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Do you feel that there is racism in the ASOIAF books' representation of its PoC other than the general lack of them? (It seems like very many live in its WORLD but don't proportionally participate in the story). Which brings up another question I have: Have you ever written a post concerning the extent to which individual authors have a responsibility to represent PoC? If you have, I would very much be interested in reading it.

medievalpoc:

Absolutely.

If you want to talk about “responsibility” on the part of individual authors, you can go ahead and read it from the horse’s mouth.

He really believes he is basing this story on history, and that is his response to lack of and poor representation of people of color in his stories:

So let’s talk about the internet controversy about Oberyn Martell. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I commented on my blog. You can find a more studied response there. I made a couple of comments as to what people said about that. I always pictured Oberyn Martell in my head as a — what I call a Mediterranean type. I know people attacked me for that by saying “He’s ignorant, he doesn’t know that Africa is on the Mediterranean.” No, I know Africa is on the Mediterranean. But in common parlance, when you say Mediterranean you are thinking Greek, Italian, Spanish. When you are thinking Moroccan or Tunisian that’s North African. That’s the way people talk about that.

I always pictured the Martells and the salty Dornishman as Mediterraneans, so the casting I think is perfectly appropriate with what I wrote in the books. I do sympathize. I mean, I understand.

Some people have written me some very heartfelt letters, and I’ve tried to respond to them about how they wanted to see someone who looked like them in the books, and how they were [disappointed]. They had pictures of the Martells looking like them, and they were disappointed.

I understand that, but it still wasn’t my intent to make… Even the terminology here is such a land mine. I don’t even know what words to use here “black” or “African.” I used African at one point, sort of like African American. [But] if you use “African” you are guilty for saying all Africans are the same.

I don’t know. I am drawing from history, even though its fantasy. I’ve read a lot of history, The War of the Roses, The Hundred Years War. The World back then was very diverse. Culturally it was perhaps more diverse then our world, but travel was very difficult back then. So even though there might have been many different races and ethnicities and peoples, they didn’t necessarily mix a great deal. I’m drawing largely on medieval England, medieval Scotland, to some extent medieval France. There was an occasional person of color, but certainly not in any great numbers.

^ I consider this to be a cop out. Added on to the fact that he seems more concerned about getting criticized for using the wrong word than massive disappointment on the part of his own fan base. It more or less reeks of “everyone’s so P.C. these days! Ugh!”

I mean, there is plenty of historical precedent for even large numbers of various people of color in all of those nations. You can read articles about forensic archeology and recent discoveries that have challenged these notions to the breaking point. Like, as in 20% people of color. Take 4th Century York, England. According to Dr. Hella Eckhardt:

It helps paint a picture of a Roman York that was hugely diverse and which included among its population, men, women and children of high status from Romanised North Africa and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

Eboracum (York) was both a legionary fortress and civilian settlement, and ultimately became the capital of Britannia Inferior. York was also visited by two Emperors, the North-African-born Emperor Septimius Severus, and later Constantius I (both of whom died in York). All these factors provide potential circumstances for immigration to York, and for the foundation of a multicultural and diverse community.

I can tell you the same things about Scotland, France, Central Europe…all these regions had seen large influxes of immigrants in the late Roman and early Medieval Eras. After all, these people didn’t just disappear hundreds of years later when historians decided a new “period” of history had begun! There’s plenty of primary sources and documentation that many specifically Black people lived and worked in various Medieval European cities and towns.

Also, speaking of Empires, there was also a rather important Mongolian Empire that happened firmly within an time frame that is pretty universally recognized as “Medieval”. Which, very unfortunately, brings us to the Dothraki.

Here’s GRRM, from the same interview, on the Dothraki:

People complain that the Dothraki are this one-dimensional barbarian society.

I haven’t had a Dothraki viewpoint character though.

I guess it’s too late to introduce one now.

I could introduce a Dothraki viewpoint character, but I already have like sixteen viewpoint characters. I could kill some of my viewpoint characters, to get down to the seven or eight I started with, or some numerical equivalent. The Dothraki are partially based on the Huns and the Mongols, some extent the steppe tribes like the Alvars and Magyars. I put in a few elements of the Amerindian plains tribes and those peoples, and then I threw in some purely fantasy elements. It’s fantasy.

Are they barbaric? Yeah, but the Mongols were, too. Genghis Khan — I just saw an interesting movie about Ghengis Khan, recently. I’ve read books about Genghis Khan, and he’s one of history’s more fascinating, charismatic characters. The Mongols became very sophisticated at certain points, but they were certainly not sophisticated when they started out, and even at the height of their sophistication they were fond of doing things like giant piles of heads. “Surrender your city to me, or we will come in and kill all the men, rape all the women and make a giant pile of heads." They did that a few times, and other cities said, "Surrender is good. We’ll surrender. We’ll pay the taxes. No pile of heads, please.”

