Tarren Andrews (MA 2015) Awarded Inaugural Bella Costa Greene Award

tarren andrews

“In 2018, the Medieval Academy of America established the Belle da Costa Greene Award to support the work of a medievalist of color. Da Costa Greene (1883-1950) was a prominent American art historian and the first librarian of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. She was also the second woman, and first person of color, to be elected a Fellow of the Medieval Academy [of America]. Throughout her career, she passed as a white woman. This award explicitly acknowledges that the Medieval Academy of America has been, and remains, enmeshed in a world where racial ideologies have material effects that are often deleterious—for individuals and for scholarship alike."

“Tarren Andrews’s project, ‘Indigeneity Outside Indigenous Studies: Encounters with Indigenous Futures and Medieval Pasts,’ responds to the challenges of practicing an intellectually rigorous and responsible medieval studies in a racialized world by offering a truly global approach to medieval studies. The Inclusivity and Diversity Committee is impressed by the project’s deeply historical approach to the concepts of time that arise at the intersections of medieval and indigenous pre- and postcolonial studies.”

Andrews, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, earned her MA in English Literature in 2015. She “will use the award to travel to an indigenous studies conference in New Zealand, with the objective of interrogating the methodologies and the ethical positions of Indigenous and Eurocentric studies. Andrews’s project promises to enlarge our definitions of the “medieval,” and thereby to expand our understanding of our past, present, and future worlds. This is a project we are honored to support.

Andrews writes of her experience at the conference:

“I used the [Bella Costa Greene] funds to organize a round-table discussion titled ‘Indigeneity Outside Indigenous Studies: Encounters between Medieval Pasts and Indigenous Futures.’ My panelists were Adam Miyashiro, Zoe Henry, Madi Williams, Louise D'Arcens, and Andy Cowell. These people represented a variety of different Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and career levels. They all approached the brief in very different ways, from challenging the efficacy and utility of what it means to brand non-European nations part of a ‘Global Medieval,’ to how we ethically bring our own experiences as Indigenous people to "traditional" European medieval studies, to what it means to consider an Indigenous European identity (and if it's possible to do so without espousing such an idea to white nationalism), to how non-Indigenous, late career scholars can be allies to both Indigenous communities and young Indigenous scholars.

“While I was originally nervous about the unusually large number of concurrent sessions, and our time slot--the first session of the first day--we actually had quite an impressive turn out of about 20-25 people. It didn't appear that there were any medievalists in the audience, which was encouraging to our group whose goal really was to hear from non-medievalists."

“As you might imagine our conversations often centered on creating spaces both within the academy and without, and on how the recent turn toward medieval studies was necessarily different than previous post-colonial scholarship in the field. Far and away, however, our most interesting conversation was precipitated by an audience member who asked, toward the end of our session, amongst all the violence and stubborn resistance to change, ‘why try to preserve medieval studies at all? Why not move on to other things where our experiences and community affiliations might be more appreciated or practically useful?’

“This was a hard question for our panel, some of us had already asked ourselves that and were in the process of moving on to different academic disciplines, others of us were a bit blindsided and had to re-think our relationship with and affective attachment to the field. It was a question I cannot imagine having come from a medievalist audience and it was, for me, the highlight of the session. It is this kind of insight and thought experiment that I feel is important for us to consider in the coming years. Of course, we did not arrive at any hard and fast answers to our queries, but the discussion was productive nonetheless, and it is my hope that we can continue to foster a dialogue with this community of scholars who have such an astute and measured take on our field from the outside."

“This conversation would not have been possible without the Greene fund, but perhaps more importantly it would not have been possible without the scholars of color who have been sacrificing their personal and professional well-being for a very long time to get the field where it is. As a junior scholar and grad student who has the privilege of finding a home in this field because of your sacrifices, I am incredibly grateful and I hope to repay your service as my career continues.”

From The Medieval Academy of America website and correspondence with Tarren Andrews.