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

Successful applicants to these PhD scholarships will possess a prior academic record that demonstrates foundational knowledge of the sources, methods, and languages relevant to the geography and chronology of the proposed project and the aptitude to contribute to the intellectual life of our team. Members of the MEMS program are available to consult with prospective students on project proposals that engage the theme of mobility and the links or entanglements between Europe and the wider world, within one of three project strands: Pathways of Power, Mobile Matter, and Crossroads of Communication.

Pathways of Power focuses on organisations and structures, and on their capacity to cultivate, manage, and restrict mobility. We are interested in 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. We are also interested in 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. We are interested in 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. Finally, the strand 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.

Mobile Matter focuses on materials and objects of religion as they moved across the medieval and early modern world. 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.

Crossroads of Communication focuses on the nature of pre-modern communication in religious contexts. Pre-modern communications depended on people. Information had to travel with a person or in objects carried by a person across boundaries.
But ideas and information also obeyed certain logics in their capacity to transcend their points of origin, their localities and their messengers. In this strand, 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. Learn more about our research interests, publications and activities online here. For further information, please contact the MEMS Program Director, Christopher Ocker.

The IRCI’s MEMS program is a dynamic, supportive, internationally engaged research

community based primarily at ACU’s St Patrick’s Campus in Melbourne, with activities also on ACU’s Rome Campus. As a student, you will be supported by a collaborative research community that offers reading groups, seminars, professional development, and events across the programs of IRCI and ACU’s Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy. MPhil and PhD students in the IRCI’s MEMS program have the opportunity to be fully immersed in the intellectual life of the institute, work closely with supervisors, draw extensively on the talents of the MEMS team, participate in the program’s seminars, workshops, and special lectures, contribute to our international collaborations, and pursue research opportunities with our international partners and in relevant archives.

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