AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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Comparative (interreligious) theology tries to be seriously theological, interreligious, and consciously comparative — all at the same time. It is, like other forms of theology as familiarly understood, primarily a matter of “faith seeking understanding” (or, more broadly, perhaps “the practice of reflective meditative perception” or “insight”) and reflection on this faith as it has been enacted in doctrine, argument, meditation, ritual, and ethical behavior. Like other forms of theology, it is an academic discipline, but may also be about and for the sake of knowledge of God or, more broadly, the ultimate mystery toward which life points. In comparative theology, faith and practice are explored and transformed by attention to parallel theological dimensions of one or more religious or theological traditions, examined historically or in the contemporary context. As a discipline within the academy, this communal and intercommunal faith and practice are open to the analyses, comments, and questions of insiders to the involved traditions, and to scholars not necessarily defined by any such commitments who are nonetheless able and willing to explore the full range of dynamics of faith seeking understanding in a comparative perspective. Please contact any Steering Committee Member for further information on the Unit, including the most recent self-study and statement of purpose, or to be added to the Unit.
Based on the business meeting, the meeting of our steering committee and suggestions by individual members, we want to elicit proposals concentrated around five themes for next year. We will also list other themes that have been suggested. Please bear in mind that we prefer panel proposals over individual paper proposals, that we want the proposals to be anonymous, and that we appreciate diversity as to gender, ethnicity, subfields, and phase in academic career. We also want to promote collaboration with other program units in the AAR in order to give us an extra (third) session next year. If you are interested in one of the themes but do not know how to collaborate in a panel session, feel free to contact the chairs or use the Comparative Theology Unit listserv to spread your message.
• We call for a panel or papers that engage in an exchange of narratives about foundational events that are shared and contested across Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. We call for a panel that not only exchanges narratives but also asks how our (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) theologies of the “other” might be challenged and changed through such a process of narrative hospitality. A panel on this theme could be organized in collaboration with the Scriptural Reasoning Unit, the Study of Judaism Unit, or the Study of Islam Unit.
• We call for a panel or papers that explore contemplative practices across religious traditions. It is sometimes said that practices of contemplation give access to “a common ground” that is shared between religions; a realm that lies beyond religious particularities. But is that really the case? What can be learned from attending to and comparing contemplative practices from different traditions (either through study or through participation in different practices). How does this affect our theological reasoning? A panel on this theme could be organized in collaboration with the Contemplative Studies Unit.
• We call for a panel or papers that address theological texts from different traditions that engage in forms of defending the faith (apologetics) or offending other traditions (polemics). What methods are comparative theologians to apply when dealing with texts that offend other religious traditions? What solutions can be found to overcome the forms of violence expressed in such texts or other forms of religiously motivated aggression? Proposals should try to reflect on both historical and contemporary instances of apologetic and polemical texts, or other expressions of religiously motivated hate speech.
• We call for a panel or papers that reflect on the legacy and the contemporary significance of Ramanuja (1017-1137 CE) for comparative theology. This panel could be organized in collaboration with the Hinduism Unit or the Hindu-Christian Studies Society or a similar group.
• We call for a panel on the meaning of joy in different theological traditions, and its distinctive characterization vis-à-vis the notion of happiness in religious and secular traditions. This panel could be organized in collaboration with the Templeton Foundation.
Other themes that have been suggested:
• Christianity in Asia
• Comparative theology and the media: finding a common political analysis
• Theistic and Atheistic positions
• Is it possible to give a comparative theological analysis of secular literature?
• Comparative theology and African religions
• Theology of Law and comparative studies
• Religious manifestations of spirit possession and the myth of consciousness