Aof – Lived Religion and the Changing Meaning(s) of Disability

Lived Religion and the Changing Meaning(s) of Disability from the Late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution

Funded by the Academy of Finland 2021–2025

Researchers: Jenni Kuuliala (PI), Riikka Miettinen & Daniel Blackie (starting in 2022). The project will also recruit a postdoctoral researcher in spring 2022

The project concentrates on the significance of Christian lived religion in understanding and experiencing disability, analysing the ways religious rituals, views, and practices framed and shaped bodily and mental difference. By emphasising religion as a lived experience and taking a longue durée approach to disability history from the Late Middle Ages / Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution (c. 1450–1850), this project is the first-ever social history of disability to range across traditional periodisations to examine the significance of religious beliefs and practices to the emergence of disability as a social category of modernity. In doing so, the project also evaluates the ways in which the major cultural transformations of this period impacted the role and relative importance of religion as a framework shaping conceptions and experiences of disability. Experience is an important approach and analytical tool in the analysis. As the project is particularly focusing on lived religion, it is clearly linked with one of HEX’s main points of interest.

The leader of the project, Jenni Kuuliala, has worked in HEX for several years and studied the disability history from different perspectives: “I am trained as a medievalist and have been working on medieval disability history for quite a while, as well as done some public disability history work. Recently I’ve been particularly interested about the religious experience of illness and disability in the early modern period. Working in HEX with the concepts of lived religion and experience made me think about the possibilities that these approaches could have for disability history. This, as well as my discussions with Riikka and Daniel then led to the idea to apply for this research project”, she outlines, when we talk about working in HEX and Kuuliala´s own background as a researcher.