The Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program invites applications for PhD stipend scholarships affiliated with the exciting new large-scale research project ‘Religious Mobilities: Medieval and Early Modern Europe and the World.’

We are seeking applications from students who are interested in developing projects engaging the broad theme of mobility and the links or entanglements between Europe and the wider world. Proposals should relate to one of the Religious Mobilities project’s three strands:

1. Pathways of Power focuses on organisations and structures, and on their capacity to cultivate, manage, and restrict mobility. It considers questions such as: how individuals navigated networks and hierarchies in pursuit of their own mobile goals (social mobility, the acquisition of artefacts, the propagation of the faith, etc); how individuals charged with responsibility within religious institutions bridged distance, especially as they moved between global contexts and places of origin, how they devised strategies for sustaining growth in new areas, and how they retained flexibility to scaling up or down their endeavours as the need arose; how individuals used organised religious structures as vehicles for personal advancement, and how the movement of people through structures affected working practices, corporate ideologies, and senses of self. This strand also considers unwanted mobility: how some groups and individuals used religious apparatuses to control or limit ability to cross social, racial, gender, or cultural boundaries. This includes the responses of those subjected to such impositions, and their ability to adapt to imposed restraints on mobility.

2. Mobile Matter focuses on the mobility of materials and objects of religion. We are interested in how unrefined substances traversed the globe, from germs to raw materials, as well as the movement of objects, information, and technologies through networks strongly inflected by religious exchange and movement (relics and other exotic objects; Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic books; paper making and printing; mission and pilgrimage; etc.). Expanding the project’s wider emphasis on motion across scales, this strand will examine movements at multiple levels – global, regional, and local – as well as competing, complementary, and superimposed beliefs, concepts, symbols, values, conventions, social practices, and patterns that conditioned movement. Of special concern is the motility and plasticity of objects themselves, the physicality of things and processes, and technologies for harnessing and constraining motion itself, as well as how physical properties, manipulation, and change were known and conceptualized. Included in this are the social and cultural settings of objects and conceptualisations of objects, the gendering of material culture, and transitions of physical states between the living and the dead, the moving and the static, and between environment, soul, and body in affective and aesthetic experience.

3. Crossroads of Communication focuses on the nature of pre-modern communication in religious contexts. We are interested in how ideas and information, like material objects, took on new meanings when they entered new environments, how these environments transformed ideas and information, and how individuals and communities understood such change. We are also interested in the infrastructure that enabled ideas and information to go mobile, in terms of both media and networks. Networks will be examined at multiple scales, from the large and schematic (such as monastic administrative networks) to the specific and the specialised (such as urban confraternities or secret societies). We are also interested in the incentives that encouraged historical actors to authorise, control, or promote the circulation of existing ideas and information, for example through religious orders, epistolary networks, the book trade, and censorship, and how such incentives often represented potent admixtures of motives – theological and mercenary, literary and political, or otherwise utopian and expedient. We are interested in how literary genres and canons and special traits and purposes, such as the mediation of transcendence, encouraged or constrained communication as normative or aberrant. Finally, the strand addresses the crucial question of the relationships of sensory and affective styles of communication to the circulation of ideas and information. How, for example, was the transfer of news altered by its communication through sonnet exchange, sung liturgy, preaching, broadside ballad, or relic procession across this period of radical religious change?

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements of ACU's PhD program, and possess a prior academic record that demonstrates some foundational knowledge of the sources, methods, and languages relevant to the geography and chronology of the proposed project, as well as potential to contribute to the intellectual life of the MEMS team.

Learn more about our research interests, publications and activities online here. For further information, please contact the MEMS Program Director, Professor Megan Cassidy-Welch.

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