Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Michael Gauvreau


Employing the concept of "governmentality" developed by French poststructuralist Michel Foucault, this study investigates religious practices in congregational life and in interdenominational associations as well as the religious discourse of the local clergy and newspaper editors. It works at the local level to place religion in the public and private spaces of late nineteenth-century London Ontario. Methodologically it departs from many important local studies of religion in society by adopting a cultural rather than demographic approach. This approach allows attention to the diversities and ambiguities of religious practices and discourses as the churches negotiated their place in liberal society. The argument suggests that religion was called upon to produce self-governing citizens to ensure the efficiency of the liberal society coming into being in London. The arts of government this liberal society required centred on disciplines of freedom which religion could provide to the degree it conformed to the liberal imperatives of rationality, universality, and harmony across traditional sectional divides. Thus religion had public place in ensuring social stability just as it had in its traditional establishment role. However the governmentality of freedom had changed the spaces in which religion could work. Individual freedom of conscience in matters religious was essential to liberal society and thus religion had to fulfil its public role without public authority. Moreover, the power of religion to provide an alternative construction of reality to that of liberal society required that religion itself be carefully controlled and disciplined by liberal values. In this situation local congregations and local clergy were inspired to contribute to the spiritual and material project of constructing a religion worthy of a free people, but, in doing so, found the practices that grounded their identity in a particular way of being Christian challenged and eroded.

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