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Online Program Book

In-person sessions begin with an A-prefix (i.e., A20-102), whereas Virtual sessions begin with an AV-prefix (i.e., AV20-102)
All Times are Listed in Central Standard Time (CST)

AV19-303

Theme: Race, Empire, and Inequality in the History of the Study of Religion

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM (Virtual)

The study of religion has been intertwined with racialized thinking since the Victorian comparativists at times reinforcing empires logics of racial difference, at times upending them by producing new modes of religio-racial subjectivity. This panel breaks fresh ground on these questions by diving deep into particular archives of race and religion. Arranged in chronological order, the papers move across France and the U.S. The first paper uses the appointment of Alfred Loisy to the chair in history of religions at the College de France in 1909, over his rival Marcel Mauss, to shed new light on the hegemonic structures of French republican anti-Semitism. The second paper explores the WPA slave narrative collection compiled in the 1930s, putting Zora Neale Hurston’s auto-ethnographic account of that project into conversation with Walter Benjamin and Saidiya Hartman on violence. The third paper unpacks the politics of French scholar Henry Corbin’s Aryan Islam, a reframing of race via Shiism that pulled nineteenth-century Orientalisms into the mid-twentieth twentieth century, toward unexpected ends.

  • Abstract

    This paper enthusiastically embraces the Unit’s call to unearth the connections between the study of religion and the inescapability of history’s ethical and political claims upon us. I will explore the modes of power and domination exercised and expressed in the acquisition and retrieval of archival materials—that is, in the production and consumption of history. Specifically, this paper draws methodological and theological insights from the work of Walter Benjamin, Saidiya Hartman, Zora Neale Hurston, and Judith Butler into conversation with the process of collecting the WPA Slave Narratives in the 1930s, and with the broader dilemma of archival silence and violence. Historical subjects—especially enslaved subjects—while undisclosed and irretrievable in an archive created by epistemologies of slavery and domination, still permeate the negative space of the archive and are revealed to us in the pursuit of alternative futures.

  • Abstract

    In the late nineteenth century, history of religions was institutionalized as an autonomous scientific discipline at several French state institutions as an integral part of the laicization program of the new, anticlerical Third Republic. Thus far, scholarship on the cultural history of the French discipline has been almost exclusively focused on the confessional and political identities of its main agents. Adopting an intersectional methodology inspired by a Gramscian theoretical framework, this paper analyzes the neglected role of widely reigning social attitudes in the making of the discipline. This paper offers a case study of the appointment of the excommunicated Catholic priest Alfred Loisy to the secular chair of History of Religions at the prestigious Collège de France. Through a rich analysis of the enormous correspondence on this appointment, it will become clear that a powerful elitist network decided to support Loisy, not so much because they were so convinced of his scholarly merits, but especially because they didn’t want his main rival, the leading Jewish social anthropologist and nephew of Émile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss on the chair,

  • Abstract

    Henry Corbin (1903-1978), the French Islamicist and phenomenologist of religion, has long been celebrated for discovering, theorizing, and introducing to the world a spiritual continuum named ‘Iranian Islam.’ Some scholars have described his project as proposing a pattern of anti-Orientalism or reverse Orientalism. In this paper, I will show that Corbin’s work was not an anti-Orientalistic project, but rather an alternative model of Orientalistic approach to Islam. My main argument is that while the more typical pattern of Orientalism used to represent Islam in negative terms for portraying a positive figure of the West as its opposite, Corbin’s model superimposes Helleno-Christian patterns on a racialized ‘Iranian Islam’ to make a case for this Islam being valuable because of its preserving of elements of a lost golden age of the West.

AV19-304

Theme: Authors Meet Critics: Lawrence W. Gross' Native American Rhetoric (New Mexico University Press, 2021)

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM (Virtual)

