Upcoming Conference: Free Speech

Next week, I will be participating in the conference Religion and Free Speech in the Early Modern Period on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th of November. Originally, it was planned to be held in person in Amsterdam, but due to recent developments the event is scheduled to take place online on zoom.

Of course, I am very exited to be able to present a part of my research to the audience as well as to listen to the insights of others. My own contribution ‘The Tension of Truth. Free Speech and the Avvisi’ is scheduled for the Thursday on 15:30.

The abstract of my paper is as follows:

“The manuscript newspapers known as avvisi that circulated Europe in the sixteenth century were at times subject to censorship. They were specifically mentioned by papal bulls issued by Pius V and Gregory XIII that aimed to control their circulation. As a matter of fact, the avvisi themselves dryly reported on these bulls aimed at curtailing the limits of their own expression.  In the historiography, however, this legislation is often viewed as not intended to outlaw the avvisi altogether but to target specifically libel, defamation and things considered untruthful. But, then, how did society establish what was considered ‘true’?

The avvisi usually went to great lengths to establish ‘what actually happened.’ They portray language as corresponding one-to-one to reality and not as a lens that blurs one’s perspective. This curbed the possibilities of discussing truth in an open debate. That the papal bulls were not merely warnings and that some avviso writers had supposedly breached these limitations was proved by the death sentences that several among them received. Therefore, despite the objective writing style, one generally finds a bias in favour of constituted authorities, especially catholic ones, both in and outside Rome. Possibly, this is also what their readers expected, who themselves were mostly from the higher echelons of catholic Europe. In that respect the avvisi also functioned as a catalyst of identity in which the limits of free speech were decided through a process of groupthink about what was considered ‘true’.”

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