2021 - Lisbon


Engaging the World: The Jesuits and their Presence in Global History

Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon | June 16–18, 2021

Map of New France, 1612
Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies
Catholic University of Portugal

*Update: January 25, 2021

Due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus and various health and safety restrictions, the Institute, in partnership with Brotéria, is focusing on 16-18 June 2021, in Lisbon, the overwhelming first choice of the 105 presenters responding to our survey. We will confirm these dates by February 16.  

Though the 2020 Symposium was deferred from its usual time in June, the intent remains for us to have a memorable experience, one that recognizes the continued depth of our ever-expanding field of Jesuit Studies. 

The 2021 International Symposium on Jesuit Studies is co-organized by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College and Brotéria in Lisbon, in partnership with the Catholic University of Portugal.

It was from Portugal that the first Jesuit missionary left to evangelize. It was in Portugal that the Jesuits founded their first regional province. From this geographically small country, thousands of Jesuits departed to engage with people and environments on a global scale. Portugal, therefore, assumes a highly symbolic position in the history of the Jesuits’ engagement with the world.

Scattered around the globe for nearly five centuries of evangelization, Jesuit missionaries adopted different strategies to communicate with local communities. They were pivotal cultural mediators, serving as cartographers, astronomers, ethnographers, and anthropologists. But they were also artists capable of adapting to local styles, translators and grammarians of native languages, and correspondents who conveyed images of societies previously unknown to European audiences. They managed diplomatic affairs, fostered commerce, and accompanied scientific voyages. They published journals, treatises, biographies, travel logs, and maps, and they participated in worldwide networks circulating literature and art.

This symposium will investigate how such a global engagement developed over time, how it varied from place to place, and how it was similar in different environments. Proposals are welcomed from across thematic, chronological, and disciplinary boundaries that address methods or instruments the Jesuits used to engage the world and its natural or societal environs.

Presentations might address such questions as these:

  • What strategies did Jesuits employ when, as articulated by their Constitutions, “dispersed throughout Christ’s vineyard to labor”?
  • How did the internal structure of the Society of Jesus (and the personalities of the Jesuits themselves) facilitate or hinder missionary labors?
  • How were those labors impacted by external forces—either local or global, cultural or political? For example, how did the Jesuits’ relations with different European powers spark, facilitate, limit, or curtail evangelization efforts within competing global empires?
  • How did Jesuit missionaries and their superiors determine where to labor (“consideration should also be given to where greater fruit is likely to be reaped”) and whom to evangelize (“the spiritual aid which is given to important and public persons ought to be regarded as more important, since it is a more universal good”)? What are revealing examples of successful determinations and unsuccessful ones?
  • What were the benefits, hindrances, and consequences of Jesuit accommodation to local customs and virtues? How can Jesuit accommodation be seen in art, theological treatises, scientific work, and pedagogical approaches?
  • How can we recapture the motives of these Jesuit missionaries—and how those motivations changed from one location to another or over time? And what might these motivations reveal about the Society of Jesus and its many places in the world?
  • How can indigenous people be seen in the books, maps, correspondence, and other materiality produced by Jesuits? And in what ways do those sources obscure those communities? What new sources should be consulted to better understand the indigenous people’s experiences with Jesuit evangelization?
  • Is there—or has there been at any point—evidence of a distinctively Portuguese trait to the roots of the Jesuits’ worldwide mission?

The 2021 Symposium will be the sixth annual scholarly conference organized by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies. The Institute is pleased to collaborate with Brotéria, the new cultural center of the Jesuits in Lisbon, in organizing this event on the Jesuits’ global engagements. Previous symposia have taken place in Boston (in collaboration with Boston College), Nairobi (with the Jesuit Historical Institute of Africa), and Seville (with Universidad Loyola Andalucía).

The call for papers is now closed.

Contact the Institute with questions (iajs@bc.edu).