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Manufacturing places: Anabaptist origins, community and ritual Open Access


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Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Suderman, Henry
Supervisor and department
Gow, Andrew Colin (History and Classics)
Examining committee member and department
Brown, Sylvia (English)
Zivkovic, Marko (Anthropology)
Caradonna, Jeremy (History and Classics)
Braun, Willi (History and Classics)
Keen, Ralph (History)
Religious Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Traditional analyses of Anabaptist action continue to be problematized by substantial theological, social, economic, ethical, and political disparities defining the early decades of sixteenth-century Anabaptist movements. This dissertation is offered as a “reconciliation,” as an attempt to address and explain these considerable disparities through the application of a spatial interpretation to early Anabaptist history. Spatial concerns were present in all early Anabaptist groups and a spatial focus provides an analytic suitable for the investigation of cultural conflict. Methodological issues and theoretical concerns constitute the centre, subject matter, and parameters of this work. Place is constructed in terms of its social and political investments, its relation to the exercise and contestation of power, and its relation to the development and maintenance of social order. Power is conceived spatially and not temporally in this project, and places are interpreted as sites for the exercise and negotiation of power. It establishes a focus that reflects the work of Michel Foucault in which power is regulatory, disciplinary, and spatially determined. The power medieval churches exercised was not (contra Anabaptist rhetoric) primarily or simply negative, oppressive, restricting or exclusionary. It was also positive, constructing reality, producing rituals of truth, creating places. Medieval churches were heavily invested pre-eminent socio-political places that exercised substantial cultural power, shaping all facets of medieval socio-political life. Anabaptists emerged as prime contesters of the power and authority of the medieval church, the claims it made, the social order it perpetuated, the relations it established, and the ritual program through which it maintained its privileged position. They developed alternative models, structures, and principles for the exercise of power. The Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster provided an opportunity for imagining freedom from the dominant discourses of power and violence through the Münsterite development and utilization of the plenitude of “aesthetic space.” Hutterite Bruderhöfe were designed as Heiligkeitsgemeinde and constituted a substantial challenge to the existing social order. They were designed, constructed, propagated, and maintained as an ideal place for producing ideal human beings. The spatial interpretation encouraged in this project operates as a broad form in the re-description of sixteenth-century Anabaptist history and Anabaptist origins by giving priority to Anabaptist socio-political attitudes, actions, and interests without reducing Anabaptists to those forces.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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