Early Modern Conversions

Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies

earlymodernconversions.com

Call for Postdoctoral Fellow:

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Studies of Early Modern Europe

The Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas at McGill University seeks a Postdoctoral Fellow in Studies in Early Modern Europe with a demonstrable research interest in the public life of arts and ideas. The Fellow will join a research project—Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies: earlymodernconversions.com.

Early Modern Conversions is a five-year, international, interdisciplinary project (2013-2018) that studies how early modern Europeans changed their confessional, social, political, and even sexual identities. These subjective changes were of a piece with transformations in their world— the geopolitical reorientation of Europe in relation with the Ottoman Empire and the Americas; the rethinking of Latin Antiquity; changes in the built environment; the reimagining of God. The research is growing together with a History Visualization Lab able to track the growth of multiple conversional forms, both geographically and historically. Among the partners taking part in the Conversions project are the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (Cambridge), the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Headquartered at the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI), McGill University, and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the project is developing an historical understanding that will also enlighten modern debates about corporeal, sexual, psychological, political, and spiritual kinds of transformation.

The start date for the year-long position is September 1, 2016. There is the possibility of a one-year renewal. Candidates will have a PhD in one of the fields represented in the project, a research program relevant to the central interests of the project, and a demonstrable interest in public life of works of art and intellect. The Fellow will work on his or her own research program, collaborate with colleagues in an interdisciplinary context, and take part in the development of the project’s program of public outreach, education, and exchange. He or she will serve on the project’s Education and Public Exchange Working Committee and might have opportunities to teach courses in his or her area of specialty. The fellowship stipend is $40,000 per annum.

Application Instructions: Applications, consisting of a cover letter, CV, and an article-length writing sample should be sent to Paul Yachnin, Director, Early Modern Conversions, at conversions@mcgill.ca. Please arrange to have three letters of reference sent to the same address; referees should include the name of the candidate in the subject line of their emails. The deadline to submit all application materials is July 15, 2016.

 

 

Early Modern Conversions is one of our ongoing research and public exchange projects. It is a partnership between IPLAI and the Faculty of Arts, and involves other faculties at McGill, as well as other universities across Canada and across the globe.

Whether it is an awakening to a new faith, an induction into a religious cult or radical political movement, a sexual transformation, or the re-engineering of human beings as bio-mechanical “cyborgs,” conversion is a source of fascination and a focus of anxiety for people in the 21st century. We do not know if such conversions are inward turnings toward a better life or monstrous impositions upon unwitting victims. We cannot fathom how individuals or groups of people are able to convert to a new politics, religion, or way of life all at once and quite completely, as if they had never been other than what they have become. We would not want to part with the freedom of self-determination embodied in conversion, which seems to be its purest expression, even though we are troubled by what radical transformations tell us about the instability and changeability of human beings.

The Conversions project will develop an historical understanding that will enlighten modern debates about corporeal, sexual, psychological, political and spiritual kinds of transformation. The project will study how early modern Europeans changed their confessional, social, political, and even sexual identities. These subjective changes were of a piece with transformations in their world—the geopolitical reorientation of Europe in light of emerging relations with Islam and the Americas; the rethinking and the translation of the knowledge of Greek and Latin Antiquity, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; changes in and changing uses of the built environment; the reimagining of God.

Indeed, early modern people changed the world and themselves in ways that have been lost to view on account of the discipline-boundedness of much recent study of the past. By examining forms of conversion across disciplinary boundaries as a network of movements and transformations, we will develop an understanding of religious, cultural, and cognitive change that will provide a new account of early modernity and a foundation for a renewed understanding of the present age. The project will make use of new ideas about extended mind and cognitive ecologies. Cognitive ecologies are, according to team members John Sutton and Evelyn Tribble, “the multidimensional contexts in which we remember, feel, think, sense, communicate, imagine, and act, often collaboratively, on the fly, and in rich ongoing interaction with our environments.”

Led by McGill’s Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI), the project is partnering with eighteen research centres in Canada, USA, England, and Australia. The partners will work together toward a rethinking of early modern Europe as an “age of conversion.” The project will involve younger scholars, other scholars, artists, and members of the public.  The four artistic partners will develop creative programs in collaboration with the project and take part in workshops that will inspire audiences to think creatively and historically about the possibility that we might be entering a new great age of conversion. The project’s ability to engage with multiple public audiences will depend first of all on the coherence of the story it has to tell about conversion as an agent of historical change. The artistic partners will be crucial to the coherence and appeal of that story, especially since the performing arts are themselves forms of historical research, experiential ways of understanding the lines of connection between the past and the world of modernity.

This project is supported by a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

For more information, contact Project Manager Dr. Stephen Wittek