In December 2021, the University of New Mexico Press will publish Native American Rhetoric, an anthology dealing with the nature of rhetoric within individual Native communities, the conventions and practices of how Native Americans address each other, and the moral thinking and religious traditions standing behind the rhetoric of specific Nations. While the book is dedicated to the memory of Ines Talamantez who posthumously published chapter in the book, the panel is presided over by the book's editor, Larry Gross. Book contributors will briefly present their chapters as follows: Chapter 1: And Now Our Minds Are One: The Thanksgiving Address and Attaining Consensus among the Haudenosaunee by Philip P. Arnold; Chapter 4: Women, Childbirth, and the Sticky Tamales: Nahua Rhetoric and Worldview in the Glyphic Codex Borgia by Felicia Lopez; Chapter 5: O'odham, Too: Or, How to Speak to Rattlesnakes by Seth Schermerhorn; Chapter 6: Sounding Navajo: Bookending in Navajo Public Speaking by Meredith Moss; Chapter 9: Why We Fish: Decolonizing Salmon Rhetorics and Governance by Cutcha Risling Baldy; Chapter 10: The Two-Spirit Tlingit Film Rhetoric of Aucoin's My Own Private Lower Post by Gabriel S. Estrada; Chapter 12 Coyotean Rhetoric: A Trans-Indigenous Reading of Peter Blue Cloud’s Elderberry Flute Song by Inés Hernández-Avila. Emerson Bull Chief and Michael Zogry are the respondents who will comment on the anthology, followed by a question-and-answer session.

When the AAR Millennial Scholar, Dr. Ines Talamantez (Sun Clan of the Mescalero Apache, Lipan Apache, and Chicana), passed in September 2019, the contributors decided to dedicate the book to her memory. Two years after her passing, the University of New Mexico Press is releasing the book, Native American Rhetoric. Dr. Talamantez taught that scholars of Native American religious traditions should theorize from within their culture of interest and include considerations of Native languages. Her teaching very much informs this work. This anthology adds to the more abundant literature on Native American rhetorical contestations of settler colonialism by turning instead to the internal workings of rhetoric among Native American rhetors and Native American audiences, including those plant and animal peoples who are non-human people.

While the book editor Larry Gross will preside over the panel, each of the seven panelists will briefly present their chapters and then invite commentary from Emerson Bull Chief and Michael Zogry. This roundtable considers the Haudenosaunee, Nahua, O'odham, Navajo, Hupa, and Teslin Tlingit Nations, among others. First, Larry Gross will give an account on the book project as its editor and then introduce the roundtable participants. Next, Philip Arnold offers that the Thanksgiving Address that repeats our minds are one reinforces the Haudenosaunee principles of unity, consensus, and peaceful co-existence. This “Our minds are one” repetition both celebrates and creates unity between humans and the natural world and within the human community and is a key example of Haudenosaunee rhetoric. Felicia Lopez then demonstrates how the rhetoric in the Nahua codices relates to women's concerns, such as childbirth. Through carefully placing the codices within Nahua cultural context and worldview, Lopez offers new readings of the pictorial and glyphic codices and their gendered aspects. Schermerhorn will present his verbatim interviews that he conducted with the Tohono O'odham about rattlesnakes. While part of his point is to outline the way in which rattlesnakes are people also worthy of speech, the rough nature of the quotes and the way in which they are imbedded in other fragmented narratives speaks to the ways in which rhetoric actually occurs in Native American communities. Meredith Moss explains the use of Diné language markers in speeches that are otherwise largely given in English. She finds that Diné introductions and closings in the Diné language are powerful identity markers that also rhetorically impact their audiences. Tracing the close connection the Hupa people have to the salmon, Cutcha Risling Baldy argues that the Hupa people and other Native people in northern California concerned about the survival of the salmon should center salmon rhetorics in their efforts to influence state and federal policies and regulations that govern the fate of the salmon. Then, Gabriel Estrada details the ways in which the Teslin Tlingit film, My Own Private Lower Post, by Duane Gastant' Aucoin enters into a Teslin Tlingit healing rhetoric in light of his family's immediate history of Indian residential school traumas, domestic violence, and alcoholism. Aucoin establishes himself as a two-spirit healer and storyteller as he performs the Tlingit-language story of how Raven steals the sun, moon, and stars. Finally, Inés Hernández-Avila discusses what she introduces as the Coyotean rhetoric of the Mohawk writer Peter Blue Cloud. Hernandez-Avila argues that when looking at how Coyotean rhetoric functions in Native societies, the emphasis should not be on the more predictable notions of this "Trickster" figure, but instead, on the deeper and more complex facets of this well-known sacred being. After presentations by critics Emerson Bull Chief and Michael Zogry, the panel open for a question-and- answer session.

