The International Society of Anglo-Saxonists is an organisation for scholars interested in the language, literature, history and material culture of England and the English between the fifth and eleventh centuries CE, and which organises major conferences every two years. Its name was selected when the Society was formed in the early 1980s, as an attempt to encompass the full range of disciplines represented among the membership. At the same time, it has long been recognised that the term ‘Anglo-Saxonist’ is problematic. It has sometimes been used outside the field to describe those holding repugnant and racist views, and has contributed to a lack of diversity among those working on early medieval England and its intellectual and literary culture.
There have been serious discussions in the Society about changing the name of ISAS for more than two years, and in May 2019 a member submitted a formal proposal for the Society to vote on this matter. The Executive Committee consisting of senior members of the Advisory Board decided to wait until an issue of such gravity could be discussed among a large proportion of the membership at its upcoming conference in Albuquerque, NM (29 July-2 August 2019). Presentations and discussions at that conference showed a wide range of views on the topic, and that above all there was a strong groundswell of desire for change. On that basis, the Board intended to hold an electronic vote of the entire membership in the aftermath of the conference, although in the event the process was expedited as pressure from members and social media mounted, especially following the resignation of Mary Rambaran-Olm from the Advisory Board in early September. The board is grateful to Mary for her many contributions to the Society during her time on the Board. At the same time, we recognise that many of our colleagues have felt marginalized and unwelcome within ISAS, and pledge to effect changes to the way the Society is run.We accept that we were not as transparent or quick at responding to criticism as we could have been, and commit to do better.
A vote has since been held, and the results announced. The members of the Society have voted to change the Society’s name, and to amend the constitution to recognise the full demographic breadth of the Society on its Advisory Board. The Board will now implement these decisions as expeditiously as possible, and is actively preparing a timetable for suggested processes of change. We are strongly committed to rapid and transparent progress on these important matters, which are critical to the future of our Society and our field of scholarship more generally. We are grateful for the patience and support of members as we begin to rebuild bridges between the divisions in the Society.
The Advisory Board