The Secular Sacred: Emotions of Belonging and the Perils of Nation and Religion in Western Europe

International Symposium
The Secular Sacred: Emotions of Belonging and the Perils of Nation and Religion in Western Europe
Date: 10 and 11 November 2016
Venue: The Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam

The past decades have witnessed a spectacular rise of both nationalist and religious sentiments across Europe. Indeed, feelings of home, emotional appeals to community and even the ‘people’ (Volk) are entwined with and fueled by the increasing presence of religion in European public spheres, long considered to have been thoroughly secularized. New nationalists and increasingly the continent’s political and cultural elites frame the presence of religion as a threat to the ‘secular’ character of the nation. At the same time, religious ‘roots’, including what is now indicated as ‘Judeo-Christian’ roots, are mobilized as cultural identities. The nation’s secularism has turned sacred, as it were. In this volatile context, both ‘religion’ and ‘secularism’ have become emotionally charged.

The symposium brings together scholars working on issues of nationalism and religion to develop a postsecular approach investigating in tandem the continued and changing presences of religion and nationalism in Europe.

The categories of religion and secularism are categories of practice. They are not fixed, but constantly changing in often highly contested political and social arena’s. Indeed, both categories are frequently mobilized in political projects. For instance, over the past decades nationalists in the Netherlands have framed groups of Dutch citizens with a migrant background (the so-called allochtones) as ‘religious’ and hence ‘backward’, pitting them against a ‘secularized’ and ‘progressive’ but also ‘Judeo-Christian’ Dutch majority. At the same time, forms of religion – Christian, Islamic, and other forms – have continued to gain ground while becoming entangled with identity politics. Not seeking to define the secular or the religious, the symposium will focus on the boundary work through which both categories are being defined, contested, and re-made in social and political practice.

These shifting qualities of secularism and religion call for a praxeological approach, paying particular attention to the involvement of the body, the emotions and the senses or, more specifically, to ‘embodied practices’, ‘sensational forms’ and sense perception (aisthesis). Such an approach sheds light not only on how the nation and the sacred are mediated, but also on how they deeply take root in people, becoming all the more persuasive. At the same time, taking the established notions of habitus or bodily memory as a point of departure may provide us with a more detailed understanding of how practices may both reproduce and (temporarily) subvert the structures of power. How do such insights help us to understand the complexities involved in how a nation’s or a religion’s imaginaries resonate and may reinforce each other?

Invited speakers are: Jan-Willem Duyvendak, Irene Götz (Munich), Deborah Kapchan (New York), Birgit Meyer, Alex van Stipriaan and Jojada Verrips. Speakers from the Meertens Institute include Markus Balkenhol, Sophie Elpers, Ernst van den Hemel, Peter-Jan Margry, Herman Roodenburg, and Irene Stengs.

Please register by email to Irene Stengs (irene.stengs@meertens.knaw.nl ). Details of the symposium’s program will be announced shortly at on the Meertens Institute website.

 

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ACCESS Seminar on cultural specificity of embodied emotions and smell

The Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotion and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) organizes a seminar on the:

Cultural specificity of embodied emotions and smell

In this seminar Zhen Pan and Caro Verbeek address the question of the human universality and historical specificity of emotional expression and the experience of smell. Please be welcome to hear, see and inhale!

De reuk, Cornelis Dusart, 1670 – 1704, engraving, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

De reuk, Cornelis Dusart, 1670 – 1704, engraving, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Place:                Meertens Instituut: Joan Muyskenweg 25, Amsterdam

Date:                 Tuesday 22 March 2016

Time:                15.00-17.00

Register:           Please register using the form below this announcement.

Entrance:          Free

Info:                 erika.kuijpers@vu.nl

Program:

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Compassion and emotions in the Early Modern period (Amsterdam, 6 november 2015)

On Friday the 6th of november 2015, the Stichting Vrouwengeschiedenis van de Vroegmoderne Tijd hosts a discussion session on the theme of Emotions in the Early Modern Period.

The history of emotions has been a focus of activity within the study of early modern cultural history. The Free University in Amsterdam currently hosts an exhibition on compassion in the early modern era. The programme of the session consists of a tour throuth the exhibition by Kristine Steenbergh, followed by two lectures by ACCESS-members Inger Leemans and Erika Kuijpers on their research into the topic.

The programme can be downloaded here. Participation is free, but registration with Lieke van Deinsen (l.vandeinsen@let.ru.nl) would be very much appreciated.

The programme and meeting are both in Dutch.

Lecture on Corpulence and the Emotions

On November 3, Professor Christopher E. Forth will present his research on the cultural history of fat in a lecture at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, entitled ‘Fat and Happy? Corpulence and the Emotions in the Modern West.’

The old English proverb ‘laugh and grow fat’ seems counter-intuitive to our modern outlook on corpulence. Implying that mirthful happiness is at once cause and effect of fleshy bodies, this bit of traditional wisdom flies in the face of contemporary beliefs that fatness is more likely to be symptomatic of unhappiness and desperation. Surveying a range of texts from antiquity to the present, this paper unpacks the complicated relationship between corpulence and the emotions in European culture. It proposes that our current skepticism about fatness and happiness partly reflects the inherently ambiguous ways in which ‘fat’ and ‘fattening’ have been understood in the West.

15.30-18.00 hrs in room 10A-20 in the Main Building of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105.

Poster Graduate lecture Chris Forth-01

Call for Papers: Compassion in early modern culture 1550-1700

VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 18-19 September 2015

This two-day international conference aims to bring together literary scholars, art historians, musicologists, and cultural historians to explore thinking about the experience as well as the social and political impact of compassion in early modern European culture. It seeks to combine two current approaches to the early modern passions: historical phenomenology on the one hand and the analysis of the role of compassion in the public sphere on the other. Sir Philip Sidney famously claimed political impact for the experience of compassion when he wrote that that the feelings of pity and fear aroused by tragedy could mollify the hearts of tyrants. Participants are invited to discuss which views on the experience of compassion existed in early modern Europe, and how the arousal of compassion in literature, theatres, art, sermons,  music, and elsewhere was thought to impact – or did impact – the public sphere.

Keynote speakers:

  • Katherine Ibbett (University College London)

  • Bruce R. Smith (University of Southern California)

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Emotion centre VU receives grant

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Body Maps of Emotions

The Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotions and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) has received a grant of €50.000 from the Netherlands e-Science Centre.

ACCESS, emotion-research centre at the faculty of Arts of the VU University in Amsterdam, has received the grant for their joint research project “Embodied Emotions: Mapping Bodily Expression of Emotions from a Historical Perspective”.

The bodily expressions of emotions are often condsidered to be culturally universal. With this project, Inger Leemans, Herman Roodenburg, Kristine Steenbergh and Erika Kuijpers aim to gain a better insight into the bodily experience of emotions in seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch plays, and compare this to 21st century body maps of emotions. Their hypothesis is that historical conceptions of the functioning of the body and the emotions may have been the basis for an alltogether different classification of (primary) emotions and for a different bodily experience of the emotions. In cooperation with the e-Science Centre, they will explore the different ways in which the Digital Humanities can be put to good use in the research into the expression of emotions in early modern plays.