The Public Work of Christmas — Book Launch

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The Public Work of Christmas — Book Launch

Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 9:30 am - 11:30 am EST


A frank conversation about how Christmas spurs conflict and compromise in multicultural societies.

Please join us in celebrating the launch of The Public Work of Christmas — Difference and Belonging in Multicultural Societies (Queen’s-McGill University Press), edited by Pamela E. Klassen and Monique Scheer.

A breakfast reception in the Junior Common Room at 9:00am will be followed by a colloquium in the Upper Library at 9:30am, with respondents addressing various chapters in the book:

Respondent Dr. Kyle Smith, UofT Department for the Study of Religion/Historical Studies on, The First ‘White’ Xmas: Settler Multiculturalism, Nisga’a Hospitality, and Ceremonial Sovereignty on the Pacific Northwest Coast, by Dr. Pamela Klassen, UofT Department for the Study of Religion, Massey College Senior Fellow.

Respondent Dr. Laura Beth Bugg, UofT Department for the Study of Religion, on the chapter, A Cathedral Is Not Just For Christmas: Civic Christianity in the Multicultural City, by Dr. Simon Coleman, UofT Department for the Study of Religion, and Dr. Marion Bowman, and Dr.Tiina Sepp.

Respondent Dr. Amira Mittermaier, UofT Department for the Study of Religion, on the chapter, A Christmas Crisis: Lessons from a Canadian Public School’s Seasonal Skirmish, by Helen Mo, doctoral candidate at UofT department for the Study of Religion, Massey Alum (Helen passed away in April 2017).


Christmas is not a holiday just for Christians anymore, if it ever was. Embedded in calendars around the world and long a lucrative merchandising opportunity, Christmas enters multicultural, multi-religious public spaces, provoking both festivity and controversy, hospitality and hostility.

The Public Work of Christmas provides a comparative historical and ethnographic perspective on the politics of Christmas in multicultural contexts ranging from a Jewish museum in Berlin to a shopping boulevard in Singapore. A seasonal celebration that is at once inclusive and assimilatory, Christmas offers a clarifying lens for considering the historical and ongoing intersections of multiculturalism, Christianity, and the nationalizing and racializing of religion. The essays gathered here examine how cathedrals, banquets, and carols serve as infrastructures of memory that hold up Christmas as a civic, yet unavoidably Christian holiday. At the same time, the authors show how the public work of Christmas depends on cultural forms that mark, mask, and resist the ongoing power of Christianity in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.

Legislated into paid holidays and commodified into marketplaces, Christmas has arguably become more cultural than religious, making ever wider both its audience and the pool of workers who make it happen every year. The Public Work of Christmas articulates a fresh reading of Christmas – as fantasy, ethos, consumable product, site of memory, and terrain for the revival of exclusionary visions of nation and whiteness – at a time of renewed attention to the fragility of belonging in diverse societies.

Contributors include Herman Bausinger (Tübingen), Marion Bowman (Open), Juliane Brauer (MPI Berlin), Simon Coleman (Toronto), Yaniv Feller (Wesleyan), Christian Marchetti (Tübingen), Helen Mo (Toronto), Katja Rakow (Utrecht), Sophie Reimers (Berlin), Tiina Sepp (Tartu), and Isaac Weiner (Ohio State).


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Tuesday, December 3, 2019
9:30 am - 11:30 am EST


Massey College


Junior Common Room
4 Devonshire Place
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E1 Canada
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