Race, racisms, and Tolkien: A roundtable

— Megan B. Abrahamson, Part-time instructor of communication, humanities, & social sciences, Central New Mexico Community College; Robin Anne Reid, independent scholar; Craig N. Franson, Associate Professor of English, La Salle University; Will Sherwood, independent scholar; and Helen Young, Lecturer in Literary Studies, Deakin University

Paper given 1 August 2021 at Mythcon 51 Session 13

The small but growing body of work on race in Tolkien studies includes medievalist, modernist, and postmodernist approaches analyzing Tolkien’s or Jackson’s texts and, increasingly games and transformative works. The release of the films accelerated debate over the question of racism, especially in relation to the origin and nature of the Orcs. The context for this scholarship includes the growing attention to medieval constructions of race in response to the idealization of an imagined White Middle Ages among neo-fascist and white supremacist groups. Dimitra Fimi has shown in Tolkien, Race and Cultural History that Tolkien’s construction of the races of Middle-earth was not limited to his medievalist knowledge but responded to the contemporary scientific and popular knowledge about race and racism of his lifetime. Helen Young, in Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness, traces how Tolkien and Robert E. Howard’s fiction established racialized tropes in genre fantasy, tracing not only literature but fan cultures and the effects of digital communications. This roundtable examines the current state of the scholarship, the gaps that exist, and the exclusions that have hampered consideration of constructions of race in Tolkien’s work (including reliance upon authorial intentionality, disciplinary and methodological differences, and the lack of attention paid to Whiteness as a raced category). Robin Anne Reid will discuss her plans for an anthology on race, racisms, and Tolkien and her recent work with The Free Orcs AU” (a transformative work). Craig Franson will discuss the history of Tolkien’s reception and appropriation by white supremacists. Will Sherwood will discuss the impact of the Tolkien Society’s recent seminar on the theme of Tolkien and Diversity. Megan Abrahamson will showcase some Silmarillion fanart and explore the Tumblr subcultures that, by diversifying portrayals of characters who have not (yet) been codified in film, plumb new depths of fantasy worldbuilding where the socially constructed concept of race is truly different from our own. Helen Young will discuss why understanding whiteness as a raced category is important for reading Tolkien and why critical readings are inherently hopeful, and open up who can love Tolkien.

Authoritative information may be found here.

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source URL 🌐SWOSU Digital Commons - Mythcon: Race, Racisms, and Tolkien
date recorded 📅2022-01-23
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