CFP Deadline: Jan. 4, Conference on Individual and Collective Spiritualities in New France, Canada

In collaboration with Simon Fraser University and several religious orders who played a founding role in the history of Montreal, the Collectif d’Anthropologie et d’Histoire du Spirituel sous l’Ancien Régime (CAHSA, invites paper proposals for an interdisciplinary conference on the interaction between individual and collective spiritualities in New France. The conference on “The Soul in Community: Individual and Collective Spiritualities in New France,” will take place in Montreal from October 13th-15th, 2016. It has three goals.

The organizers’ primary objective, in anticipation of Montreal’s 375th anniversary, is to examine the interplay between personal faith and its collective expression in the formation of New France’s literary, cultural, and material heritage. Missionaries, religious orders, and devotional networks played a central role in establishing France’s North American colonies, shaping a wide range of activities from land ownership to education. The texts, practices, objects, buildings, and traditions forged during the colonial period testify not only to the way French immigrants navigated their encounter with the region and its people, but also to a tension within Catholicism between individual spiritual experience and corporate religion. Life in New France accentuated both the complementarity and the distance between these two poles of religious belonging. Missionaries far from home, for example, encountered themselves and their indigenous interlocutors in ways that stretched spiritual categories. At the same time, French Catholics often sought to organize life in the New World according to models drawn from parish and convent life in France. The organizers aim to investigate this double movement between the soul and its community by drawing together an international body of scholars who specialize in New France and early modern religion.

Second, the conference will explore the tension in French between “le spirituel” and “spiritualité,” as well as their overlap with vocabularies current in Anglophone research on religion. In an effort to deepen the understanding of these terms, the organizers begin from the premise that “le spirituel” denotes a sensory and affective experience, whether individual or collective, that exceeds faith’s socialized frameworks. Although nourished by the doctrinal, institutional, and theological systems associated in French scholarship with “spiritualité,” the spiritual charts to some degree its own course.

Third, through archival visits and workshops focused on documents and objects from New France’s heritage, the organizers aim to showcase the richness of archival holdings in Montreal, Quebec, and Canada more generally for questions pertaining to the history of religion.

A number of questions will animate the gathering. How did the interplay between individual and collective spiritualities influence reformation and evangelization efforts in Montreal and the surrounding region during the French Regime? What role did the individual play in religious orders, congregations, missions, churches, and schools in New France? To what degree did the give and take between personal and corporate religious expression lead New France’s inhabitants to develop distinctly North American identities or, to the contrary, foster a sense that France remained the center?

The organizers invite paper proposals, in French or English, on the interplay between individual and collective spiritualities, or “le spirituel” and “spiritualité,” in New France. Papers may focus on, but are not limited to, the following aspects of this relation:
•      Material (objects, places of worship, relics)
•      Liturgical (sacraments, rites, festivals, processions)
•      Discursive (literary and epistolary production, memoires, sermons)
•      Institutional (creation and maintenance of religious orders, congregations, and communities)
•      Theological (formation of doctrine, polemics)
•      Mystical (relationship with God, the soul, the quest for spiritual perfection)
•      Civic (foundation and management of towns, buildings, and public spaces)
•      Geographic (circulation and transformation of ideas and practices across time and space)
•      Historical (heritage and patrimony, traces and effects of colonial spiritualities on the following centuries)

So as to prioritize reflection and feedback, each twenty-minute presentation will be followed by a discussion with the other participants. Paper proposals of one page or less (including the author’s biographical information) should be sent to the following email address by January 4, 2016:

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