In June, the Robbins Collection welcomed Agnès Desmazières, a French researcher whose work focuses on the Catholic Church as it pertains to history, theology and canon law. For the duration of her two-month-long fellowship, Agnès has been stationed at one the Reading Room’s desks where she has access to collection texts that focus on canon law and medieval law, among other theologically historical subjects.
With Robbins materials and resources, Agnès Desmazières has been able to expand her ideas on the interdependent relationship between canon law and theology, as it developed from the medieval Church into Christianity today in European countries like France, Italy, and Spain. Her approach to theology is considerate of a turn of phrase from Pope Francis: “Dialogue is much more than the communication of truth.” Evident in her approach to research, theological dialogue is a communication of truth for Agnès, but a dialogue functioning within dimensions of emotion, history, culture, and spirituality. “Canon law is involved in the theological debate and is important in order to relate theory and practice,” Agnès says. A historical approach, “helps to understand how a theological and canonical debate is influenced by a particular cultural context and is also one moment of a longer history.”
Agnès’ theological focus on canon law is largely why she chose to conduct research at the Robbins Collection in Berkeley. She explained that twentieth-century canonist texts and journals relating to the medieval church are not nearly as accessible in France. (A search for ‘canon law’ on UC Berkeley’s LawCat catalogue restricted to the Robbins Collection alone yields 6,936 results). Thankfully for Agnès, Robbins has everything she needs for her research and only occasionally does she find herself venturing outside its doors for materials at a neighboring campus library.
This is not the first time Agnès has been a fellow with the Robbins Collection. Five years ago during her first fellowship with Robbins, she examined psychology’s impact on twentieth century canon law—more specifically, the impact on the role of priesthood. The research from her first fellowship was included as part of a paper she presented at the University of Lyon, currently in preparation to be published. In addition to numerous published papers, Agnès is the author of the book, L’Inconscient au paradis: Comment les catholiques ont reçu la psychanalyse, (Payot, 2011), a text that culminated from the subject of her dissertation—the Church’s contentious relationship with psychoanalysis. As part of her research, Agnès worked in the Vatican’s archives to better understand how Catholic theologians and medical experts pressured the Church to recognize psychoanalysis.
A remarkable scholar, Agnès earned her doctorate in history from the European University Institute in Florence in 2009 and will go on to defend her doctorate in theology this September at the Centre Sèvres-Facultés Jésuites de Paris. Her academic pursuits extend beyond published writing. This past February, Agnès co-hosted a seminar, “Psychoanalysis and Church,” for CéSor in France and taught courses at the Institut d’Ètudes Politiques de Paris.
A French native, Agnès was born in Paris and speaks French, Italian, English, as well as some Dutch and Spanish. As a child, Agnès spent her summers in Brittany, a custom that instilled a fondness for coastal landscapes (and perhaps another reason why she was drawn to Berkeley). During her time in the Bay Area, Agnès has enjoyed exploring Half Moon Bay, Angel Island, the Marin Headlands, and taking in the view from the Rose Garden. After her time in Berkeley comes to an end, Agnès will return to France where she has been invited to teach theology at both the Centre Sèvres and the Institut Catholique de Paris starting in September.
Explore the publicly accessible works of Agnès Desmazières: https://tinyurl.com/agnesdesmazieres
Learn more about the Robbins Collection titles and subjects Agnès is implementing for her research:
Photos of Agnès: Sohayla Farman
Cover photo of L’insconscient: courtesy of Payot Libraire