GEXcel Gender Talks Series
Mikaela Sundberg (Stockholm University)
Fraternal Relations in Monasteries: The Laboratory of Love
Seminar is a collaboration between Sociology, Karlstad University and the GEXcel Gender Talks Series at the Centre for Gender Studies, Karlstad University
Cloistered monasteries of the Catholic faith are places where the question of how to form human communities based on Christian love, rather than different forms of spontaneous love, is critical. People enter Catholic monasteries to dedicate themselves to a religious life, devoted to the search for a closer relationship with God, but relationships with fellow monks and nuns are also central to understanding this endeavor. The Catholic tradition posits that God alone is loved for his own sake, but loving God also means loving what he created. According to this conception, love of one’s “neighbor” is universal pending a relationship with God. What kind of social relations does this love imply? What forms of love and relations do monks and nuns cultivate?
This presentation presents the results of my new book, which focuses on the tensions between Christian ideals of love and the concrete realities of everyday monastic life. Based on a study of Cistercian monasteries in France, it develops a conceptualization of fraternal relations and addresses how monks and nuns strive to accomplish such relationships within their communities. By focusing on monasteries as a form of voluntary total institution, the book shows how attempts to generate collective solidarity, relate to other members as equals and avoid preferential relations conflict with practices of everyday life. Although fraternal ideals are similar for monks and nuns, the author reveals significant gender differences regarding the legitimacy of different forms of interaction and relationships as well as how to control them.
Find out more about this research here:
Mikaela Sundberg is a Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, and Director of Research at Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE). She is also affiliated researcher with the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research on Religion and Society (CRS), Uppsala University.