cultural, political, and technological changes, such as the advent of printed medical texts and the popularization of medical authorities outside of the ancient canon.


METHOD: Inspired by ReOrienting Histories of Medicine: Encounters along the Silk Roads (Bloomsbury, 2021), this panel would offer new voices and research that would expand how we think about medieval medicine. This panel would look at the practice of medieval medicine from a global perspective, to view global exchanges of people, ideas, and products that shaped medical ideas and practices. Starting in the eleventh century via the Silk Road and through the early modern period, medieval European medical ideas, once founded on ancient authorities, was transformed by contact with people, products and ideas from outside the continent. This paper session is focused on considering ways in which scholars can study the global Middle Ages. Scholarly approaches that de-center European narratives are greatly valued.


3)   ROUNDTABLE: Pharmacy, Pfizer, and the Pandemic: Finding Community in Tradition and Science


DESCRIPTION: In December 2020, newspapers throughout the world carried images and video feeds of trucks rolling out of the Kalamazoo warehouses of the drug manufacturer, Pfizer, carrying the first doses of the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals and distribution centers across the United States. Pfizer is a neighbor of the ICMS, and just as Western Michigan University is located on lands that have been historically occupied by the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadmi nations, so this roundtable takes the opportunity of the 2022 meeting to explore the traditional ties between communities and provisioners of life-saving or life-enhancing pharmaceutics.


METHOD: This panel continues the Medica Society’s focus on our current experience of the modern pandemic and the ways it has allowed us to reflect in new ways on the experience of the past. By coincidence, one of the key players in the vaccine interventions that turned the tide on the COVID-19 pandemic is located right in Kalamazoo: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. The technological innovations of mRNA vaccines may seem light years removed from the natural substances. This roundtable will invite medievalist scholars and members of the Kalamazoo community that hosts the Congress every year to reflect on the material basis of healing shared the world over: the collective knowledge of substances with pharmaceutical properties, whether natural or manufactured, to provide aid and comfort. Participants will be encouraged to draw on both their expert knowledge in their fields, but also their personal experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shaped the lives of everyone the world over.


If interested, please submit an abstract of roughly 250-300 words along with a Participant Information Form (PIF), which can be found at All proposal materials are due by September 15, 2021.

If you have questions about either of the sessions, or would like to submit an abstract, please direct emails to Harry York at