Last week, a number of UCSB History graduate students organized and participated in the biannual UCSB Graduate Student Medieval Studies Conference. This year’s conference theme was “The Politics of Pleasure: Social Networking in the Middle Ages.” The planning committee invited a number of scholars from diverse backgrounds to present on the varied ways in which pleasure leisure competition, entertainment, friendly feelings, and play facilitated the very serious and often obnoxious business of politics—relaxing boundaries to allow for their renegotiation. By reframing these interactions as “social networking,” the organizers of the conference hoped to connect the Middle Ages to more familiar contemporary practices that are facilitated by social media.The conference featured a keynote address from Dr. Christine Chism, an associate professor at UC Los Angeles. Dr. Chism’s talk, titled “A Sorbet for Richard Lionheart: Networking with Salah al-Din during the Third Crusade,” explored a number of medieval narratives that featured moments of negotiation between Richard Lionheart and Salah al-Din.
History graduate students were present both on the planning committee and the conference program. Giulia Gamboni, Bryan Stevenson, and Julia Crisler presented their research on monasteries in Croatia, menageries in medieval Spain, and female kennel masters respectively. Anna Rudolph helped organize the conference, presented the opening remarks, and chaired a panel.