AV19-305

Theme: Town Hall on the Study of Mysticism

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM (Virtual)

Scholars are invited to a virtual town hall to discuss the current state of mysticism studies and where we might go from here. Rather than a formal panel, this session will be an informal discussion, mediated by steering committee members of the Mysticism Unit, in which anyone may participate. We will consider questions such as what sorts of methodologies need putting away, what needs special attention at the moment, and what questions ought to be central to future research on mysticism.

AV19-306

Theme: Sociopolitical Contexts of Scholarly Knowledge Production

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM (Virtual)

This session explores stakes of knowledge production in Islamic contexts, particularly in Africa, from a variety of socio-political perspectives.

  • Abstract

    Intentionally or unintentionally, Muslim womens narratives are either totally excluded or pushed to the margins in the traditional documentation of Islamic history as well as contemporary feminist scholarship. The patriarchal norms of early Islamic history did not value womens experiences as authentic knowledge. Women of African origin were further disadvantaged because of their race and if they were linked to Shia thought, they also faced discrimation as a sectarian minority. Despite its liberatory claim, contemporary Muslim feminist scholarship in western academia has done little to unearth the narratives of African Muslim women affiliated to Shia tradition. The secularist strategy of promoting liberal and progressive scholarship on Islam has deterred constructive methodologies that argue for empowerment of Muslim women by building on narratives of religious women from within Islamic tradition. In this paper, I draw on the counter-storytelling approach to present the case studies of three early African Muslim women: Um Ayman, Sumayya, and Fizza to interrogate the intellectual inactivity on a genre that holds the potential for loquacious discourse.

  • Abstract

    Much scholarship on the rise of the territorial nation state and, relatedly, secularism, relies on a theory about intra-Christian conflict and debate in Europe. This paper analyzes a genealogy of Maghrebi Muslim jurists—Abū Bakr ibn al-‘Arabī (d. 1148), Aḥmad ibn Yaḥiya al-Wansharīsī (d. 1508), and al-Mahdī al-Wazzānī (d. 1923)—to show how a theory of territory developed in the Maghrebi context as a process of travel, emigration, and encounter with others. Writing on the cusp of the 20th century, al-Wazzānī relied on work by the two earlier scholars to make way for an Islam that could be practiced in the absence of a Muslim ruler. The coming of European colonialism prompted him to deterritorialize Islam and, consequently, to reconceptualize the nation as extra-religious. To make this argument, he recontextualized Ibn al-‘Arabī and al-Wansharīsī. Where the earlier scholars had bound Islam to the land and its ruler, al-Wazzānī said Islam could exist free of any Muslim sovereign. Taken together, these three jurists demonstrate how encounters with others from both Muslim and non-Muslim polities shaped an Islamic conception of political and religious space over time.

  • Abstract

    My paper aims to shed new light on Muslim historiography by demonstrating how understanding the nature of the struggle in writing biographical works (ṭabaqāt) recasts the foundations of Islamic thought. Many scholars of Islamic legal history argue that biographical texts are literary sources, yet they are frequently used only for data mining. Their approaches to ṭabaqat are ad hoc, inconsistent, intuitive (rather than evidence-based), and sometimes they simply misread the sources. My presentation questions the assumption that biographers copy previous historians’ texts without injecting their views into the material. It also questions the effectiveness of the common practice of using the ṭabaqāt genre as “dictionaries” for data mining without examining the entire text or understanding the author’s approach.

  • Abstract

    During his early career, the West African thinker ʿUthmān dan Fodio (d. 1232/1817) wrote a number of works refuting the practice of ostracizing people deemed ignorant of basic creedal doctrine from the Muslim community. Although historians of Islamic West Africa have tended to portray the advocates of that practice as a peculiar “sectarian cult” whose ideas likely stemmed from their less educated milieu, this paper argues that their views were in fact connected to a controversy that took place in 1080/1669 in the southeastern Moroccan city of Sijilmāsa.The paper unfolds in three sections. First, by drawing on a set of hitherto unstudied manuscripts, I examine the Sijilmāsa controversy from the perspective of its instigator, analyzing his reasons for disciplining common people’s creedal beliefs. Second, I investigate the routes and means by which these manuscripts spread southward. The third section reevaluates the views of dan Fodio and his opponents in light of this backdrop. By exploring these trans-Saharan connections, the paper not only de-exoticizes peculiar-seeming practices but also considers what they can tell us about the social life of Islamic creed across the region.

