Department of English

A Look at Gerry Heng’s New Book “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages”

Wed, May 16, 2018
A Look at Gerry Heng’s New Book “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages”
Geraldine Heng's New Book Out Now

The Department of English congratulates Gerry Heng on the publication of her newest book The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages by Cambridge University Press.

The book appeared on March 8, 2018, and has been reprinted by Cambridge twice. In addition, an early introductory article by Dr. Heng (with the same title as the book) was the most downloaded article on MLA Commons in 2017— downloaded approximately 1,295 times!

 To order click here, and enter the code HENG2017 at checkout for 20% off!

Here's a little bit about the book:

The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages questions the common belief in race studies that race and racisms only began in the modern era.  Examining Europe’s encounters with Jews, Muslims, Africans, Native Americans, Mongols, and the Romani (“Gypsies”), from the 12th through 15th centuries, this book shows how racial thinking, racial law, racial practices, and racial phenomena existed in medieval Europe before a recognizable vocabulary of race emerged in the West.  Studying stories, maps, statuary, illustrations, architectural features, history, saints’ lives, religious commentary, laws, political and social institutions, and literature, an important focus of the book is how religion—so much in play again today—enabled the positing of fundamental differences among humans that created strategic essentialisms to mark off human groups and populations for racialized treatment. Another focus is how race figures in the emergence of homo europaeus and the identity of Western Europe in this time.

About the Author:

Geraldine Heng is Perceval Fellow and Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Middle Eastern Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the aurora of Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (Columbia University Press 2003, 2004, 2012) and England and the Jews: How Religion and Violence Created the First Racial State in the West (Cambridge University Press 2018). The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages is available at the Cambridge University Press website and on Amazon.  Heng is currently on an ACLS Fellowship to begin a fourth book, Early Globalities: The Interconnected World 500-1500 CE.  

Featured below are some images from Dr. Heng’s archive:

Figure 1. (top left) Healing of the Gadarene demoniacs.  Psalter, folio 3v (detail), from Canterbury, c. 1200.  Reproduced with permission from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Figure 2. (top right) Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  Nicholas of Verdun’s enameled plaque of an ambo, Klosterneuburg, 1181.  Museum des Chorherrenstiftes, Klosterneuburg. Reproduced with permission from Erich Lessing and

Figure 3. (bottom left) Statue of the Black St Maurice of Magdeburg.  Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany, 1220-1250.  Reproduced with permission from the Menil Foundation, Houston; Hickey and Robertson, Houston; and Harvard University’s Image of the Black Project.

All images are cited from the book.

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