Upcoming Paper: “Religious Regeneration: Political Theologies of Belonging in the Americas and Europe during the Age of Revolutions”

I’m excited to fly out to Charleston, one of my favorite American cities, this Thursday for the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era conference. This is my first time to this particular conference, but I’ve heard great things, and the program is packed with smart people and interesting papers. If you’re gonna be out there, shoot me a message. I’ll be delivering a paper Friday morning at 8:30, titled, “Religious Regeneration: Political Theologies of Belonging in the Americas and Europe during the Age of Revolutions.” It is related, in part, to my nationalisms book, but uses my previous research as a springboard for new historiographical reflection. Much of it is new, so I’m excited to get feedback and critiques. Below is my abstract:

The Age of Revolutions posed as many problems as it did solutions. The unsettling of traditional political allegiances, the reaffirmation of other forms of political sovereignty, and the realignment of political understandings brought immense change to diverse elements of cultural practices, especially in the wake of the American Revolution. Scholars have successfully demonstrated the impact of these changes on the religious climate of nations like the United States, France, Haiti, and Britain, as each context witnessed both violent rupture and conservative backlash. Anglicanism, Catholicism, and America’s democratized denominations reacted to new realities. Faced with a new world, religionists were forced to adapt their messages in accordance to new expectations.

Yet what is often overlooked is the role that religion played in these political transitions, rather than merely reacting to them. How did religious thought influence concepts of national bodies, federal power, and civic allegiance? This paper examines broader themes that transcend national boundaries and can be found throughout various revolutionary moments. From America’s providentialist rhetoric concerning military force to France’s radical appropriation of Catholic educative networks, and from Britain’s restrained Anglican forms of ecclesiastical control to Haiti’s conservative restriction of religious expression, competing political theologies provided tools with which to construct new forms of national belonging.

This study will touch on a handful of commonalities and divergences between 1776 and 1804, grounding each example within its particular cultural context while simultaneously noting the broader threads of transnational transformation that was taking place. I’m especially intent to demonstrate Haiti’s religious imaginations importance to these larger debates. At the heart of these discussions was a tension over how religious could both unite and divide political communities in an age of democratic rupture.

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