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In the last 200 years, thousands of Medieval badges have been discovered along the rivers of England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium.They show genitals in varied contexts and actions: vulvas dressed as pilgrims with a rosary and a walking stick, vulvas riding horses and climbing ladders, vulvas being adored by penises, penises growing in gardens, and more.

The function of the badges is not quite clear. The common assumption is that they served as a talisman against the Evil Eye, perhaps more specifically against the Black Plague. The badges might also reflect some aspects of the reality of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage provided a different, liminal, space for people to temporarily exist in, where sexual and gender norms could be suspended.

This lecture will consider some of the questions arising from these badges - without necessarily providing clear answers. We will consider their iconography and its subversiveness, and what we might be able to take from them as contemporary viewers.

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