AV19-307

Theme: From Vatican II to Pope Francis: Toward a Dialogical Church

Friday, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM (Virtual)

In virtue of its mission to bring all people of whatever nation, race, or culture into one Spirit, the church comes to be a sign of that kinship which makes genuine dialogue possible and vigorous (GS 92). The Second Vatican Council was both a moment of intense dialogue and exchange among Catholics and a turning point in relations between the Catholic Church, other Christian churches, and religious communities as it committed itself to a path of dialogue and openness with others. Carrying forward the council’s vision in a new day, Pope Francis calls Catholics to renew the dialogical culture of synodality within the church and to build a culture of friendship and solidarity with the whole human community. In both its inner life and external relations, Vatican II envisioned a dialogical church that might be from the local to the global level a sign of for all humanity.

  • Abstract

    Fratelli Tutti’s dual emphasis on global and local as complementary poles serves its outreach to other cultures and draws upon principles perennial to Catholic moral thought. Regarding other cultures, this global-local polarity bears affinities with the southern African notion of ubuntu, as well as Bruno Latour’s critique of globalization. With respect to Catholic moral thought, this polarity extends key themes found in Francis’s texts—especially Laudato Si’ and Evangelii Gaudium—and speaks to the principle of subsidiarity as developed within the encyclical tradition. Yet, this paper argues, Fratelli Tutti’s aim of global dialogue would benefit from attention to the question of borders, an ineluctable political reality that represents both challenge and opportunity. As challenge, borders intervene in and potentially obstruct solidaristic dialogue considered horizontally in a way that risks undermining the encyclical's harmonious ordering of global and local considered vertically. As opportunity, borders potentially structure pluralistic local contexts in a manner presupposed in Fratelli Tutti's aim to promote social friendship and justice amidst diversity.

  • Abstract

    The purpose here is to contribute to the theological research on synodality through the study of concrete actions of ecclesial governance? I propose to use the notion of religious innovation to present post-conciliar diocesan synods in several phases: proposal, diffusion, appropriation, adoption. The fourth and last phase of the innovation process encounters several obstacles, which explains the only partial and incomplete reception of the reform of the diocesan synod. This will open the way to a more theological and prospective reflection, where the ecclesiological principle of synodality emerges. The challenge then is to identify, characterize and overcome the present limitations, so that the Catholic Church may move forward with confidence and fruitfulness on "this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium" (Pope Francis, 17th October 2015).

AV19-401

Theme: A Womanist Theology of Worship: Liturgy, Justice, and Communal Righteousness

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

Nascent Black Christianity in America was grounded in African spirituality, a communal God-consciousness recognizing no separation between sacred and secular. Worship patterns emerged from this idea of sacred cosmos, becoming liturgical traditions present even today. However, European and Anglo histories, theologies and worldviews have had a deleterious effect on theo-ethical spirituality and embodiment in African-American worship. This roundtable session will feature the author and other liturgical theologians reviewing A Womanist Theology of Worship (Orbis Books) which examines the history of Black Christian worship in America, effects of white supremacy on its spiritual and liturgical heritages, and proffers a womanist liturgical paradigm to recover liberative, holistic liturgical and spiritual practices. The roundtable, like the text, will pay special attention to how the historical link between liturgy and justice infused Black worship, how racism and patriarchy weakened the link, leading to a loss of prophetic and communal authority across communities, and the potential of this new paradigm to uplift, re-member, and resurrect Black people as breath, soul, and spirit.

