We have a great pleasure to have two distinguished scholars as keynote speakers in the conference:

Bonnie Effros, Department of History, University of Liverpool / University of Florida

Bonnie Effros is professor of History and Rothman Chair and Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere at the University of Florida, USA. Her research interests include early medieval history and archaeology, history of archaeology (nineteenth and twentieth centuries), and gender history.

    Keynote lecture:
    Ancient Relics and Christian History in Late Nineteenth-Century Poitiers

    Although heightened anticlericalism in the late nineteenth century caused significant prejudice against religious scholars, a few intrepid clerics and their allies inside and outside of France dedicated their careers to identifying traces of the early flourishing of Christianity in ancient Gaul. Despite the lack of much in the way of documentary evidence, these historians, epigraphers, and archaeologists lay claim to architectural evidence for what they believed to be cultic spaces commemorating some of the earliest martyrs in Europe. The identification of holy remains and the structures that housed them became the means by which to redraw the map of an increasingly secular France; the bodies of the saints became cartographic placeholders for small but thriving communities of devout Christians in ancient Gaul. Although these discoveries were overshadowed by the more dominant Romanist-Germanist debate about the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms, clerically-oriented research nonetheless persisted due to a small but powerful, international network of scholars stretching from Rome to North Africa. As a case study, I will point to the controversial publications of the Jesuit archaeologist Père Camille de la Croix in Poitiers at the baptistère Saint-Jean and the Hypogée des Dunes, the latter of which he alleged held the remains of 72 previously unknown martyrs. This example will offer the oportunity to discuss the implications of de la Croix’s and other late nineteenth-century clerical scholars’ obsession with martyrial passions and relics.

Annelin Eriksen, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

Annelin Eriksen is professor of Social Anthropology at the Unviersity of Bergen, Norway. She has worked in Vanuatu, in the South West Pacific, since 1995. Her main research interests are gender, social and cultural change and Christianity.

    Keynote lecture:
    Imagining the Christian Body in Melanesia: On Demons, Witches and Healing in Pentecostal Vanuatu (South West Pacific)

    As the topic of this conference is the ways in which the human body gets imagined in different Christian cultures at different times, I, as an anthropologist, will contribute to this by first presenting what has become a key debate in the anthropology of Christianity in Melanesia, where I have done ethnographic work for over two decades. This debate concerns the extent to which Melanesians, when they become Christian, also develop a Christian notion of the individual, where the body is subordinate to the mind. I will then disturb this debate by reflecting more closely on the notion of the body and the concept of the individual in relation to my most recent ethnographic work with Pentecostal healers in the capital of Port Vila in the archipelago of Vanuatu, in the South West Pacific. I show how the process of healing involves imagining the body as open to both malevolent and benevolent spiritual forces that can act on the body without the willful interference of the patient him/herself, opening the person for the Holy Spirit in one moment but turning a person into a demon or a witch the next. With this ethnography, I ask what the unstable body does to the notion of the Christian individual.