What is a Christian Man ?
Commitments and Masculinities in Europe from the Nineteenth Century to the Present
Workshop organized by the research axis 6 ‘Gender and Europe’ of the LabEx EHNE
To take place in Paris, 11th and 12th June 2018.
What are the ties between masculinities, religious practices and political commitments in Europe from the nineteenth century up to the present day ? A close analysis of men’s religious commitments will aid our understanding of both the politics and the construction of masculinities. These commitments take place in both private and public space, while men’s religious role within the family – hitherto little explored by historians – can also provide a new setting for historical analysis of masculine religiosity.
Male Political Commitments and Religious Beliefs
French historiography has emphasized the secularization of society since the French Revolution where politics gained to the disadvantage of religion. It is usually assumed that, as religion in Europe became ‘feminized’, men disengaged from religious practice (Fouilloux, 1995). At the same time, political history has revealed how anticlericalism became a vehicle for men to assert freedom of thought and democratic values in opposition to feminized religions controlled by clergymen with troubled masculinities (Healy, 2001). The ‘anticlerical man’ has become a historiographical commonplace (Lalouette, 2001).
While historians of women and gender have questioned the politicization of women, considering whether religious mobilizations were a response to their exclusion from the political and public sphere, few works have dealt with men’s simultaneous religious and political commitments (e.g. Harrison, 2014). Yet studies of Germany, Spain and Northern Europe have revealed that the configurations of religion, politics and gender vary between countries. Thus, an intersectional approach to masculinities, religion and politics on a European scale will enable us to overcome the limitations and specificities of national approaches.
Religious Practices and Masculinities
Taking for granted that men drifted away from religious practice, historiography often forgets how heavily such assumptions depend on statistics of attendance at Sunday mass. However, Sunday attendance is just one among many religious practices: processions or pilgrimages continued to attract a much more mixed group of participants, while there were also devotions or spiritual practices mainly endorsed by men, such as the Sacred Heart in Belgium (Van Osselaer, 2013). Other political or social commitments could become spaces where men defended religious values and ideas, just as we know that women invested some religious practices with political meaning (Della Sudda, 2007). Are there practices in which Christian men engaged as both religious and political commitments? Such an approach could also shed light on the continuum between male and female political mobilizations.
Historians often portray the working class as highly dechristianized, while the upper classes have a distinct masculinity fostered in charity circles (Brejon de Lavergnée). We would like to mobilize an intersectional approach that incorporates class and gender alongside religion to analyse what it means to be a Christian man as a peasant, a worker, a bourgeois or an aristocrat. To what extent could religion transcend class difference to become something shared and relevant to male identity in general?
Paper proposals could treat one or more of the following issues:
- Political commitment and religious identity: in several European countries, religion became an element in the definition of national identity, for example Anglicanism in the British Empire or Lutheranism in Prussia. Consequently, democratization and political participation does not systematically lead to anticlerical masculinities. How are modern masculinities defined in countries where political participation is compatible with religious belonging? On the other hand, in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, does religion become a particular place where menseek refuge, or a form to resistance?
- The gender of atheism, agnosticism and anticlericalism: Distance from the Church runs a wide span, from a simple loss of personal faith through to open war against the clergy. A gendered approach to these attitudes would enrich our understanding of the various forms of estrangement from religious institutions. On the other hand, does the violence of anticlerical discourse strengthen men’s political and religious identity?
- Lay and religious masculinities at war: Wars and military conflicts are crisis times prone to define anew gender identities and political belongings. In France, comradeship at the front created a male fraternity that overcame differences between civilians and the clergy who were hitherto forbidden to carry arms. In civil and resistance wars, are clergymen ordinary men among others? Is religious belonging compatible with fighting and military obedience? On the other hand, how can religious discourse legitimate fighting?
- Christian husbands and fathers: As home and family became increasingly valued compared to religious orders, how did Christian men consider their role as husbands and fathers? How important are discourses about paternity and marital life in the self-definition of Christian men ? To what extent is home a politicised place at the turn of the twentieth century?
- The gender of religious emotions, beliefs and practices: In the wake of history of emotions, we would like to question the relationship between gender and devotional practices. Nineteenth-century religion, more centred on love and marital piety, insists on an affective relationship to God. How did men engage in this kind of piety and devotional practices, mainly considered as ‘feminine’? To what extent does religion create different norms of lay masculinity?
Organisation of the conference
The workshop will be held in Paris on the 11th and 12th June 2018. Presentations should last 30min, and be held in French or English.
How to submit a proposal :
Paper proposals (half a page) including sources and methodological approach, should be sent alongside a short biography to Anthony Favier (firstname.lastname@example.org), Anne Jusseaume (email@example.com) and Caroline Muller (firstname.lastname@example.org ) before 1 March 2018. Candidates will be informed of the scientific committee’s decision by the end of March 2018.
Anthony Favier – Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône Alpes (LARHRA)
Anne Jusseaume – LabEx EHNE, UMR Sirice/Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po (CHSP)
Caroline Muller – LARHRA/Centre de Recherche en Histoire Culturelle (CERHIC)
Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée (Maître de conférences HDR à Sorbonne Université – Centre d’Histoire du XIXe siècle),
Bruno Dumons (Directeur de recherche, CNRS – LARHRA),
Julie Le Gac (Maîtresse de conférences à Paris Nanterre, ISP/LabEx EHNE),
Manuela Martini (Professeure d’histoire moderne, Université Lyon 2 – LARHRA),
Florence Rochefort (Chargée de recherche au CNRS, GSRL – EPHE/CNRS),
Régis Schlagdenhauffen (Maître de conférences à l’EHESS – IRIS/LabEx EHNE)
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