An IU-organized “Workshop on the History of Women, Religion, and Emotions in Modern Germany” brought together 27 scholars from ten different countries at the IU Europe Gateway this summer to explore the diverse aspects of women’s religious experiences in 19th and 20th century Germany.
The idea for the conference was born out of a seminar on women and religion offered by the German Studies Association in 2018 that both conference organizers Lisa Fetheringill Zwicker, professor of history at IU South Bend’s School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Martina Cucchiara, associate professor of history at Bluffton University, had attended. The two history scholars subsequently kept in touch and continued to meet on Zoom to collaborate and share their work.
“In this conference, we aimed to explore the intersections of women’s religion, women’s emotions, and history,” explained Zwicker. “Martina and I wanted to bring these issues to the forefront as too often the religious dimensions of women’s lives have been ignored.” They were also hoping to create new conversations around these questions by bringing together different religion scholars, including those studying Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant religious experiences.
With a strong emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach, their call for papers attracted more than ninety scholars from over a dozen countries across the world who submitted proposals. The final selection of scholars spans a variety of disciplines, from history to gender studies, religious, social, and cultural studies. The conference included scholars at different levels of experience from graduate students to emeritus scholars.
The international conference, held at the IU Europe Gateway in Berlin, was made possible with support from the IU Presidential Arts and Humanities program, the IU South Bend History Department, the IU South Bend College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, IU South Bend Academic Affairs, the IU Global Gateway Network, and the University of California San Diego Jewish Studies program.
Lisa Zwicker first pitched the idea of the conference to IU Europe Gateway Director Andrea Adam Moore in 2019, who offered the Gateway space as a venue for the event and provided administrative and planning support. “We are thrilled to host a conference put together by faculty from IU South Bend for the first time,” said Adam Moore. “The breadth of participants and disciplines represented shows that there is excellent faculty across all of IU’s campuses doing outstanding research.”
Rather than dedicating conference time to paper presentations, the three-day workshop focused on promoting dialogue and discussion between participants. The scholars reviewed their findings and explored common themes in small panels with expert commentators who were invited to guide the conversations.
They were also able to connect virtually through Canvas ahead of their meeting in Berlin, which further contributed to creating a level of trust and familiarity that fostered productive conversations and a collegial atmosphere among the group. Organizing the event through a digital learning management platform allowed the organizers to share updates with participants, collect files, compile a shared bibliography, and sort out logistical issues. With the help of IU South Bend’s Web Services Team, particularly thanks to Dorlita Blakely’s outstanding work, a dedicated conference website was created to share that information with the public.
Beyond the workshop, the Canvas course still serves as a tool for ongoing collaboration and the coordination on an edited volume that is set to be published with Camden House in 2023 or 2024.
To make their research more accessible beyond the publication, the scholars also participated in a film project, recording major findings from their submitted essays in short video clips dubbed “history bites.” Adrian Pacheco, a rising senior in Fine Arts Graphic Design at IU South Bend, filmed these short two to three-minute video remarks during the conference.
For more information on the publication or any queries regarding the conference, please contact Professor Lisa Zwicker at firstname.lastname@example.org.