*puts hands over face*

*groans*

Okay, let’s talk about how and why a guy who “reads a lot of history” gets this kind of idea about Mongol people, and apparently friggin Plains NDNs people as well (TW for murder gore, rape at link and f*ck you very much Mr. Martin, jeeeeebus.)

There is no equivalent for the Dothraki in history. What people point to most often is the Mongol invasions in Asia and Europe, but these generalizations are originally extrapolated mostly from the accounts from invaded nations written by someone who had heard this or that about what had happened. I’m not saying like, “such and such never happened” I’m saying it didn’t always happen, and also that there’s a lot more to the story, and also that this narrative dominates for a reason.

We’ll do an example. Here you have something like this from UWGB, which heads up their “Mongol Values” section with a supposed quote from Genghis Khan. Here’s what the claim is, right? We have this translation of something he supposedly said here:

The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions. To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms.

Okay, so basically, Conan the Barbarian. The article, which, might I remind you, is on a college site, goes on from this to say:

Or to paraphrase it in the bluntest possible modern terms: “To kill people, take their property, see and enjoy the pain you have caused their families, and rape their women as a final gesture of power.”

Okay, well that’s is a pretty big “I decided this means exactly what I already expected someone I think Genghis Khan was like would say.”Even if you did decide to take this at face value…that’s still not the casual attitude toward sexual violence the Dothraki demonstrate, it’s the opposite.

I could go into how women in Mongol culture had a great deal of power (which doesn’t necessarily translate into conquered women being perceived as equivalent, but might I remind you that Dothraki women in ASOIAF appear to be chattel with zero bodily autonomy evidence of sentience, for the most part), or how women having sociopolitical power does not equal a lessening of sexual violence by necessity….but.

I could mention that the way in which Genghis Khan was able to stabilize and actually rule such a vast empire was by giving conquered MEN to his DAUGHTERS in marriage, but then took these husbands out on campaign with him, and replaced them as needed when they died. Or that his empire was actually inherited by his daughters.

And then this article goes on to make statements about we know from Genghis Khan’s attitudes and sadistic enjoyments (more or less) that hope for humanity’s goodness will always be futile, because there will always be Hitlers and Stalins.

^^^That is their section on “Mongol Values”. D:

Soooooo……yeah.

People who claim that GRRM’s Dothraki are realistically based on Mongolian or Plains NDN culture are pretty much in “Einstein and Hammurabi Disco Dance in a Hot-Air Balloon" territory.

Thanks to Historians like the above and GRRM, people think “Mongolian=pile of heads, nonstop rape” . There’s no Khutulun, Wrestler Princess, among the Dothraki. There is no Queen Manduhui, no Lady Hö’elün, no Empress Chabi, no Sorghatani Beki, no mention of The Great Khanum and eight princesses Ruy González de Clavijo saw and marveled at in 1403.

GRRM took a society of women who could own property, divorce at will, hold political office and positions of military command, and replaced them with visibly dirty, grunting animals being raped publicly in the dirt [tw link for an image of what i just described].

Because “historical accuracy”.

Because oh, well it’s already done and it’s too late to change it now.

Actually, all of it sounds incredibly familiar:

image

"We cannot simply change it"

"I could introduce a Dothraki viewpoint character, but I already have like sixteen viewpoint characters"

"I guess it’s too late to introduce one now."

It’s always too little, too late, try again, make your own, better luck next time.

So, when do we get to stop being force-fed vile stereotypes with our fantasy? When do we get wish-fulfillment and escapism?

The bottom line is, I don’t know because the this is the industry right now:

image

How are supposed to break the vicious cycle of whiteness in publishing, whiteness of SF/F authors, whiteness of characters, othering, misogyny, degradation, stereotypes, and a history of a Black-White Good-Evil dichotomy?

Why does it matter? Because people think this is real, people think this is accurate, people think this is acceptable, people think this is historical, including, apparently, the people who are writing these stories.

We must change the narrative to change our stories, because lies about the past are in danger of dictating our futures.

I think it’s also important to contrast the portrayal of the dothraki with that of the wildlings. They’re both coded as warlike and culturally other, and both as being comparatively primitive.

The difference is that the free folk are presented as noble*, relatable, with more equitable gender roles, and to some extent victims of their othering. Recall the line about the arbitrariness of the wall as a divider of people, and the suffering they face at the hand of the white walkers. Recall “last of the giants”. Recall the giants themselves, the intelligent and misunderstood vegetarians.

Contrast that then with the dothraki, for whom the entire extent of their culture is killing and raping Like, to the point where even their weddings involve killing people. There’s no real nobility there, just unchecked brutality.

