Anna Rosensweig Receives President’s Ferrari Humanities Research Award

Texts and images from the French Wars of Religion have found an audience among conservative Americans.

David Andreatta
May 14, 2024
Headshot of Anna Rosensweig.
Associate Professor Anna Rosensweig

Anna Rosensweig, an associate professor of French and the director of the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, has been named the latest recipient of the President's Ferrari Humanities Research Award.

The annual honor recognizes creative scholarship by a member of the University of Rochester faculty who is affiliated with the Humanities Center and comes with a $30,000 prize endowed by Trustee Bernard T. Ferrari ’70, ‘74M (MD) and his wife, Linda Gaddis Ferrari.

The award will enable Rosensweig to complete primary research for her current book project, which examines how the French Wars of Religion of the 16th century are influencing Christian nationalists in the United States today.

Tentatively titled Whose Resistance Theory? From Early Modern France to QAnon, Parents’ Rights, and Christian Insurrection, the project builds upon Rosensweig’s first book, Subjects of Affection: Rights of Resistance on the Early Modern Stage, which was published by Northwestern University Press in 2022.

The latest project seeks to demonstrate how conservative American activists are turning to texts and images from the conflicts between Protestant and Catholic factions in France from 1562 to 1598 to justify their opposition to reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights and campaigns for racial justice.

Protestant resistance treatises from that era argue that so-called “lesser magistrates,” or low-level public officials, may legitimately oppose the government, and in some cases take up arms against it, by asserting that obedience to God supersedes their duty to carry out man-made laws.

The concept that American public officials have a sacred duty to oppose higher authorities who attempt to enforce what conservatives see as immoral or anti-Christian laws has gained traction amid the nation’s culture wars.

Rosensweig’s work on the subject has already garnered attention from publications that include The Washington Post, the nonprofit investigative news outlet Wisconsin Watch, and Word&Way, which covers religion and politics.

“These conversations have made clear that there is widespread concern about the threat of Christian nationalism and that my perspective as a scholar of early modern France – as well as of visual and cultural studies more broadly – a make my perspective on this problem both urgent and unique,” Rosensweig wrote in her proposal for the Ferrari Award.

The award is bestowed by the University president upon the recommendations of a jury consisting of the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and the directors of the Humanities Center, the Frederick Douglass Institute, and the Susan B. Anthony Institute.