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N° 29, 2022 – Shameful memory.

European Christians faced with their embarrassing pasts (from the Middle Ages to the present day)

Collective memories seem to focus primarily on events that are perceived positively by the memory-bearing groups, particularly in the context of Christian communities. Testifying to the fulfilment of a providential plan or to the faithfulness of believers to God in spite of difficulties, the facts memorised are generally honourable. However, some acts committed by Christians may embarrass their co-religionists years or centuries later, such as the St. Bartholomew's Day, denounced in 2015 by Pope Francis, more than four centuries after the celebration of the slaughter by Gregory XIII. The way in which the acts of the fathers in the faith are viewed can also vary within the same period according to social groups, as Philippe Joutard has shown. Shame about past episodes is therefore a historical phenomenon, with varied origins and felt differently over time and according to the actors.

This emotion aroused by a fact deemed dishonourable is primarily individual but can also, like memory, be studied on a group level when it is widely shared. The collective shame felt in the face of cumbersome episodes in the community's past may leave only faint traces, which makes their study more complex and explains why they have, on the whole, remained outside the scope of research. This study day, centred on Christianity in Europe (and its colonial extensions), aims to explore them over the long term, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Proposals for papers may be submitted along the following lines (which are not exclusive).

Thematic areas

1. Approaching shameful memories

The importance of forgetting, omissions or taboos surrounding embarrassing facts of the past raises the question of sources and appropriate methods for accessing shameful memories since the Middle Ages. The papers may highlight the diversity of possible approaches depending on the periods in which the memories are studied.

2. Shameful events and actors

In addition to the violence committed by co-religionists in the past (wars, massacres, forced conversions, etc.), other events may give rise to shame, such as the abandonment of faith, or even naivety in the face of violence. Furthermore, who has committed shameful acts and who is ashamed? Is only part of the religious community being shamed? Is the expression of shame a means of social distinction?

3. Dealing with shameful pasts

The contributions will reflect on the means used to perpetuate oblivion and the rhetoric used to arrange the facts to the advantage of the bearers of memory. Contributions may also examine requests for forgiveness and their effects at different scales: does the recognition of past events by representatives of two faiths improve interfaith coexistence?

Proposal Selection Committee

Céline BORELLO, Professor of Modern History, Le Mans University, TEMOS (UMR 9016 CNRS)

Laurent ROPP, PhD student in modern and contemporary history, Le Mans University, TEMOS (UMR 9016 CNRS)

Manuscripts are expected to be submitted by December 2021 at the latest

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