An ongoing conference series and professional network community by and for scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern literature, history, and culture.

Pushing the field in new directions

RaceB4Race is an ongoing conference series and professional network community by and for scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern literature, history, and culture. RaceB4Race centers the expertise, perspectives, and sociopolitical interests of BIPOC scholars, whose work seeks to expand critical race theory.

Bridging many traditional disciplinary divides, RaceB4Race not only creates innovative scholarly dialogues, but also fosters social change within premodern studies as a whole.

RaceB4Race is brought to life by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in partnership with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Division of Humanities. 

An intellectual bridge

The inaugural RaceB4Race conference emerged as a collaboration between the Medievalists of Color (MOC) and the ShakeRace (Shakespeare and Race) community, groups that were both seeking to push their fields in new archival, theoretical, methodological, pedagogical, and practical directions.

The catalyst for the event was the rejection of proposals for sessions on race and antiracism by Medievalists of Color in favor of sessions proposed by their white colleagues by the International Congress of Medieval Studies (ICMS) in Kalamazoo, MI. RaceB4Race offered an “alternate home” for the rejected MOC sessions and a much-needed opportunity for a collaboration between the MOC and ShakeRace communities. In the end, the inaugural RaceB4Race event demonstrated to the world how our understandings of periodization, historicity and even academic disciplines can become more expansive once race is acknowledged as a viable lens of investigation.

Upcoming RaceB4Race events

RaceB4Race Education

Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona
Digital event
January 22-23, 2021

RaceB4Race Politics

Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 22-24, 2021

RaceB4Race Partners

Folger Shakespeare Library

King's College London

Brandeis University

The Newberry Library

Rutgers University

University of Toronto

Shakespeare's Globe

The University of Chicago

RaceB4Race executive board 

  • Patricia Akhimie (Rutgers University, Newark)
  • David Sterling Brown (Binghamton University)
  • Seeta Chaganti (University of California, Davis)
  • Urvashi Chakravarty (University of Toronto)
  • Kim F. Hall (Barnard College)
  • Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University)
  • Farah Karim-Cooper (Shakespeare's Globe)
  • Dorothy Kim (Brandeis University)
  • Noémie Ndiaye (University of Chicago)
  • Shokoofeh Rajabzadeh (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Scott Manning Stevens (Syracuse University)
  • Carla María Thomas (Florida Atlantic University)
  • Ayanna Thompson (Arizona State University)
  • Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College)
RaceB4Race executive board

Past RaceB4Race events

To Protect and to Serve: a RaceB4Race Roundtable - July 2020

July 23rd, 2020, Online Webinar

Featuring Margo Hendricks, Cord J. Whitaker, Justin P. Shaw, and Carissa M. Harris, and moderated by Ayanna Thompson.

This roundtable discussion brought together four RaceB4Race alumni, all scholars of color who write and research in the fields of premodern critical race studies. Our speakers addressed the historical and contemporary lenses in which the phrase "To Protect and to Serve" can be inspected, interrogated, and reenvisioned.

While communities around the country fight for social justice and the end of police brutality, we ask: What does it mean to protect and to serve?

Watch a recording of the event

Appropriations: a RaceB4Race Symposium - January 2020

January 17th - 18th, 2020, Tempe, Arizona

The RaceB4Race event in Tempe in January 2020 focused on how the term appropriation has recently signified in different ways for early modernists and medievalists. For early modernists, “appropriation” figures in crucial analyses of cultural productions, rewritings, and reimaginings of older narratives, most typically those by Shakespeare. Medievalists, in contrast, have increasingly deployed “appropriation” to discuss the ways white supremacists use the period’s imagery for overtly political purposes; and medievalists have been asking whether such uses constitute appropriations, misappropriations, or reflections of an inherent ideological stance within medieval studies as a whole.

Bringing scholars into dialogue about these facets of appropriation, we asked how these different arenas for appropriation, and their various implications, intersect and if they can expand our insights into early critical race studies.

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Race and Periodization: a RaceB4Race Symposium - September 2019

September 5th - 7th, 2019, Washington D.C.

Race and Periodization was hosted in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Following upon the inaugural RaceB4Race event, a collaboration of medievalists and early modernists held at Arizona State University in January 2019, this conference foregrounded the relationship between race and historical periodization. Medievalists and early modernists have long grappled with the meaning and use of their own historical period designations as well as the strictures of periodization itself. This event explored how critical race theory can enable new insights about, approaches to, and critiques of periodization.

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The inaugural RaceB4Race Symposium - January 2019

January 18-19, 2019 Arizona State University

This two day event brought together medieval and early modern race scholars seeking to push their fields in new archival, theoretical and practical directions. Scholars, artists and activists gathered to discuss the contemporary implications of premodern race studies.

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Questions? Contact a member of our staff. 

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