Over the years, historians of early modern Europe have studied religious identities as inflexible constructs, claiming that people perceived one another as either fellow believers or heretic dissidents. By drawing from the concepts of Bernard Lahire, this project aims to reassess this reductionist view. Instead, we hypothesize that individuals were capable of possessing multiple identities at once, and that this identity flexibility was the key to regulating coexistence between different confessional groups in early modern society. To establish this, this project will examine the interaction between Catholics and Calvinists in the ‘Geuzenhoek’, an agglomerate of biconfessional communities in the countryside surrounding Oudenaarde (mainly the villages of Sint-Maria-Horebeke, Mater, and Etikhove), between 1600 and 1750.
The research objectives are threefold. First, the social, political, and economic context of the region will be characterized, thus sketching the rural framework in which interreligious interaction took place. The second step entails the deep description of the religious identities of both the Catholic and the Calvinist villagers. Finally, the nonreligious identities and their influence on religious coexistence in the ‘Geuzenhoek’ will be addressed.
In short, this research aims to provide a fresh outlook on early modern religious identities, whilst also analyzing a rare example of multiconfessionalism in the 17th- and 18th-century Southern Netherlands.