PAPERS Resources

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

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Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit works with the unique intersection of sacred texts, contemporary theory, and theological construction. We call for papers engaged in contemporary constructive theology that think in innovative ways with sacred texts and contemporary biblical studies. We encourage dialogue between constructive theologians and biblical scholars from AAR and SBL, dealing with themes of interest to both academic disciplines in the wake of postmodernity. Topics range from theological hermeneutics to the value of theology, interrogations of our new theoretical contexts to constructive theological proposals, and from the use of sacred texts by contemporary theorists to the use of those contemporary theorists in constructive theology. This unit encourages and is receptive to creative proposals that work at the intersection of biblical studies, contemporary philosophy, theory, and theology.

Call for Papers: 

This Unit firstly welcome paper and panel proposals in an open call by theologians and biblical scholars and other scholars of sacred texts. We welcome proposals from scholars working on a range of themes from postcolonial, critical race, queer, and ecocritical perspectives on theory, theological construction, and sacred texts. Contemporary or emerging themes in constructive theology are especially sought after. For 2018 in Denver, we also seek proposals on the following themes:

• Refugees and Political Displacements
We invite paper and panel proposals that theologically engage the intersection of sacred texts and forced migration, displacement or refugee-ism. Debates about the status of refugees in the United States, the emergence of "climate refugees," human and nonhuman, and emerging scholarship on forced migration and diaspora in biblical studies, constitute a growing scholarly and political edge. We invite proposals that work on these themes as they relate to theology and sacred texts. How does scholarship reflect on forced migration in sacred texts, the ethics of hospitality, national borderlands, diaspora, identity, theology and religious experience?

• What is Multidisciplinarity?
In contemporary discussions on the role and fate of the humanities, what exactly is interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity work? Given the nature of this Unit's work, how can scholars of sacred texts and theologians engage in more fruitful conversation with one another. What contribution might scholars of sacred texts and theologians offer the humanities more broadly? How does one do multidisciplinary work with integrity? Is there a place for that work in the academy? How do changing perspectives on interdisciplinary themes change our understanding of what it means to be a scholar of sacred texts or theologians? What are the limits of thinking of certain forms of scholarship as “interdisciplinary” or “multidisciplinary” as opposed to a kind “pure” position relative to a field of inquiry. How do institutions enable and constrain certain forms of “interdisciplinarity,” or what the limits are of thinking in terms of disciplines at all? What are the intellectual rubrics for “rigor” in those circumstances, and how might those be defined?

• Pedagogy and Public Theology
We invite paper and panel proposals that take on the 2018 presidential theme on “Civic Responsibilities, Opportunities and Risks Facing Scholars of Religion", particularly as those proposals engage the intersection of teaching theology and sacred texts to varying publics in a changing planetary plural religious, philosophical, and humanist landscape? What new perspectives on teaching does public theology or theology rooted in activism provide? Are there sacred texts when it comes to public theology? How are those texts deployed in political movements and to what effect? How do texts like the recent Awake to the Moment: An Introduction to Theology (Westminster John Knox Press, 2017) by the Workgroup in Constructive Theology help us understand the role of theologians and scholars of sacred texts in our current landscape? Proposals may engage new pedagogical theory, teaching in nonacademic contexts, sacred texts therein, multidisciplinary teaching, collaborative theology, etc.

• Podcasts as/and Sacred Texts: Welcome to Night Vale
The podcast Welcome to Night Vale describes itself as "a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events." (http://www.welcometonightvale.com/) Since its debut in 2012, the podcast has stimulated its audience with imaginative storytelling, magical realism, theological and religious complexity and mystery, paranormal activity, conspiracy theory, monstrosity, Gods, Glow Clouds, sexuality, angelology and a deeply human narrative of relationship and meaning. The podcast's creators--Joseph Fink, who was a religious studies major, and Jeffrey Cranor--interweave theological reflection with sacred texts, themes of religion and science, belief and doubt. We seek proposals that attend to Welcome to Night Vale's odd mix of texts and theology, constructive reflections and critiques on the themes of the podcast, the audience of the podcast itself, its characters and quirks. And, more generally, can podcasts be sources of theological reflection, can podcasts be sacred texts for those who listen? Co-sponsorship with the New Religious Movements Unit and the Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction 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.

• Pre-Arranged Panel: Un/Familiar Theology
We have pre-arranged a book review panel on Susannah Cornwall's new book Un/Familiar Theology: Reconceiving Sex, Reproduction, and Generativity (T&T Clark, 2017). Through engagement with theologies of adoption, pro-natalism, marriage, and queer theology, Susannah Cornwall figures developments in models of marriage and family not as distortions of or divergences from the divinely-ordained blueprint, but as developments already of a piece with these institution's being. Much Christian theological discussion of family, sex and marriage seems to claim that they are (or should be) unchanging and immaculate; that to celebrate their shifting and developing natures is to reject them as good gifts of God. However, models of marriage, family, parenting and reproduction have changed and are still, in some cases radically, changing. These changes are not all a raging tide to be turned back, but in continuity with goods deeply embedded in the tradition. Alternative forms of marriage and family stand as signs of the hope of the possibility of change. Changed institutions, such as same-sex marriage, are new beginnings with the potential to be fruitful and generative in their own right. In them, humans create new imaginaries which more fully acknowledge the interactive nature of our relationships with the world and the divine. We are looking forward to this pre-arranged panel, and while we are not considering proposals for this panel, we do invite a range of proposals on queer theory, texts, and theological construction. Co-sponsored by the Gay Men and Religion Unit and the Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction Unit.

• We invite paper and panel proposals for a co-sponsored session with the Comparative Theology Unit and the Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction Unit 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.

Method: 
PAPERS
Process: 
Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee