History Colloquium and 2016 Annual Lecture in Comparative World History

October 17, 2016

On October 17, 2016, Professor Ines G. Županov, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and director of the Centre d’études de l’Inde/l’Asie du Sud (CNRS-EHESS),  spoke at Duke University on, "Managing Sacred Relics in Jesuit Asia (16th and 17th Centuries)." 


Županov is a social/cultural historian of Catholic missions in South Asia and has also worked on other topics related to Portuguese empire.  Her latest monograph cowritten with Ângela Barreto Xavier is Catholic Orientalism; Portuguese Empire, Indian Knowledge, 16th-18th centuries (OUP, New Delhi, 2015). She coedited six books and her articles in various languages are published in edited books and journals (AnnalesRepresentationsIndian Economic and Social History ReviewArchives de sciences sociales des religionsJournal of Early Modern History, Journal of Economic and Social History of the OrientRES: Anthropology and Esthetics, etc.). 

The Lecture in Comparative World History, founded in memory of Professor John F. Richards, is intended to build upon Professor Richards' belief that knowledge should be shared far and wide and that the opportunity for education should be afforded to as wide an audience as possible, while communicating the distinct and subtle cultural nuances when providing those educational opportunities. This year's lecture is co-sponsored by the Duke University Center for International & Global Studies (DUCIGS) and the Duke University History Department. 

Županov's lecture was based on a pre-circulated paper (PDF below). 

Abstract: Among the sacred objects Jesuit missionaries imported, created, exported, and filliped into circulation in Asia and around the globe, relics of saints and martyrs were probably the most valuable of all. Wherever the relics travelled, they were intended to foster and fuel Jesuit networks, and to shore up Christian affects and communities. Encased in their reliquaries, often made of precious materials and masterpieces of local craftsmanship, these sacred objects were ‘spiritual currency’ in the Christian empire the Jesuits worked to establish under the Portuguese royal Padroado. By looking into only a sampling of documents from the Jesuit archives and during the first missionary century, I follow the movement of these objects (in texts, in time and in space), arguing that between the early 16th century and the early 17th century, the Jesuits not only quickened the flow of these objects, they also managed their quantity and quality, and modulated the publicity accorded to them in the apologetic texts. Most importantly, from around the middle of the seventeenth century the Jesuits, often torn between service to a community and demands from metropoles such as Lisbon and Rome, strove to secure the important relics and preserve them in one place. As the relics and their miraculous powers travelled physically ever so widely – but also through books, images and in dreams – they created networks of interdependence, affective bonds, spiritual attachments, in addition to stimulating markets, business opportunities, and revenues.  For access to the full paper, please click on the PDF below.