Sometimes when scholars disagree with each other, things can be unpleasant. But I must say, although everyone at the conference today had radically different ideas about what the word Viking should refer to, and there were a few moments when it seemed like the panelists might start entrenching to their own viewpoints, my feeling was that by the end there was a newfound feeling of respect and openness by almost everyone in the room. A pivotal moment came actually when one scholar made a very positive remark about how clever Jón Páll (the world's strongest man) had been in defining himself as a Viking. The talks prior to that talk were not the sort that would have looked kindly on such a neologism, but in a scholarly symposium, it usually only takes one good idea for everyone in the room to start thinking about things differently.

I was most grateful that I was not the one who had to come up with such a discussion-altering tidbit.

The discussion afterwards came around to one of my favorite subjects: finding a way to bridge the gap between scholarly knowledge and general knowledge about a subject.

It was in many ways a very brave conference, for bringing together so many people who have historically disagreed with one another, and I congratulate Reykjavík Museums for putting it together. Takk fyrir mig.


Lissy said…
One moment, that I think perhaps was meant to especially put me on the spot was pretty funny, actually. A speaker mentioned that Katrín Jakobssdóttir, the current Cultural Minister, had written an article in the papers in 2002 in which she expounded upon the fact that it was not the Vikings who had discovered America. The speaker looked right at me while he said that, and I swear it was like a veiled threat. But the funny part was that my talk said basically exactly that, that the material cultural remains at L'anse aux Meadows can hardly be called Viking. Even more amusing is that Vikingaheimar receives a grant every year from the Cultural Ministry. So, she may hate the word Viking, but she is not in a position to stop its usage.

At any rate, had she attended this afternoon's symposium, I imagine she would have enjoyed the discussion.

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