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History of spirituality, devotion and mysticism.

This project studies the history of religious bodies and draws on insights from the history of pain, gender history and the history of emotions and senses. Including also praxeological approaches and paying special to the material culture of European Catholicisms, it covers three research strands: (1) Catholic perceptions of pain in the nineteenth and twentieth century - a period during which means for pain management and alleviation multiplied and thus offered an alternative to the (willing) acceptance of pain as something that had a divine purpose and could lead towards salvation. By focusing on the practices and narratives in different Catholic settings, where both negative and positive takes on pain circulated, we can see what experiences of pain could have a religious meaning and who could "suffer". By doing so the sharp differentiation between religious and medical views in the nineteenth century can be reviewed and the history of Catholic pain will regain some of its complexity. (2) The project approaches the afterlife of the body as a 'religious object', grounded in its materiality while transcending 'matter', in order to examine 1) the mentalities and practices that instil the dead body with religious significance (how did people interact with the dead body?); 2) wider historical shifts in the ways in which religious communities dealt with the dead body (this includes issues of belonging and ownership; debates about selfhood, agency and corporeality). Our hypothesis is that the meaning of the 'religious' body varied according to the historical contexts, local contexts and the divergent contexts within and between religious orders, and that the strategies (beliefs, practices, material culture) used to imbue the corpse with religious meaning changed because of the interdependent nature of the category 'religious' and the changing views on the body within Catholicism. (3) The reception of the remains of early Christian martyrs in the nineteenth century. More in particular, the focus is on the 28 remains of catacomb martyrs that travelled to Belgium after the revolution in order to fill the void that the destruction of many a relic had caused. Particular attention will go their material presence and the representation of the martyr's pain and sacrifice. In addition, (4) an exhibit and city walk focusing on the heart in Christian culture, will combine insights from these three research strands.
Date:1 Oct 2020 →  Today
Disciplines:Cultural history, European history, Modern and contemporary history, History of religions, churches and theology