AV19-402

Theme: Exile, Migration, and Diaspora

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

At a time when borders are built and destroyed, this panel addresses the questions of what it means to be a migrant and a displaced person, and what is the role of religion in reconstructing a precarious identity. The first presentation focuses on the novels Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor, and Paradise, by Toni Morrison, to explore constructions of Black identity in relation to the dialectic of exile. The second paper offers a case study of the contemporary indigenous Chilean poet, artist, and climate activist Cecilia Vicua, bringing into light her concept of an indigenous futurism. The third paper discusses issues of diaspora in indigenous literature through an analysis of Maria Campbells Halfbreed, and the fictional autobiography In Search of April Raintree, by Beatrice Culleton, inspired by Campbell’s work. At a time when borders are built and destroyed, this panel addresses the questions of what it means to be a migrant and a displaced person, and what is the role of religion in reconstructing a precarious identity. The first presentation focuses on the novels Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor, and Paradise, by Toni Morrison, to explore constructions of Black identity in relation to the dialectic of exile. The second paper offers a case study of the contemporary indigenous Chilean poet, artist, and climate activist Cecilia Vicua, bringing into light her concept of indigenous futurism. The third paper discusses issues of diaspora in indigenous literature through an analysis of Maria Campbells Halfbreed, and the fictional autobiography In Search of April Raintree, by Beatrice Culleton, inspired by Campbell’s work.

  • Abstract

    Today, inexorably, members of our human species are beginning to catch sight of a crisis that exists beyond the confines of our specific cultures—beginning to recognize, that is, that our own personal, social, and political crises reflect a growing crisis in the biological matrix of life on the planet. In this paper I offer a case study of the contemporary indigenous Chilean poet, artist, and climate activist Cecilia Vicuña, which takes seriously her concept of an “indigenous futurism.” Her work often begins life as a poem and unfolds in various forms, a site-specific installation, performance, ritual, song, or film. Over the past fifty years, Vicuña has produced an extraordinary multidisciplinary archive of work, publishing over twenty books of poetry. I would like to propose three inter-related ideas about religion and indigenous ecologies in Vicuña’s work – the first is about her practice of inventing new words, creative etymologies as a weaving of new spiritual kinship systems fundamental to her indigenous religious practice. The second and third ideas are about ritual and trauma as sites of awareness and collective global transformation of our ecological crisis.

  • Abstract

    In "Reflections on Exile," Edward Said describes exile as "the unhealable rift force between a human being and a native place" (Said, 2000, p. 137). Exiled persons exist in a "discontinuous state of being," such that being in the world is marked by rupture and by ceaseless movement to recover that which is irrecoverable (Said, 2000, p.140). In Black Women, Writing, and Identity (Routledge, 1994), Carole Boyce Davies describes persons marginalized through exile and displacement as migratory subjects. Davies argues that migratory subjects have a precarious relation to identityalways in a state of belonging and not belonging in relation to both place and placelessness. In such a formulation, migratory subjects emerge through a space and time that is, to borrow a phrase that has also been taken up in indigenous and trans studies, "elsewhere." Consistent with Davies and Said's depictions of the literature of exiles, this paper explores constructions of Black identity in relation to the dialectic of exile by tracing the haunting portrayals of migration and the trappings of nostalgia that disturb the utopic Black communities in Gloria Naylor's Mama Day and Toni Morrisons Paradise.

  • Abstract

    Although Maria Campbell’s groundbreaking text Halfbreed is explicitly autobiographical, she explains that she is not recounting her story for its own sake but in order “to tell you what it is like to be a Halfbreed woman in our country.” For Campbell, to be such a woman in Canada means to be caught in a network of conflicting religions, ideologies, social pressures, and notions of identity. These themes were taken up ten years later by Beatrice Culleton in her work of fictional autobiography, In Search of April Raintree. Together, these texts by Campbell and Culleton comprise the foundation of modern Indigenous literature in Canada. In this paper I examine these works through two lenses. First, I use works from diaspora studies to think about the presentation of dispossession in the texts. Second, I draw on Métis scholar Jo-Ann Episkenew’s discussion of Indigenous literature as medicine.

AV19-403

Theme: Anti-Asian Hate Roundtable

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

In the United States, the first four months of 2021 witnessed two highly publicized episodes of deadly violence targeting those of Asian descent. The violence against Asian women in Atlanta and against Sikhs at the FedEx facility in Minneapolis are but recent chapters in a long history of discrimination and violence against minoritized groups in North America. The Covid-19 pandemic has served to exacerbate inequalities and violence along racial, class, ethnic, gender, and religious lines. At the same time, this violence has given rise to new solidarities and alliances across boundaries. Such initiatives have taken various forms including public protests, vigils, and increased visibility on a range of social media platforms. How might those in the Academy and/or in activist organizations address the possibilities and limitations of solidarity in relation to unfolding anti-Asian violence? In what ways might academic scholarship intersect with activism and movement building across various religious, ethnic, class, gender, and racial boundaries? What are the potential possibilities and problems of such interactions? How might competing conceptions of 'Asianness' impact academic and community solidarity? This roundtable seeks to think through the possible sites and forms of scholarly engagement in these increasingly brazen moments of anti-Asian violence. This session is cosponsored by the Sikh Studies Unit and the Asian North America Religion, Culture, and Society Unit (ANARCS).

