Roots and Beginnings
Welcome to CSCC’s blog. This first entry in our blog series gives an insight into the history of the Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC), which continues the work of the former Study of Christianity Roundtable research meetings. Around the year 2013 the scholars of religion Minna Opas and Anna Haapalainen, who both did research on Christianity, started to discuss about the importance of researcher meetings focusing on the study of Christianity. Very quickly these discussions led to the establishment of roundtable discussion meetings at the University of Turku with an established group of participants, among them the to be vice-director of CSCC, Marika Räsänen, and many of the CSCC’s board members.
In a rather short amount of time a wider scholarly network was established. Researchers from various Finnish universities (University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland) joined the Roundtable’s mailing list and participated in monthly meetings and other events. This considerable interest in questions concerning Christianities was a plain message to the organisers: there was a need for such discussion forum.
The Roundtable served as a forum to map the humanistic and social scientific research done on Christianity in Finland as well as to deepen our understanding of Christianity and Christianities and their links to different aspects of human life from a multidisciplinary perspective. The backbone of the Roundtable were monthly discussion meetings with occasional invited presentations from prominent researchers in the field, but it did also much more. Among other things, the Roundtable organised the two-day international conference ‘Christianity and the Limits of Materiality’ at the University of Turku, and two conference panels titled ‘Connected with God: “Spiritual Senses”, Knowledge and Christianity’ held at the European Association for the Study of Religion’s conference in 2014 in Groningen (the Netherlands) and ‘Christianity, text and language’ (2015) held at the University of Turku. The first two resulted in publications. In 2016 a Special Issue of Temenos was published under the title ‘Connected with God: Body, the Social, and the Transcendent’ and a selection of papers presented at the ‘Christianity and the Limits of Materiality’ seminar will appear as a book with the same name published by Bloomsbury later on this year.
As can be seen a lot has already been done but as the number of researchers in humanities and social sciences working on topics related to Christianity are on the increase both at the University of Turku and nationally, the change from the roundtable format into a research centre is but a logical choice. The multi-disciplinary centre will focus on humanistic and social scientific study of diverse forms of Christianity and Christianity’s intertwinement with ideologies, politics, culture, art and other spheres of human life in different parts of the world. Hosted by the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies at the University of Turku, the centre contributes to the advancement of the University’s strategy, currently especially through its linkage to the theme area ‘cultural memory and social change’. Nevertheless, the centre is not tied only to the local but also aims to develop research of Christian cultures more widely in Finland and foster national and international research collaboration in its specific field.
It is always somewhat uncertain what the future holds for us, but some things can be expected. What is already known, is the programme for the first operational year of the Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures. In the year 2017 CSCC will organise a monthly seminar series with invited guest speakers and a number of other events. The first larger event will be the centre’s launching seminar scheduled for May 19. CSCC also participates in Aboagora Symposium in August with a workshop. Later in the autumn the CSCC organises together with the Turku Institute of Advanced Studies (TIAS) a two-day international seminar on re-imagining Christian bodies. The year 2017 will be full of interesting meetings, seminars and gatherings related to the study of Christian cultures and we cordially invite you all to take part in these events.
Anna Haapalainen, Minna Opas & Marika Räsänen