asecs 2013 cfp: religious toleration

After the exchanges we had last spring about alternative formats for ASECS presentations, I was pleased to see this CFP by Laura Stevens and Patrick Mello for their proposed Religious Toleration panel at ASECS 2013:

The panel topic is “Religious Toleration,” (#216 on the CFP) and we are structuring it as a “closed colloquium.” Basically, instead of having a few scholars present their work to an audience, we want to gather a group of 10-12 scholars working on this topic to have a highly focused conversation, perhaps leading to collaborative projects and ongoing dialogue. Participants will submit short position papers about three weeks before the conference and arrive having read each other’s papers. There probably will also be some preliminary communications over email before the conference.

This is a format that other academic societies such as the Modernist Studies Association have been using for a while, and we thought we would try it out for ASECS. If it worked well for ASECS, our hope was that other members might propose occasional colloquia on other topics in future years. The consensus in these other organizations seems to be that the conversational dynamic of these sessions becomes disrupted when there are more than a very few non-participant observers. We therefore are closing this session to those who are not participating in it and have not done all the reading beforehand. We can include up to two observers (if, for example, there are ASECS members who would like to see how the format works), but we ask that you contact us about this before the conference. Observers also are required to stay for the entire session, so that their arrival and departure don’t disrupt the discussion.

I’m interested to see how this works, because I’ve seen more and more workshop-style formats at other conferences, and I think this could be hugely beneficial for those doing research in this area.  It could become a kind of conference-within-a-conference, or what in pedagogy we call a “fishbowl.”  This has the potential to open up new and unaccustomed forms of dialogue and collaboration in a conference setting.  I certainly hope that Stevens and Mello will find others intrigued by this possibility.

And now, here’s the CFP itself:

216. ―Religious Toleration Colloquium (Closed Colloquium) Patrick Mello AND Laura Stevens, English Dept., U. of Tulsa, 800 S. Tucker Dr. Tulsa, OK 74104; Tel: (918) 631-2859; Fax: (918) 631-3033; E-mail: and

The inscription of toleration into English law in 1689 has long been hailed by scholars of eighteenth-century history, politics, and culture as fundamental to the rise of mercantilism, the development of Enlightenment thought, the formation of the United Kingdom, and the foundation of the United States. In recent years, however, the inadequacy of such a Whig narrative has become increasingly apparent for the study of toleration within Britain. Moreover, work on this topic has been flourishing in several disciplines and areas both outside and across the Anglophone world.

This colloquium is intended to foster a rigorous and long-lasting critical dialogue among scholars interested in reexamining the significance of toleration and religious difference in the eighteenth century from a variety of perspectives. Rather than featuring the results of individual research, this format will encourage scholars already working in this area to

undertake a collective assessment of the state of the field. Our central goal is to map religious toleration as a concept and as a category of analysis in the eighteenth century as well as in contemporary scholarship. Key questions to be addressed will include the following:

What counted as religious toleration in the eighteenth century? How did this term alter with its deployment across context and region, and with its attachment to different religious groups? How did debates over toleration inflect or intensify discussions of topics such as statecraft, class, colonialism, economy, gender and war?

When and how did cultural climates and individual attitudes of toleration exceed or fall short of codified forms of protection for religious freedom and diversity?

How has the study of religious toleration moved forward in various disciplines and in different geographical arenas of study? Where and how are we hindered or helped by interdisciplinary, transnational, or comparative approaches to this topic? What are the most important, fruitful, and challenging areas for future study?

Prospective participants are invited to submit 100-200 word statements describing their past or current work on this topic and outlining the central questions, issues, or concerns they wish to address in the colloquium.

Any other ASECS CFPs catching your eye?



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