AV19-404

Theme: The Future of Orthodox Christian Studies

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

This session will feature a round table of interdisciplinary scholars on the future of Orthodox Christian studies. The discussion will include brief remarks before opening to a moderated discussion about how the field is taking shape, its strengths and challenges, the situation of Orthodox studies in the church and academy, and visions for its development in the future.

AV19-407

Theme: The Legacy of Desmond Tutu: Ubuntu, Spirituality and Restorative Justice

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

In accordance with the theme for AAR 2021, Religion, Poverty, and Inequality: Contemplating Our Collective Futures, this Exploratory Session seeks to establish the following new unit in the AAR: Theology of Desmond Tutu Unit. In this Roundtable session, three panelists are invited to discuss three major aspects of Tutus legacy: Ubuntu, Spirituality and Restorative Justice. Panelists will interrogate the relationship among these three concepts in Tutu’s legacy in order to imagine a better collective future for humanity and creation. In so doing, panelists will reflect on Tutu’s vision of an equitable world in which divine and human interdependence is not optional but necessary. The balance of this Exploratory Session will focus on the goal of establishing this new unit on Tutu’s theology. We will discuss future topics, collaborative sessions and how to place Tutu in conversation with theological figures and subjects in a manner that honors and sustains Tutu’s legacy.

AV19-405

Theme: Organizing Sufi Practice: Studies in Space, the City, and New Religious Movements

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

These papers consider ways in which city life, the politics of shrine culture, new age readings of religion, and the historical origins of Islam’s religious movements inform the study of Sufism. Spanning India, North Africa, Western and Central Asia, as well as Southern Europe, this panel focuses on the social construction of Sufi institutions and practices. A study of the political life of North Indian shrines reveals these sites as conduits of influence and economic power. Sufism also had a role in the shaping of Cairo’s cityscape, as well as its practices of pilgrimage and festival. In Italy, moreover, Sufi proselytization has inspired syncretism vis--vis practices and doctrines that might be categorized as new age. Finally, even Sufism in its earliest instantiations, when studied as a new religious movement, can expand our understanding of the institutionalization of religion. This panel includes anthropological, ethnographic, historical, and sociological approaches to the study of Sufi spaces, practices, and institutions.

  • Abstract

    In Cairo, both the religious elite and the masses publicly celebrated saints (awliyā’) in the nineteenth century. However, this is not very clear from the secondary literature on Islam in nineteenth century Egypt, as it generally emphasizes the appearance of Islamic modernism and Islamic reform movements, which it is argued eschewed taṣawwuf. Since taṣawwuf did not disappear from the public arena in the nineteenth century, but rather, continued to flourish (De Jong 1978, Delanoue 1982, Chih 2019, Mayeur-Jaouen 2019), I argue that understanding taṣawwuf as it was practiced is necessary to understand life in Cairo. I further argue that it is crucial to understand the role taṣawwuf played in Cairo’s cityscape, and its role marking the city and urban life in Cairo, including its visual and auditory manifestations. Thus, through a study of ziyārāt and mawālid, my paper demonstrates the profound ways daily and annual devotional rituals and celebrations impacted the inhabitants of Cairo whether or not they were active participants in these events.

  • Abstract

    In this article I will describe the Sufi order Naqshbandiyya-Hāqqaniyya in the Italian context. It has appropriated some elements of New Age culture that are meant to enhance proselytism, which in turn is necessary due to the imminent end of the world foretold by its leaders. After some necessary clarifications on the different meanings and uses of the term ‘New Age’, understood as a set of doctrines and/or as a social process, I will argue that the Naqshbandiyya-Hāqqaniyya appropriated some New Age elements, and that this implied: the spectacular-isation of Sufi rituals and the entrepreneur-isation of Sufi leadership. This implies a process of fragmentation, where different local leaders, whom I define as “spiritual entrepreneurs”, have shaped different groups according to their specific ideas. New Age narratives and doctrines, such as reincarnation and out-of-body experiences, became part of the Italian Naqshbandi Sufi order; where the focus has shifted from the Islamic message to the concepts of love, mercifulness and wellbeing.

