Christianity, Space, and Mobility in Europe’s Age of Extremes

AHA Session 206
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Grand Hall D (Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Lower Level 2)
Darcie S. Fontaine, University of South Florida
Christianity, the City, and the Public Sphere, 1918–2000
Elayne Oliphant, New York University
Gender Politics and the New Christendom: The 1994 Cairo Population Conference
Kimba Tichenor, Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study
The Transformation of Christian Politics in 20th-Century Europe: Italy and Beyond
Rosario Forlenza, Columbia University; Bjørn Thomassen, Roskilde University
Christianity and Violence in 20th-Century France
Rachel Johnston-White, Yale University
James Chappel, Duke University

Session Abstract

In the last fifteen years, a “religious turn” has taken place in the history of twentieth century Europe. Long relegated to the sidelines, religion, and specifically Christianity, now seems to be central to processes of nationalism, state-formation, gender relations, and more. One of the most exciting elements of this new literature is its focus on mobility and space: religion, long thought of as a static notion of the landscape, turns out to be caught up in the currents of exile and mobility that marked twentieth century Europe in general. This panel will provide one of the first fora for the young group of interdisciplinary scholars at the forefront of this transition. The contributors do not simply represent a few case studies of the new approaches, but together will explore the contours of a new field. At the same time, through the contributions by an anthropologist and a social theorist, the disciplinary boundaries of this field will be expanded.

By focusing on the issue of "place," this panel helps us to interrogate the spatial logics of Christianity, showing how they intersect and diverge from the nation-state framework that continues to dominate our understanding of modern European history. Christianity, a religion birthed in empire and resistance, never fully made a home within the nation-state framework, and in some ways it was able to thrive more fully in the non-state spaces of the city, the continent, the empire, and the universal space of "humanity." The papers in this panel collectively argue that, as the historical profession shifts its attention towards transnational and non-state spaces, a new grappling with religion—a polyvalent discourse that has always refused spatial boundaries—must be central to that turn. This panel makes that argument especially compelling by focusing on, in some ways, the most difficult case, as contemporary Europe is one of the most "secular" spaces on the globe. But even there, and even in quite recent times, the continent's religious heritage has been deeply significant—if only we know where to look.

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