Video: David Nirenberg Explores the Relationship Between Poison and Politics in Medieval Studies Opening Lecture

September 23, 2022
Photo Credit: Frank Wojciechowski

On September 20, 2022, David Nirenberg (historian and author), director of the Institute for Advanced Study, presented “Poison and politics: toward a (pre-modern?) theory of community and communication.” The opening lecture, hosted by the Program in Medieval Studies, discussed how poison, hypocrisy, politics, and communication were intimately related concepts in many pre-modern cultures. Helmut Reimitz (History), director of medieval studies, gave opening remarks and introduced Nirenberg, who is recognized for wide-ranging scholarship on the interaction of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean.

During the public talk, Nirenberg explored ways that communication could be thought of as profoundly ambivalent, and how the dangers of this ambivalence were often imagined in terms of poison. He argued “with changes in organizations of political community, come changes in the shape of how truth and falsity, hypocrisy and sincerity, are imagined. An imagination that often takes poisonous shape.” Nirenberg ended with a nod to the present, giving examples of modern transformations which have inspired poisonous analogies.

Watch the full event here.

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