CfP: “Religion as a Colonial Concept in Early Modern History (Africa, America, Asia)”

Religion as a Colonial Concept in Early Modern History (Africa, America, Asia)

Call for papers for a special issue of Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni to be published in 2016

The concept of religion transformed during Early Modern History, both in the “inner” debate generated by the collapse of Christianity, and in “outer” contexts, following a reaction to contacts with other cultures (Strenski 2006). Meant as a thematic section of our journal, the present call for papers aims to investigate “religion” as a modern concept and a colonial dispositif (Fitzgerald 2000, Masuzawa 2005). The modern concept of religion inspired different processes of “spiritual conquest” (Ricard 1933) – in discursive and practical terms – within the dynamics of the “mondialization” produced in the age of discoveries (Gruzinski 2004). The theme section will investigate, through a comparative methodology, the historical resemblances among simultaneous colonial processes taking place in the Americas (Bernand – Gruzinski 1988, Duviols 1971, and MacCormack 1991), Africa (Chidester 1996), and Asia (Županov 2005). Critical reflection on historical analogies and differences will contribute to a global mapping of the uses of the concept of religion during Early Modern History. We aim to provide, on the one hand, an archaeology of the general modern concept of religion, and, on the other, a genealogy of religious studies (Borgeaud 2004, Stroumsa 2010), as a result of the international academic efforts towards a description, comparison, classification and explanation of religion. We expectthe authors to investigate the “invention” of religion as a “generalized” concept. Critical voices making use of colonial sources, such as missionary works, travel writings, etc., would be particularly welcome, as well as contributions aimed to emphasize a “connected history of religions” (Subrahmanyam 2005).

BERNAND, C., GRUZINSKI, S. (1988). De l’idolâtrie: une archéologie des sciences religieuses. Paris, Editions du Seuil.
BORGEAUD, P. (2004). Aux origines de l’histoire des religions. Paris, Seuil.
CHIDESTER, D. (1996). Savage systems colonialism and comparative religion in southern Africa. Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia.
DUVIOLS, P. (1971). La lutte contre les religions autochtones dans le Pérou colonial ; “l’extirpation de l’idolâtrie,” entre 1532 et 1660. Lima, Institut français d’études andines.
FITZGERALD, T. (2000). The ideology of religious studies. New York, Oxford University Press.
GRUZINSKI, S. (2004). Les quatre parties du monde: histoire d’une mondialisation. Paris, La Martinière.
MACCORMACK, S. (1991). Religion in the Andes: vision and imagination in early colonial Peru. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.
MASUZAWA, T. (2005). The invention of world religions, or, How European universalism was preserved in the language of pluralism. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
RICARD, R. (1933). La “conquête spirituelle” du Mexique. Essai sur l’apostolat et les méthodes missionaires des ordres mendiants en Nouvelle-Espagne de 1523-24 à 1572. Paris, Institut d’ethnologie.
STRENSKI, I. (2006). Thinking about religion: an historical introduction to theories of religion. Malden, MA, Blackwell Pub.
STROUMSA, G.G. (2010). A new science: the discovery of religion in the Age of Reason. Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press.
SUBRAHMANYAM, S. (2005). Explorations in connected history. New Delhi, Oxford University Press.
ŽUPANOV, I.G. (2005). Missionary tropics: the Catholic frontier in India, 16th-17th centuries. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.

Theme Section: issue 2016 Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni (ISSN: 0393-8417).
Abstract (max. 500 words) to Sergio Botta ( and Marianna Ferrara ( by May 15, 2015 (paper title, short profile of the author, curriculum vitae, email address, phone)
Paper acceptance: will be communicated by email within May 30, 2015 Final papers’ submission: December 31, 2015.

Scientific board: Sergio Botta, Marianna Ferrara, Alessandro Saggioro

(I received the above CfP from a colleague and friend, Marianna Ferrara).

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *