Local, Regional and Global Constructions of Christianity: Religious Communication Networks, 1680 - 1830

Jul 12, 2007 - Jul 14, 2007

Conference at the GHI London | Conveners: Andreas Gestrich (GHI London), Gisela Mettele (GHI)


Call for Papers

The meaning and importance of communication networks for the constitution of groups, communities, organizations and other kinds of social systems has increasingly attracted the attention of historical scholarship. Students of early modern transcultural relations, economic and political developments, and the Enlightenment often focus on networks of communication. Although their importance is recognized, systematic and wide-scale comparisons of different communicative connections and their synthesis into larger metanarratives are still not in sight. Religious studies, in particular, have been affected only marginally by concepts of communicative connectedness. This is partly due to the dominance of self-descriptions of religious systems in religious studies.

Self-descriptions generally stress differences between religious systems and therefore deflect the scholars’ attention from the relations between them, from the forms these relations take and their developments. Moreover, self-descriptions hinder comparisons of the structures of religious systems and their modes of emergence because they emphasize the uniqueness of each individual system. Finally, because self-descriptions are generally based on fundamental assumptions concerning the inherent internal characteristics of religious systems, varieties of forms and functions of internal connectivity are subject only to superficial and unsystematic observation.

This conference will examine how local, regional, and global communication networks construct religious systems and semantics of various kinds during the long eighteenth century. We welcome papers that cover any Christian denomination or confession on any continent. The conference aims at sketching first time preliminary answers to two questions, one relating to the results of historical research and one to its methods. Which religious systems and semantics emerge from modes of communicative connectivity? How can historical phenomena be observed as religious communication networks?

The construction of religious systems and semantics in communication networks will be approached in four different dimensions. 1) The construction of religious individuals, groups, communities, and movements as the function of communication networks. 2) The emergence of religious institutions, organizations, and bureaucracies from communication networks. 3) The determination, description and occupation of religious times and spaces in the processes of communicative connectedness. 4) The definition and use of media, forms of interaction, and infrastructures in communication networks.

Proposals be sent to Alexander Pyrges (alexanderpyrges@gmx.de) until February 25, 2005.