WMQ  &   EMSI Workshop—Religions in the Early Americas

May 12–14, 2016 • The Huntington Library

Introduction | Program: May 12 • May 13  • May 14

The WMQ-EMSI Workshop Series is designed to identify and encourage new trends in our understanding of the history and culture of early North America. It fosters intellectual exchange among scholars working on thematically related topics that may be chronologically, geographically, or methodologically diverse. The participants, many of whom have embarked on second or third book projects, will share their work in progress with the aim of deepening and enriching their perspectives, their approaches, and ultimately the final products of their research. Subsequently, the convener may write an essay elaborating on the issues raised at the workshop for publication in the William and Mary Quarterly.

Until the rise of social history and women’s history in the 1970s, most scholars of early American religion focused their work on a relatively small number of characters and places. Puritans loomed particularly large in early Americanist scholarship, and most studies centered on New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Since then, by contrast, the field has expanded to encompass new topics, including transatlantic connections, gender, race, folk religion, and religious pluralism. Historians today are interested not only in exploring the wide range of religious beliefs and practices in the early Americas but also in expanding the borders of the field beyond the British mainland colonies.

This workshop will highlight new approaches to the study of religions in early America. We hope to generate a lively conversation about both the history and the future of the field. Among the questions we intend to ask are: How did global religions such as Christianity and Judaism develop and change in the New World? How did people from different faith traditions–Protestantism, Catholicism, African and Native American religions, Islam, and Judaism–encounter one another? How was religion gendered in the early Americas? In what ways did religions shape conversations about slavery and identity? What can we learn from comparing religion throughout the early modern Americas? How does looking at religions from a broader perspective invite reconsideration of prior approaches to early American religious history?

Presenters’ papers are precirculated among the workshop participants. In each hour-long session devoted to a particular paper, brief respondents’ comments will be followed by thirty minutes of discussion among the participants. Audience members will then be invited to join the conversation.

The WMQ-EMSI Workshops are sponsored by the University of Southern California-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute (with financial support from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities) and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and are hosted by the Huntington Library and the University of Southern California.