Academics Are At War Over Racist Roots of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Studies

On December 1, 2019, I was back on The Daily Beast, continuing my coverage of the connections between modern racism and pre-modern history. This time I expressed my take on the ongoing debate on whether or not the term “Anglo-Saxon” should be phased out because of its racist meaning. Enjoy!

Academics Are At War Over Racist Roots of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Studies

Academics Are At War Over the Racist Roots of Anglo-Saxon Studies | The Daily Beast | The Boomerang

At the RaceB4Race symposium held in Washington D.C. in September 2019, medievalist Mary Rambaran-Olm took to the podium and called out the inherent racism of the term “Anglo-Saxon.” She asked the prestigious professional organization called the International Society for Anglo Saxonists, or ISAS, to change its name, and then declared her immediate resignation from that organization.

Rambaran-Olm’s speech sent shock waves through the world of experts on Anglo-Saxon England—and in the months that have passed since then, colleagues have turned on each other in a heated debated over the use of the term “Anglo-Saxon” and whether it constitutes white supremacy.

This debate might seem like an example of typical academic hair splitting with little to no relevance to the general public. But in the case of “Anglo-Saxon,” what might look like academic inside baseball has, in fact, major implications for wider society. This debate cuts to the root of the polarization that we are currently experiencing in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair

On November 29, 2019, I published the following piece for The Week. I honestly didn’t expect editor Jessica Hullinger to choose this topic out of the several pitches I sent her, because Moomins are a bit obscure in the US. But I am very happy that she saw the appeal in this alternative reading of the first two books about the Moomins that Tove Jansson ever wrote. Enjoy!

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us about Fighting Climate Despair | The Week.com | The Boomerang

Climate change is real, no matter what some would have us believe. In this past summer’s heat wave over Europe, the Arctic region of Scandinavia experienced temperatures up to 101 degrees, while the ice cap of Greenland is melting at the rate projected for the year 2070. Meanwhile, Australia is experiencing yet another year of unprecedented drought, at the same time as the American Midwest has been fighting against the overflowing Mississippi River after too much rain. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change is not a problem we will need to deal with sometime in the future. It is happening now.

Grappling with the magnitude of climate change causes what is known as climate despair, which is the overwhelming sense that…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF

On November 18, 2019, I published the following article on Tor.com. This article is Part 2 in the series I am writing for them called History and SFF. I am really happy about this post because I have wanted to write about how Wesley Chu uses history in his Tao trilogy ever since I first read it. The fact that Chu tweeted that he was happy with this article makes it even better.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF | Tordcotcom | The Boomerang

The question of what factors drive historical change has intrigued historians from the very beginning, when the earliest scholars first turned their attention to studying and interpreting the past. To find the answer(s) to this key question, historians make use of social science theories. These theories help make sense of the inherent contradictions found in human behavior and human society.

For example, there is the theory…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones

On October 24, 2019, I published the following post on Mental Floss.

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones | Mental Floss

Runestone Sö 106. Source: Riksantikvarieämbetet/Swedish National Heritage Board.

Vikings. The word evokes ferocious warriors, swords, battleaxes, and bloodthirsty raids. Most of what we know about the Vikings, however, are exaggerations written by people who encountered them. There is a way for us to hear the Vikings speak for themselves: by reading messages carved on runestones…
In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column

On October 15, 2019, Tor.com published the following post, announcing the launch of  the column I will be writing for them. I am really excited about this column. Not only because it’s about history and the historian’s craft, but because I have been wanting to work with Tor.com for a long time.

Enjoy!

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column.

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Welcome to Tor.com’s new column on History and SFF!

My name is Erika Harlitz-Kern, and I will be your guide during the coming months in discussing the ways that history is used in fantasy and science fiction. But don’t worry—I won’t be dissecting your favorite story digging for historical inaccuracies and judging its entertainment value based on what I find… The purpose of this column is to take a look at how authors of SFF novels and novellas—with a focus on more recent works, published after the year 2000—use the tools of the trade of historians to tell their stories.

When any scholar does research, they use a set of discipline-specific tools to make…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Myth of the Viking Warrior Woman

I’m back on The Week!

The Myth of the Viking Warrior Woman

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In 2017, a team of Swedish archaeologists announced an exciting discovery: They had, for the first time, identified the remains of a Viking woman warrior. A DNA analysis of a Viking Age skeleton previously thought to be male had turned out to be female. The skeleton in question was originally discovered in 1878 in a grave known as Bj. 581 at the Swedish Viking Age trading town of Birka. Lacking the scientific knowledge available today to determine the biological sex of human remains, the 19th-century archaeologists looked at the objects buried with the skeleton — weapons like swords and spears, shields, and even the remains of several horses — and declared the human remains to have belonged to a male warrior. The modern DNA result proved this theory wrong.

The tale of the Viking woman warrior from Birka continues to capture our imaginations. She has even been….

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

I’m on The Daily Beast again again.

On August 17, 2019, I published my third article for The Daily Beast. This one I am particularly excited about because it allowed me to delve deeper into the complexities of Viking society. Enjoy!

What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong about the Vikings.

What the Alt Right Gets Wrong About the Vikings | The Daily Beast | The Boomerang

Reconstructed Viking Age longhouse, Borg, Lofoten, Norway.

Viking Age Scandinavians were immigrants who traded with the Muslim world and embraced gender fluidity—everything the alt-right despises.

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.