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Translations, Transgressions, and Transformations: The Global Movement of Objects in Catholic Cultures

The Center for Research on Global Catholicism (CRGC) at Saint Louis University will host its biennial conference — Translations, Transgressions, and Transformations: The Global Movement of Objects in Catholic Cultures — Oct. 20-21, 2023, in St. Louis. 


SLU's Center for Research on Global Catholicism welcomes you to an international interdisciplinary conference that examines the cultural mobility of Catholicism through the physical movement of objects.

One of the hallmarks of Catholicism throughout its long history has been its inherent portability and its protean assimilation across the visual cultures of societies, peoples, and landscapes worldwide. Catholicism has entangled with cultures over time in such diverse ways that distinct innovations and transformations are readily on display through the arts and material culture at Carnevale in Italy, Día de los Muertos in Mexico, Celtic pilgrimage sites in Ireland, Candomblé healing rituals in Afro-Caribbean communities, the feast of the Black Nazarene in the Philippines, as well as countless other popular expressions.

Material objects, including refined artworks, textiles, books, and mundane, everyday objects, have long been central to encounters between Catholicism and local cultures. Diverse media of exchange can work to transfigure both Catholicism and local cultures in surprising and unpredictable ways. This conference brings leading scholars from various disciplines into conversation to break new ground and open new lines of inquiry into the translation, transgression and transformation of Catholicism as it has circulated globally across cultural spaces through the traffic and transfer of material cultures. 


Schedule and Information

All sessions and plenary addresses will be held in the Pere Marquette Gallery, DuBourg Hall, 221 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63103 (north campus). SLU's Campus Maps will help guide you through our easily walkable campus.

Visitors may park in the Laclede Parking Garage, a short walk from DuBourg Hall, located at 3602 Laclede Ave., or use on-street parking. 

Please find the schedule outlined below. Details will be added leading up to the event.

Friday, October 20, 2023

9-9:15 a.m. - Coffee
Coffee will be available for all attendees as they prepare for the first day of the conference.
9:15 a.m.-Opening Remarks from CRGC Director
Mary Dunn, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Global Catholicism, will provide opening remarks.
9:30-11 a.m. - Session 1: Biographies of Catholic Objects

Chair: Charles Parker (Saint Louis University)

Steve Schoenig (Saint Louis University), “From Peter's Tomb to the Scattered Sees: How Procuring the Pallium Knit Together the Medieval Church”

Rachel Miller (Cal State), “‘With his Holy Arm He Will Defend Them’: Visual Representations of Francis Xavier’s Relics throughout the Global Jesuit Missionary Network”

Anne Mariss (University of Regensburg), “From Asia to Brazil and the Netherlands: the Global Life of Francis Xavier’s Rosary”

Robert Alvis (Saint Meinrad Seminary), “The Divine Mercy Image in Translation”

Respondent: Eugenio Menegon (Boston University)

11-11:15 a.m. - Break

There will be a short break before the second session.

11:30-1 p.m. - Session 2: Global Economies of Exchange

Chair: Tim Dulle (Saint Louis University)

 Marie Balsley Taylor (University of North Alabama), “Of Brass Men and Angels: Finding and Destroying French Catholic Pennacook Objects in 17th c. New England”

Jennifer Popiel (Saint Louis University), "Roman' Catholicism, French Missionary Communication, and the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith"

Anne O’Connor (University of Galway), “The Translation Trade: Global Catholic Exchange across Language and Geography”

Wim François (University of Leuven) and Kunhang Li (Donghua University), “Phoenixes, Textiles, and Religious Paintings: Migration of an Eastern Motif into the Late Medieval Catholic Culture"

Respondent: Valentina Napolitano (University of Toronto)

1-2:30 p.m. - Lunch

Lunch will be provided for all attendees.

2:30-4 p.m. - Session 3: Catholic Objects and Their Memories, Hauntings, and Afterlives

Chair: Anna Katherina Rudolph (Saint Louis University)

Nora Guggenbuhler (University of Zurich), “The Travels of Madonna di Trapani: Records of a Miraculous Image’s Journey from Cyprus to Mexico”

Grace Harpster (Georgia State University), “Copying, Cutting, and Pasting Early Modern Jesuit Portraits”

Mideum Hong (Georgetown University), “Ancestral Tablet: Filial Piety or Meaningless Wood?”

Andrew Walker-Cornetta (Georgia State University), “Exceptional Material: Disability and Devotion” 

Respondent: Megan Holmes (University of Michigan)

4-4:30 p.m. - Break

There will be a short break before the plenary talk.

