GEMS Plans for the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Like many research groups, both at UGent and abroad, GEMS was forced this past spring to cancel and postpone a range of wonderful events featuring an array of speakers, scholars, students and visitors. We did so with both sadness and regret. 

For this coming academic year, our plan is to focus on the members of our GEMS community who most need our support and who might benefit most from our intellectual community: our Ph.D. students and postdocs here at UGent. We will be organizing a range of online events, some of which will be private brainstorming and feedback sessions for junior scholars to workshop their evolving research; other online events, also featuring our Ph.D. students and postdocs, will be public and accessible to GEMS members, the UGent community and outside scholars. These online events will be listed both on the GEMS website (https://gemsugent.wordpress.com/) and on our FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/GEMSUGent). 

This summer we will begin organizing these online events to take place during the 2020-2021 academic year. If you are a Ph.D. student, postdoc, or visiting junior scholar at UGent and interested in participating, either as an attendee or a presenter, please be in contact with Renée Vulto (Renee.Vulto@UGent.be) and Delphine Calle (Delphine.Calle@UGent.be).

Hopefully, in the 2021-2022 academic year, GEMS will be able to resume its wide array of in-person events, including lectures, workshops, ateliers, “inspired by…” sessions, and book launches. If you are interested in sharing your research during the 2021-2022 academic year, please send an email to Andrew Bricker (Andrew.Bricker@UGent.be).

Till, hopefully, very soon again!

Sincerely,

The GEMS Steering Committee

GEMS and COVID-19


Due to the measures taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone all planned events for the rest of the academic year (including our Research Day). In this, we follow the guidelines of Ghent University.  Keep an eye on this website and our social media to hear about the plans for next year!

We hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy during this challenging time.

Sarton Centre Seminar Series

Sarton Centre Seminar Series

Leen Spruit (Radboud Universiteit)

Is atomism atheism?
A trial (Naples 1688-1697) and a controversy (Giovanni Battista De Benedictis vs. Francesco d’Andrea)

Date: Thursday 30 January 2020, 14:00 to 16:00
Location: Simon Stevin Room, Plateau-Rozier, Jozef Plateaustraat 22

Abstract
From 1688 to 1697, Naples, capital of the Spanish kingdom in South Italy, provided the stage for a large-scale inquisitorial trial against a great number of persons accused of embracing atomism and therefore of subscribing to atheism. In the early 1670s, Naples’ ecclesiastical authorities had begun to warn against the spread of the mechanical philosophy and atomism. Notably the members of the Accademia degli Investiganti (1663-1670) had been much taken by these new ideas. After the official closure of the Academy, this circle enlarged, began to meet in less secluded places and discussed its ideas more openly, thereby attracting a new generation of intellectuals to the “new philosophy”. The Church responded to this situation with hitherto unseen determination. Prominent Church leaders delivered fiery sermons condemning a doctrine that, according to them, denied the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the possibility of miracles.

In 1688, a certain Francesco Paolo Manuzzi presented himself “spontaneously” to the representative of the Holy Office in Naples to denounce a group of persons in Naples who endorsed the “philosophy of the atoms” and who had lost their faith. Manuzzi’s deposition contains a series of extraordinary claims purportedly made by the ‘atomist’ Neapolitans, concerning the existence of pre-Adamitic humans; errors and abuses of Christ and the pope; and the inexistence of God, hell, purgatory, paradise and the sacraments. None of these claims can be found in any other early-modern atomistic or corpuscular philosophy.
When the Roman Holy Office sought to involve the Neapolitan archbishop and the political authorities in both Naples and Madrid in its battle against atheism and atomism, the representatives of the nobility and the rising middle class reacted forcefully, organizing themselves in a “Permanent Deputation” that aimed to abolish the Inquisition in Naples and delegating two members to Rome to negotiate this matter with the cardinals and the pope.

The trial produced important texts: the fierce attack on modern philosophy by Jesuit Giovanni Battista de Benedictis (1694); the two replies to it by Francesco d’Andrea (ca. 1695-1697, both unpublished); and the extensive set of replies by Costantino Grimaldi (published in 1699-1703). A further important onslaught on modern philosophy is contained in the 1696 pamphlet Turris fortitudinis.

The mass of mostly unexamined documents of this trial and the books, manuscripts and pamphlets surrounding it offer a unique experimental garden for research into the broader cultural and political context of the spread of the corpuscular philosophy. Indeed, this trial seems an ideal case to confront the local with the international dimensions of the new philosophical and scientific currents involving atomistic and corpuscular notions, which were as difficult to delineate then as they are today.

GEMS Seminar: Atelier with Elwin Hofman

Psychological knowledge and where to find it

Date: Thursday, 20 February 2020, 12-13h
Place: Simon Stevin Room (Plateaustraat 22, Gent)

The history of psychology is often a rather dull field. Many of its practitioners are psychologists seeking to retrace the great innovations in their discipline. Except to pay lip service to some great men – Aristotle, Locke, Kant – they rarely venture beyond the last third of the nineteenth century, when ‘scientific’ psychology emerged as a discipline. Yet in the last two decades, two developments have shaken up the long-held consensus that psychology has ‘a long past, but a short history’. First, it has been shown that there was an academic discipline of psychology in the early modern period, and even under that very name. Second, historians of twentieth-century psychology have started to move beyond the walls of the academy in order to understand how psychological knowledge operated in society. They have come to study the uses of psychology in everyday life and, conversely, how everyday problems and practices have shaped psychological knowledge. This latter approach is still rare in the study of early modern psychology. In this atelier, I will therefore explore the different sources of psychological knowledge in the early modern period, particularly for what concerns everyday and ‘practical’ psychological knowledge, outside the confines of learned culture. While I will focus on the potential of legal sources, I invite participants to think along about how we might re-write the history of early modern psychology.

Elwin Hofman is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders at the Cultural History research group, KU Leuven. He studies the cultural and social history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. He has previously published on the history of the self, emotions in eighteenth-century criminal justice, and the history of homosexuality. His current research project concerns the rise of psychological interrogation techniques in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe.

GEMS Inspired by…

Michiel van Dam inspired by Philip Sheldrake

Spaces of Solidarity: History, the Urban and the Spiritual Practice of Everyday Life

Date: Wednesday, 4 March 2020, 14-16h
Place: Simon Stevin Room (Plateaustraat 22, Gent)

The work of Philip Sheldrake has become synonymous with innovative and interdisciplinary research in the field of (Christian) spirituality, with interventions coming in the domains of historiography, theology, philosophy, and social theory. Resolutely arguing for the crucial presence of spiritual practices in the sphere of everyday life, Sheldrake has opened up important new avenues of investigation for historians and social scientists looking to nuance the often rigid distinction made between religious contemplation and public life, between Christian interiority and social action. In this session, I will give a short analytic summary of Sheldrake’s recent contributions such as Explorations in Spirituality (2010) and The Spiritual City (2014), looking at the lessons we can derive from his interdisciplinary approach, his spiritual theology of social engagement, and his account of the modern-day, diverse city. I will end by reflecting on Sheldrake’s importance for my own current research project, an intellectual history of sociology as a ‘science of solidarity’, which investigates the secularizing effects of traditional notions of social assistance, as well as the potential of modern sources of faith-based solidarity for the superdiverse urban space of the 21st century.

Michiel Van Dam is postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp. In 2019 he defended his PhD-thesis at Ghent University: La révolution des temps. Revolutionary languages and politics of time in the Austrian Netherlands and the Dutch Republic (1780-1790)