Concerns about fertility and children have been (and still are) common reasons for visiting, and more generally engaging with, the sacred spaces—sanctuaries and shrines, groves and grottoes—of many religions and cultures. The narratives, objects, and rituals associated with places of particular access to the divine across a wide chronological and geographical range testify to this insistent human need: stories of miraculous births, assorted reproductive ex-votos, and prayers for the sterile are, for instance, all prominent parts of this landscape. But, thus far, this phenomenon has not received the focused attention it deserves.
Relations between human reproduction, divinity and sacred space are therefore at the centre of this interdisciplinary conference. We hope to have thematic panels which cover the following issues:
Gender and Reproduction: are requests for divine assistance made by women or men, or both? To female deities and saints or not? Fertility and Healing: do healing sanctuaries and saints specialise in fertility? Or is reproduction joined with other concerns? Reproductive objects: do concerns about fertility have particular affinities with particular kinds of artefacts or materials? Narrative reproduction: is there anything distinctive about stories of miraculous births in miracle collections? There will also be sessions that address questions of continuity and change, similarity and difference, across time and space; and we warmly invite proposals for papers on all these topics and more, from as wide a range of perspectives as possible.
Abstracts of not more than 500 words (for 20 min papers) should be sent to Fay Glinister by 30 September 2012.