International Symposium on Jesuit Studies
Lisbon | 17–19 June 2020

Engaging the World: The Jesuits and Their Presence in Global History

Co-organized by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College and Brotéria in Lisbon, in partnership with the Catholic University Portugal

Scattered around the globe for nearly five centuries of evangelization, Jesuit missionaries adopted different strategies to communicate with local communities. They were pivotal cultural mediators, serving as cartographers, astronomers, ethnographers, and anthropologists. They were also artists who adapted to local styles, translators and grammarians of native languages, and correspondents who conveyed images of societies previously unknown to European audiences. They fostered commerce and accompanied scientific voyages. They published journals, treatises, biographies, travel logs, and maps, and they participated in worldwide networks circulating literature and art.

This symposium is hosted in Portugal, from which thousands of Jesuits departed to engage with people and environments on a global scale. This scholarly event will investigate how such a global engagement developed over time, how it varied from place to place, and how it was similar in different settings. Proposals are welcomed from across thematic, chronological, and disciplinary boundaries that address methods or instruments the Jesuits used to engage the world and its natural or societal environs.

Presentations might address such questions as these:

  • What strategies did Jesuits employ when, as articulated by their Constitutions, “dispersed throughout Christ’s vineyard to labor”?
  • How did the internal structure of the Society of Jesus (and the personalities of the Jesuits themselves) facilitate or hinder missionary labors?
  • How were those labors impacted by external forces—either local or global, cultural or political? For example, how did the Jesuits’ relations with different European powers spark, facilitate, limit, or curtail evangelization efforts within competing global empires?
  • How did Jesuit missionaries and their superiors determine where to labor (“consideration should also be given to where greater fruit is likely to be reaped”) and whom to evangelize (“the spiritual aid which is given to important and public persons ought to be regarded as more important, since it is a more universal good”)? What are revealing examples of successful determinations and unsuccessful ones?
  • What were the benefits, hindrances, and consequences of Jesuit accommodation to local customs and virtues? How can Jesuit accommodation be seen in art, theological treatises, scientific work, and pedagogical approaches?
  • How can we recapture the motives of these Jesuit missionaries—and how those motivations changed from one location to another or over time? And what might these motivations reveal about the Society of Jesus and its many places in the world?
  • How can indigenous people be seen in the books, maps, correspondence, and other materiality produced by Jesuits? And in what ways do those sources obscure those communities? What new sources should be consulted to better understand the indigenous people’s experiences with Jesuit evangelization?
  • Is there—or has there been at any point—evidence of a distinctively Portuguese trait to the roots of the Jesuits’ worldwide mission?

Proposals and a narrative CV (together no more than 500 words) are due before the end of Monday, October 28, 2019. Selected papers may be peer-reviewed and published in open access following the event. Papers must be submitted via email at, please use 2020 Symposium Paper Submission in the subject line.

Contact the Institute with questions (


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