There’s a nearly identical dichotomy when you contrast the free cities with astapor or qarth . Both are culturally othered, but sophisticated and urbane. The difference is that the latter are brutal slave states and the former (especially braavos) are genteel and capitalistic. In this world, the extent to which a culture is humanized varies directly with proximity to westeros.

Bear in mind I find the books absolutely riveting, if not always enjoyable, and the world building to be superb. Critiquing works of culture for their problematic elements is like flagging a bug in someone’s code - “hey, you might have missed this, it’s kind of crufty.”

* I’m aware that “the noble sav*ge” is a problematic trope of it’s own.

lezbhonest:

by MyishaAshanta


This makes me want to write a fic where Brienne gets the fuck out of westeros and marries some cute summer islander.

lezbhonest:

by MyishaAshanta

This makes me want to write a fic where Brienne gets the fuck out of westeros and marries some cute summer islander.

medievalpoc:

fantasiawandering:

idriveahyundaimovietheatre:

medievalpoc:

whitefriartuck:

theletteraesc:

medievalpoc:

fuckyeahalejandra replied to your post: Ancient Art Week! Various Roman Sculpt…

Are these sculptures of roman citizens or slaves?

The association of Black people with enslavement is an entirely modern invention, as in, chattel slavery in the…

Regarding the whole ‘men hunted, women gave birth’ thing (and wildly off topic from racism in classical Rome, sorry), it is looking increasingly like a load of nonsense (no surprise). 

There are prehistoric hunting scenes showing hunts which (probably *1) show women hunting for one thing and despite this male researcers still declares that men hunted and men created these hunting scenes and were also the first artists. But now we know that these hunting scenes not only show women hunting in some cases but WERE PRODUCED BY WOMEN primarily!

So what evidence for male = hunter is there?

When you look at the evidence for male hunters you have gender bias (men obviously hunted because men hunt now), gender essentialism (men hunted because they had less body fat and didn’t need to produce babies and Reasons) and ethnographic evidence (indigenous Australian hunters were solely male in the 19th-20th centuries).

We assume that because violent activities today are associated with men while women nurtured young that has always been the way. We also assume that women who were not pregnant would be compelled to behave in the same way as women who were pregnant/looking after children. It also assumes that hunting was much more dangerous than it probably was, hunters were often as much scavengers as far as we can tell from archaeological evidence of kill sites and often employed tactics like driving pray off cliffs to die or into dead ends were they could be picked off more safely. That isn’t to say it was completely safe of course. But who is to say gathering was necessarily safe in an age where a simple cut could result in death from infection and there were no anti-bodies for the admittedly few venomous creatures in Europe or that the gatherers would be free from the attentions of now extinct predators.

Much of the ethnographic evidence comes either from African nomadic peoples which have still had thousands of years of contact with patriarchal cultures or Australian Aboriginal and Papua New Guinean groups. The ethnographic observations were made in the 19th and 20th centuries and are deeply racist because they were based on the assumption that these cultures were primitive and unchanging since settlement of Sahul (Australia + New Guinea when they were connected) 50,000 years ago! We know, for example, in the early nineteenth century the power structure of Australian indigenous populations shifted in favour of young men after various epidemics killed 90% of the Aboriginal population in the space of 50 years or thereabout (something we never learnt in school, funnily enough). We do not know who hunted prior to European colonisation of Australia. We guess and the further back in time you go the more problematic that becomes because the hundreds at least indigenous cultures in Australia have all evolved over time just like any other culture.

IF we accept the creators of the hunting scenes across Europe were hunters themselves then we have to accept that women were as likely to be hunters as men. If we do not want to accept that the people who made the art were hunters then we have no evidence beyond ethnographic evidence for males solely being hunters and then we have to look carefully at the ethnographic evidence and accept it is deeply, deeply problematic.

So, in my opinion as a humble archaeology undergraduate, we either accept we have no firm evidence to say men or women hunted, just that hunting was done. If you accepted the cave paintings as evidence of male hunters when they were believed to be produced by men you should also accept they are now evidence of female hunting.

If you think you can say with certainty that ‘women have always been subjected to men because Reasons’ then you have no clue what you are talking about.Sadly much of the scholarship on the subject assumes male = hunter and works forward from that, trying to justify the assumption rather than addressing the actual evidence. Because if we accept that there is no evidence for that then it undermines a lot of nonsense gender essentialism used to handwave away sexism in society today. 

Sources:

Australian Archaeology by Peter Hiscock

Cave paintings created by women

Lectures, seminars, lost media articles etc. 

Image source

*1 Of course it is ‘accepted’ (read: assumed) that all the figures are male by default unless there are obvious feminine traits as opposed to just representing people in general.

