Call for Papers: Christianity and Racemaking in the Early Modern Atlantic World. King's College London, event 13th September 2023, deadline April 14th

Rebecca Taite's picture
Call for Papers
April 14, 2023
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies, Race Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

Keynote speakers:

  • Dennis Austin Britton, author of Becoming Christian: Race, Reformation, and Early Modern English Romance
  • Heather Miyano Kopelson, author of Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic


Deadline for proposals: Friday 14th April 2023


The organisers warmly invite proposals for 20-minute papers which explore the relationship between race and religion in the Atlantic World broadly defined, with a particular focus on how Christianity (in theory and in practice) informed the construction and reification of racial difference in this vast and varied region.


In recent decades, race has been firmly established as a significant category and rich site of analysis in the early modern world. Religion is an essential part of this story. Christian doctrine was the lens through which European explorers, colonizers, and slaveholders understood somatic and cultural difference and, subsequently, the means by which they justified their violent and extractive practices, including the institution of slavery. At the same time, indigenous Americans and Afro-descended people were converting (willingly or otherwise) to Christianity, and, as various scholars have demonstrated, using the principles of spiritual equality and universal Christendom to push back against their subjugation. The existence of black and indigenous confraternities, and the veneration of black saints, likewise offered a means to challenge the associations between racialised identity and reprobation, allowing these groups to lay a claim to full participation in spiritual and social life. 


In this one-day conference, we will explore the complex relationship between religion and race from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. Topics for discussion might include:


  • Theological approaches to human difference, their expression in art and literature, and their impact in practice
  • Racial tropes in devotional art and literature: black saints, black icons, etc
  • The (imagined) relationship between bloodlines and religion
  • Confessionalisation and the fashioning of national/racial identities
  • The doctrine of universal Christendom; its affordances and limitations
  • Colonial encounters: evangelisation, conversion, and missionary endeavours 
  • Religious practices among enslaved people and the African diaspora
  • The histories of indigenous and black confraternities


We hope this will be a truly interdisciplinary event, and welcome papers which explore how these ideas and practices were represented in the art, literature, and material culture of the period.


We anticipate that papers will be delivered in person and streamed online. Flights and accommodation will be provided for all speakers. Additional support to facilitate access may be provided if required.


Please send abstracts (200 words), accompanied by a paper title and a brief biographical statement (50-100 words), to Enquiries about the conference can be directed to the same address. The deadline for submission is Friday 14th April 2023 and we will be in touch with all applicants shortly thereafter.

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