A two-day Conference at the University of Tours (France), December 9-10, 2010
The three or so last decades of the 20th century seem to have invented “planetary mournings” : the deaths of JFK in 1963, De Gaulle in 1970, Elvis Presley in 1977, Princess Diana in 1997, Pope John Paul II in 2005 or Michael Jackson in 2009, have generated worldwide movements of collective mournings. But is it such a recent phenomenon ? In 1901, the news of the death of Queen Victoria was already received with “seas of flowers”, massive newspapers coverage, flags at half-mast, even in New York City. On other occasions, if the term “planetary” is clearly hyperbolic, we can still talk of collective mournings on a really large scale : the death of the Polish President in April 2010 is clearly a very recent example. But such a topic is not meaningful for contemporary historians only.
“Planeteray mourning” is just one of the aspects collective grief can take, and bereavement could of course hardly be “planetary” when the relevant technology was not there. Although the study of death has long been of special interest to medievalists far and wide, the theme of mourning has not benefited from a similar degree of scholarly attention. The institution of All Souls by the abbot of Cluny, the development of the practice of mortuary rolls, and the procession of mourners to the tombs all provide keys to understanding the collective handling of death. And yet, a good number of practices, notably secular ones, are less clearly established, and it is out task to define their existence, their history, their elements, juxtaposing literary, iconographic, and archaeological sources. Quite recently, modern historians have addressed the question of mourning and memory after the two Worl Wars, but this is a more specific and consequently restricted approach. This Conference is here to redress the balance, but we will also pay special attention to submittals from other fields: sociology, media studies, religious studies…, where scholars have been more daring.
This conference covers not only a long historical continuum, but also a vast geographical area, hoping to include also non-European practices, and numerous rituals, such as the turning of the bones in Madagascar. Among our interests will feature patterns of mourning; the people who feel concerned, and the degree to which they feel concerned; collective behaviours linked to mourning, spontaneous and/or ritualized ; the hows, wheres and whens of mourning crowds, in particular in urban environments; the way authorities tried to channel these crowds in order to avoid any suspicious behaviour.
Abstracts in French or English of 300 words (+ CV/resume) for a 20 minute paper should be emailed to Dr. Christine Bousquet (email@example.com) and Prof. Philippe Chassaigne (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than 1 September, 2010. Authors of accepted papers will be responsible for their own travel costs and accomodation; registration fees (100 euros, discounted rates available for PhD and post-doctioral students) cover all meals and a volume per person of pre-conference proceedings. Proceedings will be eventualy published in book form.
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