Call for papers: Perceptions of Gender in Early Modern Radical Religious Communities

Participation, Text, Communication, and Reception

The purpose of this seminar is to elucidate and discuss perceptions of gender in radical Christian movements in the Early Modern Era. We wish to bring together researchers from different parts of Europe, thereby pursuing a transnational and trans-confessional approach. The aim is to investigate similarities and differences in narrative patterns, rhetorical strategies, and practices, which surround alternative perceptions of gender in radical religious communities. 

Early modern scholarship has long had an interest in women's participation in religious communities. Especially in radical religious communities, such as the Quakers and radical Pietists, women were not only numerous, but they also often took leading roles as organisers, prophets, or mystics with immediate connections to a divine being.

Furthermore, in recent years there has been an increasing focus on how women and men developed coherent theological interpretations, where femininity and different notions of gender were prominent and provided real alternatives to established theology. Strategic readings of the Gospel, which historicised passages that restricted women and conversely universalized female-affirmative passages, need further investigations. 

Presentations can address one or more of the following topics and questions: 

Participation: “Radical” is a modern term, that today is often used to designate believers, who in the Early Modern Era were nicknamed enthusiasts, Quakers, separatists, atheists etc. What do we mean when we use the term, and which groups and convictions do we understand as radical? To what extent did men and women, who were marginalized by state churches and official theology, establish contact across countries and confessions? Did radical religious communities emulate discourses on gender from other religions or other denominations? What discourses and practices were prevalent in excluding women from the public sphere, and how did radical dissenters address and refute these? What happened when religious assemblies became institutionalised?

Text and theology: How did radical religious men and women explain Biblical passages that exhorted women to silence and submission, and which did they identify as female-affirming or androgynous passages? What was the role of mysticism as a literary genre in this context?

Communication: In which ways did women claim authority and what role did dreams, visions and bodily practices play in reinforcing their claim to election? Did they develop a shared language for the purpose of opening dialogues with others?

Reception: How did moderate religious communities and the wider public respond to these developments? Is it possible to detect patterns of accusations? Conversely, to what extent were radical religious theology and practices endorsed and adopted by established religious communities?

We invite researchers in any domain to submit proposals including an abstract of 200-300 words to the organizer, Juliane Engelhardt. With your abstract, please submit a short biographical statement. The seminar will be held fully in person.

The seminar is sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundation and the Independent Research Fund, Denmark