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Strangers and Pilgrims

Étrangers et voyageurs

Displacements and spatial transformations of religion in the English-speaking world

Déplacements et métamorphoses spatiales du religieux dans les mondes anglophones

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Published on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

The experience of migrating, moving away from familiar places—sometimes against one’s will—and relocating in foreign territories is deeply ingrained in the spiritual and historical legacy of monotheistic traditions. The Reformation, the colonial era and the contemporary globalized world have greatly amplified the phenomena of transplantation and mass migrations; in turn these uprootings have deeply transformed the religious geography of the English-speaking world. This two-day conference aims to explore the multiple dimensions of the spatial transformations of religion not only in the light of the experience of diasporas and other exiled or migrating religious minorities, but also from the point of view of merchants, travellers, missionaries, settlers, soldiers, etc.

Announcement

Argument

Meditating as a young philosopher upon the career and fate of the Jewish people, Hegel suggestively claimed in The Spirit of Christianity that the dramatic gesture of parting with birthplace and ancestral sacred grounds could be considered the starting point of monotheism: such a “rending of life” placed the faithful in a position of foreignness not only towards their own kin and the whole of nature, but in the long run towards their very earthly existence, leading them to live their lives under the uneasy sign—despairing and elating at the same time—of wandering trials and tribulations.

The Epistle to the Hebrews invites Christians to follow in the footsteps of the Patriarchs by claiming to be “strangers and pilgrims upon this earth” (Heb. 13:11); their true home is in heaven, the Epistle declares. The Greek terminology (xenoi kai parepidēmoi epi tēs gēs), however, can be understood in a more literal fashion, echoing Christian and Jewish experience throughout history. Embracing expatriation and accepting the (sometimes temporary) condition of a stranger or stateless person may result from a spiritual necessity—transparent in the case of the missionary or the proselyte, but more ambivalent in the case of the refugee. In both cases, however, the response of the faithful to the call from above has to be made manifest through the ordeal and trial of displacement. The experience of migrating, moving away from familiar places —sometimes against one’s will—and relocating in foreign territories is thus deeply ingrained in the spiritual and historical legacy of monotheistic traditions, to mention only those religions which have been inspired—even though ambiguously so—by a universalistic attempt to transcend borders.

The Reformation, the colonial era and the contemporary globalized world have greatly amplified the phenomena of transplantation and mass migrations. In turn these uprootings have deeply transformed the religious geography of the English-speaking world.

This two-day conference aims to explore the multiple dimensions of the spatial transformations of religion not only in the light of the experience of diasporas and other exiled or migrating religious minorities, but also from the point of view of merchants, travellers, missionaries, settlers, soldiers, etc. How was religious life transformed by mobility and displacement? How did religion alter space and place, objectively as well as subjectively?

The organizing committee invites proposals on the subject relating to the English-speaking world of all periods, geographical areas and religion(s). We are especially receptive to proposals focusing on one or more of the following themes:

  • Transformations of the religious experience of space and place through journeys, migrations, exiles, pilgrimages or missions: uprooting / taking root; deterritorialisation / reterritorialisation; being open / closed to otherness; public / private space; continuity / discontinuity; dispersion / concentration; distance / proximity; nomadic / sedentary; extraterritoriality. For example, studies of the perception and appropriation of intimate or public space—including the sacred space of others—from a foreigner’s point of view would be most welcome. So would be studies of native perceptions of foreigners in spatial terms, of the dilemmas typical of the status of xenos regarding mobility and placeand the ways in which this spatial experience is gendered. Colonial and post-colonial situations offer prime opportunities in this respect. This line of inquiry also calls for the study of the spatial modalities of dialogue, conflict or negotiation involving religious or confessional identities.
  • Displacement and the mutations of religious ties. What are the effects of displacement on the relations between the members of religious groups, sometimes across borders? How have international networks been constituted and maintained, whether by the use of epistolary communication or contemporary technologies? What other dimensions of interpersonal interactions, including emotional aspects, are relevant? How does the circulation of information, people and artefacts within these networks affect the relationships between the members of religious communities?
  • The Journeys of doctrines and liturgies. The migration of religious groups or individuals often entails the transplantation of texts (translated or adapted), dogmas and religious practices, which are transformed as they spread to new environments. Such transplantations can sometimes occur without any actual transfer of people, but usually require some mediating agents or communication tools which may influence and shape the nature and reception of the message. How are religious doctrines and practices transformed by travel and translation?
  • Displaced orthodoxies and dissent. Heresy is a powerful incentive to travel, while repression sets people in motion and disseminates doctrines, sometimes on a massive scale. Furthermore, religious innovation can be greatly stimulated by encounters with exotic religious landscapes, or even by the mere distance established from the point of departure and reference. Conversely the condition of a displaced minority may also spur the need for orthodoxy or orthopraxy—leading to a rediscovery or reinvention of traditions, or to a deliberate attempt to enforce strict religious standards. What are the effects of displacement on the categories and realities of orthodoxy and dissent?      

Submission guidelines

Please submit your abstract (about 300 words) in English or French together with a short bio to remy.bethmont@univ-paris8.fr and Cyril.Selzner@univ-paris1.fr

by 15th June 2015.

A selection of papers will be published in a collected volume.

The symposium will be held at Paris (28-29 January 2016)

Organization

Réseau Culture et Religion dans les Pays Anglophones (CRPA), Transferts critiques et dynamique des savoirs (EA1569 - Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis), PHARE (FRE 3643 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Centre de Recherches Anglophones (CREA EA 370 - Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense).

Scientific committee

  • Rémy Bethmont (Paris 8),
  • Jacqueline Clais-Girard (Université d’Angers),
  • Françoise Deconinck-Brossard (Paris Ouest Nanterre),
  • Yannick Deschamps (Paris-Est Créteil),
  • Claire Joubert (Paris 8),
  • Pierre Kapitaniak (Paris 8),
  • Clotilde Prunier (Paris Ouest Nanterre),
  • Cyril Selzner (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne),
  • Bertrand van Ruymbeke (Paris 8).

Places

  • Paris, France (75)

Date(s)

  • Monday, June 15, 2015

Keywords

  • anglophone, espace, exil, diaspora, minorité, voyage, migration, orthodoxie, dissidence

Contact(s)

  • Rémy Bethmont
    courriel : remy [dot] bethmont [at] univ-paris8 [dot] fr
  • Cyril Selzner
    courriel : Cyril [dot] Selzner [at] univ-paris1 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Cyril Selzner
    courriel : Cyril [dot] Selzner [at] univ-paris1 [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Strangers and Pilgrims », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, https://calenda.org/326240

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