Religious Heritage and the Mobilization of Cultural Trauma

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Barry STEPHENSON, Memorial University, Canada
One form of religious mobilization in contemporary Europe is the festivalization of symbolic resources. This paper examines one such case of mobilizing symbolic capital, the 600th Jubilee of the Council of Constance (2014-2018). The paper focuses in particular on the figure of Czech Reformer Jan Hus (1369-1415), who was the centerpiece of “The Year of Justice,” the thematic focus of the Jubilee in 2015, and is based on collaborative fieldwork conducted in Constance in July of 2015. The “Konstanzer Konziljubiläum” is a mixed-genre event, through which the city of Constance markets itself as a place of culture and heritage, and a welcoming host. “Europa zum Gast” (Europe is our guest) is the tagline for the multi-year jubilee, echoing the choice of Constance 600 years earlier, when more than 70,000 visitors came to the city in the context of the Church council. There is, of course, a fly in this festive ointment. The Konstanzer Konziljubiläum is poised between jubilee and the more solemn and reflective mood of commemoration, due to the fact that the historic Konzil is best remembered today for having invited the reformer Jan Hus, only to summarily arrest him, convict him of heresy, and burn him at the stake on July 6, 1415. Organizers, participants, and visitors to Konstanz need to incorporate into this otherwise festive occasion the killing Hus, as well as the meaning of the death, and it is here that Alexander’s theory of cultural trauma may help shed some analytical light on the conflicts and contests of meaning that emerge when iconic religious figures from the past are mobilized and used in the present, in the context of a diverse public event, with representatives and interests from various cultural domains.