Oh my god, I could not have said that nearly as well as you did.

This is such a concise and accessible explanation of why and how so much of what we “know” about the ancient world, prehistory, and a lot of history in general has almost EVERYTHING to do with looking for confirmation of reflections of our CURRENT SOCIETY, and any academic with a lick of honesty will tell you the same thing.

My graduate adviser tells a story about doing her dissertation research in Normandy in the 1970s, where she delved into the civic archives of Caen to study the role of women in early modern commerce. The other academic working there was an older French man (my adviser is an American woman), and he guffawed at her research plans and greatly despised her working there alongside him, a “real” historian studying “serious” history. He insisted repeatedly that there were no women working in commerce in France at that time, and that there were only men.

My adviser soldiered on despite having to work while facing directly at this man every single day. As she began her research, she began finding women “hiding” in plain sight, listed right alongside men in the tax rolls and notarized sales that they were both studying. She found hundreds of women engaging in buying and selling, and happily shoved these documents right in the face of her detractor, who now insisted that these women, who had not existed in his mind the day before, were simply “unimportant”. 

My point: our biases are so powerful that we can literally look at documents and not see the names on the paper, if we believe that those names should not be there. How much of our narrative self-perpetuates, as generations of scholars find support for preexisting biases by simply overlooking the contradictory evidence staring right back at them?


It’s not just historical academia, either.

My favourite Biology prof did sex studies on guppies when she was in grad school, like you do. It was all about male colour variation and the effects on female mate choice — during mating season, males go through colour change and get these bright, beautiful red or blue markings, and there’s a ton of research done on their role in female mate choice. Like peacocks, it’s generally accepted that bigger, brighter indicators cause females to choose the “fitter” males.

My prof noticed there was one fish in her study that was exhibiting a really atypical colour change. They usually go blue and red at the fins, but this one went a deep gold all over (they start silver). She was intrigued by this atypical morph, and was really interested in it, until it started swelling. Afraid that it had parasites and would contaminate the study population, she culled it and dissected it to see what was going on.

It was pregnant. It was a female.

Everybody knew that females didn’t change colour. So she’d assumed that it was a  male. But it got even worse — looking back over her notes, she’d actually noted down that the females turned gold, but completely dismissed and overlooked her own note taking, because of the commonly-held facts. Despite the fact that she’d written it down, it never even processed.

So when she submitted her paper, she added a note in the discussion pointing out that despite commonly-held belief, females change colour too, and that future studies should investigate whether female colour change also plays a role in guppy mating behaviour.

Her paper was rejected, with a note saying “this academic journal is not the place for your feminist propaganda.”

Reblogging this one too because people are always asking “but what about science though”

Science has a pretty crap record on treating women like actual subjects. It was unquestioned dogma for over a thousand years that women had fewer teeth than men, because Aristotle said so and obviously he knew best.

I imagine countless women raising their hands and saying “um not to be contradictory but I’m pretty sure I have the same amount of teeth as anyone else here why don’t you count them.” And the reputable scientists replying “STOP SAYING WORDS” and “HOW DARE YOU WHAT ARE YOUR QUALIFICATIONS” and “THIS IS NOT THE PLACE FOR YOUR FEMINIST PROPAGANDA”

People don’t really give a shit that angels are being douchebags, but they’re not so keen on Satan being relatable.

lolmythesis:

Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen

"It’s just a couple of angels having a slap-fight. Perception of religious themes in Supernatural.”

Finalized thesis can now be found here: tinyurl.com/plqayoh

I’m so surprised this has so many notes. Wait, did I say surprised? I meant not at all surprised

discardingimages:

melancholic pussy-cat 
book of hours, France 15th century.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 662, fol. 21r


First thought was “@medievalpoc is doing cats now? That’s a new direction”

discardingimages:

melancholic pussy-cat 

book of hours, France 15th century.

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 662, fol. 21r

First thought was “@medievalpoc is doing cats now? That’s a new direction”

Ok, I think I need more sleep, this made me burst into tears. at work.

wnycradiolab:

babygoatsandfriends:

the-goat-barn:

the goats decided that they wanted to go into the big paddock with the miniature horses and donkeys and thought that it would be even more fun to jump on their backs…

They have become surfaces.

Oh my.

Goat on a cow! Goat on a cow! Goat on a cow!

englishmagic:

The Raven King

(I feel like JSMN is increasing as a Thing and so I take the opportunity to repost this wee thing I did a year ago)

I was just listening to the Jonathan strange and Mr norrell audiobook, one of my dearest literary comfort foods, and was thinking someone should really put the ballad of the raven king to music, a slow dorian mode composition for preference, and then BAM this pops up on my dash.

suchbrightlights:

NPH and Jason Segel perform “Confrontation” from Les Mis. This never gets old.