PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Comparative Theology Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

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.

Call for Papers: 

This year our Call for Papers consists of three proposals for co-sponsored panel sessions and five proposals for standing-alone papers or panel sessions. Two themes that have been suggested in the Business Meeting will be developed next year in co-sponsorship with the Reformed Theology / Karl Barth Studies Unit (on comparative critiques of religion) and the Religion, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Unit (on genocide in comparative perspective).

• Scriptural Reasoning and Comparative Theology
Since the 1990’s two creative and innovative interreligious practices have emerged: Scriptural Reasoning and comparative theology, both of which place the reading of texts at the center of interreligious learning, though they do so in a different vein. Comparative theology is a solitary studious enterprise, while Scriptural Reasoning is a communal conversational practice. Scriptural Reasoning places sacred scriptures at the heart of its practice, while comparative theology focuses on theological and philosophical treatises. We welcome papers or panel proposals that examine the relation between comparative theology and Scriptural Reasoning. What are their different methods, hermeneutics, or theological approaches? What sort of knowledge does each produce? How do they challenge or complement one another? And how do they relate to other disciplines like the theologies of religions or the academic study of religion? Co-sponsored with the Comparative Theology Unit and the Scriptural Reasoning Unit.

• Prisons, Incarceration, and Prison Literature
The Comparative Theology Unit and the Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction Unit invite paper and panel proposals for a co-sponsored session on the theme of “Prisons, Incarceration, and Prison Literature”. From imprisonments of religious figures like the Apostle Paul or Mahatma Ghandi to texts like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow or Langdon Gilkey’s Shantung Compound, theological and critical reflection on imprisonment, internment, and mass incarceration is a growing and pressing field of importance. This session seeks proposals that think about the interdisciplinary intersections of prison literature, sacred text, and comparative theory and theology. Proposals might consider: comparative work on sacred texts engaged by prison literature; mass incarceration and intersectional considerations of race, gender, and empire; emergent themes in comparing religiously-inflected prison literature; comparative theological reflections on genre; comparative theological reflections on imprisonment, internment and mass incarceration; engagement with contemporary critical theory on imprisonment and/or mass incarceration; engagement with critical theorists like Michel Foucault, Michelle Alexander, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, etc.; and other major related themes. We especially welcome proposals from scholars of sacred texts working in a wide range of religious traditions.

• Eastern Christian Approaches to Inter-Religious Dialogue and Comparative Theology: The Road Not Taken?
Contemporary developments in comparative theology and interreligious dialogue have been characterized by an almost exclusive emphasis on dialogue between Western forms of Christianity—both Roman Catholic and Protestant—with non-Christian religious traditions. Relatively fewer voices have been engaged in these disciplines from the traditions of Eastern Christianity (a broad term that includes Eastern Orthodox Christians, non-Chalcedonian Christians and Eastern Christian churches in communion with Rome). We welcome proposals from scholars of any religious tradition or none considering any aspect of interreligious conversation (Inter-Religious Dialogue and Comparative Theology) between Eastern Christian theologies/spiritualities/practices and non-Christian religious traditions.

Other topics suggested in the Business Meeting of the Comparative Theology Group:

• Comparative Theology and Lived Religion
Religious scholars have turned to lived religion, but what would such a turn entail for comparative theologians? What would this imply methodologically? Would such a turn give rise to different theological questions? We call for papers that both address the methodological, hermeneutical and theological challenges involved in a turn to lived religion and papers that showcase such a turn.

• Liberation and Postcolonial Comparative Theology

• Inspiration, Revelation, and the Production of Sacred Texts.

• Comparative Theology and Eschatology
Comparative theologians have considered questions regarding creation, suffering, salvation/redemption and revelation. However, the theme of eschatology has remained under the surface. This panel seeks to overcome this lacuna and calls for papers that specifically address eschatology across traditions.

• A book panel of recent publications in the field of comparative theology discussing the question whether they are shaping a new generation of writing in comparative theology.

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection
ChairSteering Committee