Strangers and Neighbors: Hostility and Hospitality in Late Medieval/Early Modern European Contexts

  • End date:
    01/07/2020, 00:00

May 6-8, 2021 • London Global Gateway

All lodging expenses for paper presenters will be reimbursed. Some meals provided. Please
send an abstract no longer than 200 words and an abbreviated CV to
before July 1, 2020. Decisions will be released on or before September 15, 2020.
Proposals by advanced graduate students will be considered.

Is the foreigner friend or foe? The rhetoric around immigration has become ever more
heated as globalization, climate change, pandemics, civil wars and proxy wars, the ease of
travel, and cross-cultural exchange and encounter have rapidly increased. In the transition
from the medieval to the early modern period, a similar intensity in such activity within
Europe and outside its borders dominated everything from literature to politics to religion.
A nascent xenophobia makes itself known in disputes between different peoples, of course,
but also between members of the same culture. In France, for example, Protestants were
often considered a foreign element to be excised.

On the other hand, foreigners often fascinated the natives or served as a political tool
of comparison in their attempts to affirm or purify their own culture. Either way,
representations of and interactions with the foreigner could reveal ambiguity with respect
to the newcomer but also within one’s own culture. The stranger could quickly become
one’s neighbor, if the conditions were right. This complicates medieval and early modern
xenophobia, as fears can be assuaged if certain advantages present themselves.

This interdisciplinary conference, with a special focus on the domains of literature, religion,
theology, politics, and history and their intersections, seeks to explore the reality of
xenophobia and what role it played in medieval and early modern societies. Do outsiders
offer an opportunity for charity or even enlightenment? Are they insidious agents of a
foreign power or reinforcements called in to strengthen a purportedly supranational religious
identity? Are they rapacious barbarians or civilized partners of trade? This is more than a
question of the “Other”; it is about exploring the ambiguities of migration and cross-cultural
exchange in the culture and in daily life in a period of religious, political, and cultural
upheaval within Europe and beyond.

Paper topics will be especially welcome in the following areas:

• Immigration inside and outside Europe
• Protestant and Catholic migrations
• The virtue of charity
• Religion and poverty
• Duty and practice of hospitality
• Literary representations of the foreigner
• Travel narratives
• Rhetoric, polemic, and satire
• Medieval and early modern theology
• Historiography of the stranger
• International politics and diplomacy
• Spread of disease and treating the sick


Keynote Speakers:

George Hoffmann, University of Michigan

George Hoffmann is a professor of French at the University of Michigan, where he
specializes in the literature, history, and culture of sixteenth-century France, with a special
focus, among others, on religious studies and the history of the Reformation. He received
his M.Phil. from the Université d’Aix Marseille before completing his Ph.D. from the
University of Virginia in 1990. Reforming French Culture (2017), his most recent book,
argues that religious satire not only fostered the crucial reformed experience of spiritual
alienation but that this experience informed the trajectory of French culture more broadly,
descending to today’s republican universalism and laïcité.

Anthony Pagden, University of California, Los Angeles

Anthony Pagden is distinguished professor of political science at UCLA. His research
has concentrated on the relationship, cultural, political and legal, between the peoples of
Europe and its overseas settlements and those of the non-European world from the Atlantic
to the Pacific. His main concern is in the political theory of empire, in how the West
sought to explain to itself how and why it had come to dominate so much of the world,
and in the present consequences of the erosion of that domination. He has also written
widely about cosmopolitanism, nationalism, internationalism and about the history and
the future of the European Union. He is the author of more than a dozen books, many
of which have been translated into a number of European and Asian languages. His most
recent publications include The Enlightenment – and why it still matters (Random House
and Oxford University Press) in 2013, and in 2015, The Burdens of Empire: 1539 to the
Present (Cambridge University Press).


For additional inquiries or questions, please email either of the co-organizers: Gregory Haake ( or David Lantigua (

Conference schedule and details will be posted in Fall 2020