The mission of this Unit is to deepen and broaden the study of the Christian past by presenting innovative and engaging research on the history, culture, and development of Christianity from its origins to the present, while at the same time promoting interdisciplinary dialogue among the fields of history, religious studies, ritual studies, art history, anthropology, and historical theology. We have a strong commitment to providing a showcase for the work of both younger and established scholars in the field.
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History of Christianity Unit
Call for Proposals
The History of Christianity Unit continues to encourage chronological depth and geographic breadth in the study of Christian histories. Generally, unless otherwise noted, we invite papers and panel sessions that address the issues suggested in this Call for Proposals across time periods. We also continue to invite papers or full panels on topics and periods not explicitly mentioned in the following:
Race in the Middle Ages
As a potential co-sponsorship with the Religion in Premodern Europe and the Mediterranean Unit, this panel invites papers on the topic of Race in the Middle Ages. We have witnessed in the past few years that symbols, texts, and ideas of the Middle Ages have been deployed by white nationalist groups to promote racist notions of superiority and purity. Recent books including Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages and M. Lindsey Kaplan’s Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity are clear calls to critically examine the logics, political histories, and mobilizations of this era. We seek to organize an interdisciplinary panel to further this discussion.
Teaching the BIG Christian History Survey Course
Many of us in the academy are often called upon to teach a one-term course that is intended to be a historical introduction to Christianity. It’s no secret that all who teach such a course recognize its numerous limitations and constraints. For this panel, we invite educators who have modified, in some way, the course beyond the usual paradigms that take us from Antioch to America, a version of the course that is unduly influenced by Western Protestantism. This panel will convene five to seven scholars to share for ten minutes each on the kinds of approaches they have taken to make such as broad course more inclusive of Christianity’s extraordinarily diverse past that all too often falls to the wayside. Inclusivity can range from content to approaches, archives, experiential learning, and digital humanities teaching. We will give preference to panelists who commit to utilizing the audio/visual resources on site. We encourage proposals from a diverse range of institutional setting (e.g., small seminars, large lectures, online courses, etc.).
Our meeting’s conference in Boston occasions us to reconsider colonial and colonizing narratives in the history of Christianity. Over the past several decades historians and theorists have
challenged colonial projects such as received “origins” stories. Given our conference’s location to be held in such close proximity to the famed Plymouth Rock (1620) of the Pilgrim’s landing, we are compelled to invite papers which critically examine the use of monumental markers (dates, objects, texts, proclamations, etc.) as comparative touchstones of origins accounts. As such we invite conversations about pre-, de-, and post- colonialism and the narration of origins. “Whose origins?” we might ask, and how does such as rendition help us to better understand an inclusive history of religious movement. Specifically we invite panels and papers that consider the questions concerning the following: how do we narrate origins, namely the church’s colonizing origins texts? How can our sources and archives better orient us to disentangle the elements of pre-, de-, and post- colonialism. We are open to all periods of the History of Christianity.
Of Pilgrimages and Objects: What History and Anthropology can Learn Better Together
With the Anthropology of Religion Unit, we invite co-sponsored papers and panels at the methodological crossroads of history and anthropology on the theme: “Of Pilgrimages and Objects: What History and Anthropology can Learn Better Together." While the topic of “lived religion” has gained increasing currency in historical and ethnographic research, we seek to push the conversation further by identifying key elements of how concepts from the two disciplines find productive overlap in current research. Heeding to works such as Caroline Walker Bynum’s Christian Materiality: As Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe, we also encourage papers that draw out insights of pre-modern religious cultures around pilgrimages and objects.
Religion and Historical Elections
As a co-sponsored session between Religion and Politics and the History of Christianity units, this panel seeks to foster an interdisciplinary discussion on the relationship between religion and historical elections. This session seeks papers that address how religion has influenced historical elections at the various levels of government. We are open to all periods of American history and encourage proposals historically rooted before the 21st century. We ask: what historical examples can we turn to better understand the relationship between religion and elections, and how can this help us understand the present moment?
The 1619 Model: Rewriting Christian History
We invite papers and panels that take inspiration from the New York Times 1619 Project, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones. Extraordinary in its inclusion of different genres (poems, stories, essays, and personal narratives) and use of various media (print, podcast, and online teaching modules), the 1619 project offers a new account of American history, while offering a more general model for reinterpreting history. The history of Christianity itself does not have a prominent role in the 1619 project, apart from glancing reference to slavery as America’s original sin. This omission raises important questions. How might a focus on Christianity cast new light on this project? On analogous projects? More generally: What is the role of religion in reimagining history? Is it simply a matter of the events we highlight, and the people we include? Or is there something specific to religion, to the focus on Christianity, specifically, that might inspire new histories, and new interpretations of old histories? Papers and panels might situate themselves in relation to particular elements of the 1619 project, or orient themselves in relation to the broader theoretical questions above, by focusing on different historical narratives. We invite experimentation and play in these proposals, including the use of myriad genres; consideration of pedagogical alongside historical and theoretical questions; or diverse interpretations of a single historical artifact or event. Traditional papers and panels will also be considered.
Brown Church History and Sociology
With the Evangelical Unit we are considering engagement with new books by Robert Chao Romero’s Brown Church, Jonathan Calvillo’s Santa Ana Saints, and other works from scholars and movements working to complexify understandings of Evangelicalism.
Religion and the 2020 Election- Roundtable session co-sponsored across Units
In addition to the co-sponsored panel, our unit is also exploring the possibility of a roundtable discussion among panelists invited by a diverse group of units to respond to the 2020 US election.