Call for papers, RSA 2022 – Dublin. Non-Cloistered Religious Women: Between World and Church

Beguines are trendy: many websites and novels are dedicated to them. But who were they? Their rediscovery created an upheaval in the long-accepted binary scheme of the female condition in the past: the convent or the house, aut virum aut murum. The beguines were, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg, that of non-cloistered female religious life. The works of Gabriella Zarri about the “terzo stato” in the 1990s demonstrated the importance of this third way of religious celibacy outside religious enclosure. The non-cloistered sisters represented a perpetually changing reality throughout Western Christendom, and the multiplication of female congregations in the nineteenth century was based in large part on this phenomenon, long ignored by historiography. In fact, these sisters were probably much more numerous than cloistered nuns, but they have been the subject of very few studies.

 The Sorores and The Other Sister projects, supported respectively by the École française de Rome and the Canadian governement SSHRC, is planning a series of panels for the upcoming RSA conference in Dublin (31 March-2 April 2022) about women who publicly lived non-cloistered religious lives in Europe and the colonies between 1400 and 1800. Possible topics include:

  • Comparative historiography and historiographical issues about non-cloistered forms of women’s lives
  • Enclosure and its definitions
  • Forms and experiences of women’s non-cloistered religious lives
  • The structures of these communities
  • The social role and presence of non-cloistered religious women in cities
  • Community (Societies, Third Order, Dimesse…) vs individual (bizzochemonache di casa…) experiences
  • Permanency and mutation throughout long time periods 
  • Relations with ecclesiastical and secular authorities
  • The spirituality of non-cloistered religious women
  • Networks of people and groups
  • Sources and methodology

Papers should be 15-20 minutes. 

Please email your abstract by August 5, 2021, to Sylvie Duval (, Isabel Harvey ( and Sergi Sancho Fibla (, with your full name, current affiliation, and email address; a paper title (15-word maximum), and an abstract (150-word maximum). 

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