4:30-6 p.m. - Plenary Talk by Hillary Kaell

Title: Catholic Banking and Building in Quebec: An Entangled History and its Afterlives 

Abstract: Montreal is a city of churches. As Mark Twain quipped during an 1881 visit, “you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window.” More than a century later, many of those Catholic churches are closing, one part of a growing crisis playing out across North America and Western Europe. This keynote presentation connects current attempts to address this material reality in Quebec with another Catholic legacy: the law on Social Economy. This law arises from Quebecois experiments with rethinking financial systems as a response to Rerum Novarum (1891), most famously in Alphonse Desjardins’ eponymous model of popular banking. Using Desjardins as a case study, I explore how Quebecois balanced a trans-Atlantic exchange of ideas, often through Catholic networks, with their attempts to shape a financial system that resisted global 'flows.' These tensions have analogs in current attempts to secure the future of heritage churches through social impact investing. Today, the twin Catholic legacies of building and banking prompt urgent questions as Quebecois must ask themselves, what is valuable and to whom? What is worth preserving and why? 

6-7 p.m. - Reception

Attendees are invited to a networking reception at the end of the first day. Refreshments will be available. 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

9-9:30 a.m. - Coffee
Coffee will be available for all attendees as they prepare for the conference's second day.
9:30-11 a.m. - Session 4: Catholic Material Culture and the Archives

Chair: Cathleen Fleck (Saint Louis University)

Rachel Lindsey (Saint Louis University), “The Hermit’s Camera: Global Catholicism through the Lens of Thomas Merton”

Trevor Linn (Nebraska Wesleyan), “Curating the Good: Museums, Artifacts, and Catholicism on Display”

Annalisa Butticci (Georgetown), “Silences, Secrets, and the Archive. The (un)making of Catholic Memory and Identity in Senegambia”

Respondent: Markus Friedrich (University of Hamburg)

11-11:15 a.m.  - Break
There will be a short break before the second session of the day.
11:30-1 p.m. - Session 5: Catholic Objects and the Sacred

Chair: Mary Dunn (Saint Louis University)

Kirstin Noreen (Loyola Marymount), “Replication, Restoration, and Renewal: The Santa Maria Maggiore Icon in Rome and Beyond”

Josefina Schenke (Adolfo Ibanez), “‘Vienen desde allí benditos y tocados en el Santo Sepulcro’: Reliques and Sacred Objects in Circulation from the Sacred Places of Jerusalem to Perú (18th century)”

Caren Reimann (Herzog August Bibliothek), “Catholic Bibles in Protestant Bible Collections in the 18th Century”

Respondent: Kristin Norget (McGill University)

1-2:30 p.m. - Lunch

Lunch will be provided for all attendees.

2:30-4 p.m. - Session 6: Global Catholicism and Material Culture

Chair:  Anne Carpenter (Saint Louis University)

Panelists: Markus Friedrich, Megan Holmes, Eugenio Menegon, Valentina Napolitano, Kristin Norget

This final session concludes the conference and synthesizes major themes and lines of inquiry for revision and future research. Invited respondents will offer their reflections on the intersection of material culture studies and research on global Catholicism and their thoughts on what attending to material culture might add to our understanding of the dynamics of Catholicism’s worldwide diffusion.

4:30-6 p.m. - Plenary Talk by Bryan Keene

Title: Reckoning with Colonial Histories of Catholic Collecting: A Vision for Centering Indigenous Presence in Museums and the Classroom

Abstract: Objects looted from Indigenous communities are part of the colonial legacy of global Catholicism and other imperial regimes or missionary enterprises. Displayed in museums or housed in archives or libraries, this material and visual culture are part of a worldwide dialogue or debate about ethical ownership and repatriation. This plenary talk considers three case studies for re-centering Indigenous presence in North America through works of art acquired by Catholic, Protestant, and Russian Orthodox collectors and those made by native contemporary artists. First, we will examine Amerindian trade routes at the nexus of Spanish missions of Alta California (from San Diego, founded in 1769, to Sonoma, established in 1824) and in Baja California Sur in today's Mexico (founded between 1683-1834) in relation to the California Collages by Katie Dorame (Tongva). Next, we turn to ancestral Hawai'i in the maritime blue continent of the Pacific Ocean to address competing strategies by Protestants and Catholics to leverage print technologies for conversion set against the work of Lehuauakea (mahu, third gender, Native Hawaiian). Finally, we look to Alaska and Russian Orthodox mapping in contrast to cartographic prints by Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation and settler Canadian heritage). My hope is that we, as scholars, can commit to deepening our knowledge of Indigenous history in collaboration with colleagues and communities. We are storytellers and we have the opportunity to create safe spaces for new voices to be heard and to rebuild structures that support individuals who have been historically marginalized by religion.

6 p.m. - Dinner Reception

Attendees will be invited to attend a dinner reception to celebrate the close of the conference.

About CRGC

Three members of the CRGC leadership team discuss the Center, its mission, and why SLU is an ideal place to do this research.

The Center for Research on Global Catholicism (CRGC) supports scholarship at the nexus of Catholicism and culture, providing robust programming that promotes interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and methodological innovation.

Please contact with questions regarding this event.