Wouter Kock overhandigt het eerste exemplaar van Loss in Translation aan decaan Heleen Murre-van den Berg
Wouter Kock overhandigt het eerste exemplaar van Loss in Translation aan decaan Heleen Murre-van den Berg

Places of strength: new CRCS research line into monasteries

On Tuesday, October 10, Wouter Kock presented the first copy of his book Loss in Translation to Dean Prof. Dr. Heleen Murre-van den Berg (pictured). This study was awarded three scientific prizes and is now published by the academic publisher Sidestone Press in Leiden. For the Center for Religion and Contemporary Society, the publication of the work marks the start of a new research line on monasteries.

Affiliated with the Department of Comparative Religious Studies, Kock is currently conducting his NWO-funded doctoral project on new religious communities in old monasteries. The interconnectedness of heritage and religion is a central theme. The book presentation took place at the end of an expert meeting as part of this project. The Sormani Fund, that helped fund the book was represented by Prof. em Dr. Peter Nissen. The book provides an interesting insight into the private world of monasteries.

New research line 

The publication of Kock's book is the first product of a new line of research on monasteries within the Center for Religion and Contemporary Society (CRCS), in which professors Thomas Quartier with his monastic research at the BCL, Eric Venbrux with research on monasteries in North Brabant and Carl Sterkens with a project in Maastricht also participate, as well as Jorien Copier of the KASKI with a project funded by the Porticus Foundation. In addition, Thomas and Wouter will teach the new Bachelor year 3 course Religion and Heritage next semester.

About the book

Loss in Translation deals with a phenomenon has so far barely been explored: the "heritization" of monasteries. The Holy Triangle in Oosterhout (NB), a place with three ''living'' monasteries, serves as a case study here. Since the millennium turn, the monastic communities there have increasingly shared control and use of their monasteries with heritage authorities (municipality, province, monument commissions and heritage foundations). Through a historical lens, the book exposes the resulting tensions.

Because even though the monastics and heritage authorities have the same goal in mind - the preservation of the monasteries - the first group experiences the interference of the second group primarily as a burden. For the monastics, the monasteries are their home, which they want to be a sign of their presence and thus of a life dedicated to community and prayer. For their part, the heritage groups struggle to present a convincing story to the widest possible and predominantly non-religious audience. Although there is room in it for the spiritual value of the monasteries, they rather translate it into a secular and historicizing heritage discourse. This translation is experienced by the monastics as a form of loss. As such, the book also reads as a call: what to do with the actual religious aspect of religious heritage?

This analysis not only provides new scientific insights into the role of religion in the contemporary secularized context, but also offers tools for dealing with religious material culture by parties involved in processes of 'inheritance'.

Interested in the book?

For more information about the book or ways to purchase the e-book or print-version, please visit Sidestone Press.