Angela Zhang, post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at Harvard,“Race, Slavery, and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Florence” (Medieval History Workshop)


Tuesday, October 18, 2022, 4:30pm


History department conference room (formerly the Lower Library) on the ground/first floor, Robinson Hall, Harvard Yard
Abstract: The recent scholarly consensus of the persistence of slavery throughout the Middle Ages must now be studied with premodern critical race theory. While race and enslavement are not always in conjunction, both are connected to and reinforce a system of arbitrary hierarchy based on perceived and constructed criteria that are mutually reinforced. Between 1350 and 1500, the change from West Asian to West African sources for slaves led to a shift in perceptions of racialized difference. These differences were also contingent on the perceived gender, sexuality, labour, and physiognomy of enslaved peoples subject to this hierarchy. My work focuses on Florence as a cultural centre and a city that actively participated in the slave trade. I argue that Florence’s complex arrangements of gendered notions of hierarchy intersected with their sensitivity to West Asian races while they simplified enslaved Africans into blackness and whiteness.