  • Abstract

    From the ninth century C.E. onward, Muslims who were known as Sufis attracted controversy for both their doctrines and social behavior (de Jong and Radtke, 1999). The attachment to controversy thus marks early Sufis as a typical "new religious movement, or "NRM" (Lewis and Petersen 2005. Cf Chryssides and Zeller 2014; and Hammer and Rothstein). Consequently, the strategies which early Sufis pursued in order to effectively navigate such controversy are of interest. Although modern scholarship has proposed a range of possible strategic programs followed by Sufis of the ninth and tenth centuries C.E., these studies have not taken into account a specimens of genre of advice literature known as the "ethical testament" produced by leading early Sufis (Ar. wasiyya; pl. wasaya; cf Marlow 2007). An examination of this material shows that leading early Sufis mobilized around a common set of organizational strategies thought to correlate strongly with the the success of NRMs.

AV19-406

Theme: Environmental Justice and Political Asceticism: A Panel on Thoreau’s Religion by Alda Balthrop-Lewis (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (Virtual)

Environmental justice is often framed as a struggle between people who are willing to impose on the environment and people who advocate for a reduction of human imposition on it. In the new book Thoreau’s Religion: Walden Woods, Social Justice, and Political Asceticism (Cambridge, 2021), Alda Balthrop-Lewis presents a radical alternative to this frame through a reinterpretation of Henry David Thoreau’s most famous work, Walden. Balthrop-Lewis reads Thoreau’s asceticism in Walden Woods as a form of religious practice dedicated to cultivating a just, multispecies community. Different models of environmental justice emerge from this reading, replacing a desire to reduce violence on the environment with a complex politics of delight in the environment and refusal of violence against it. This roundtable brings together leading scholars in environmental ethics, religious ethics, and political thought to discuss the promise and perils of this new frame for ecological and environmental justice.

A19-408

Theme: Parasite

Friday, 8:00 PM-10:00 PM (In Person)

Parasite is a 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller film directed by Bong Joon-ho, which follows the poor Kim family who scheme to become employed by the wealthy Park family and infiltrate their household by posing as unrelated, highly qualified individuals. But greed and class discrimination threaten their symbiotic relationship.

A20-136

Theme: Department Chairs and Program Coordinators' Breakfast

Saturday, 7:30 AM-8:45 AM (In Person)

Department Chairs and Program Coordinators' are invited to a breakfast gathering.

A20-100

Theme: New Members' Breakfast and Annual Meeting Orientation

Saturday, 7:30 AM-8:45 AM (In Person)

New (first-time) AAR members in 2020 are cordially invited to a welcome breakfast hosted by the AAR Staff and Board of Directors, including a brief orientation to the AAR Annual Meeting.

A20-134

Theme: Regional Officers Breakfast

Saturday, 7:30 AM-8:45 AM (In Person)

Gathering of regional leaders including presidents, student representatives, regionally elected coordinators, and other regional officers for a full breakfast meeting to discuss the work of the Regions and the needs of regional leaders.

A20-105

Theme: Howard Thurman, the Disinherited, and American Religion in the Twentieth Century: A Roundtable Discussion

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM (In Person)

Howard Thurman (18991981) was a unique figure in 20th century American and African American Religion. He was one of the first significant African American pacifists, part of the first group of black Americans to meet with Mahatma Gandhi, and a mentor to James Farmer, Pauli Murray, and many others. He was a mystic whose impact on thinking about spirituality helped shape liberal religion in mid-20th century America. His presence and broader ambit includes both the black Church and Neo-Hasidism, his close association with Mary McLeod Bethune, Benjamin Mays, and other figures in the liberal Protestant intellectual tradition as well as psychedelic explorations in the 1960s. In 1944 he co-founded the Fellowship Church for All Peoples in San Francisco. The completion of the publication of the 5 volumes of The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman, and the appearance of a number of new books on his life and thought, provide an ideal opportunity to consider Thurman's thought, legacy, and continued influence. This roundtable session brings together several generations of Thurman scholars to discuss the origins and evolution of Thurman scholarship from the 1970s to now.

AV20-101

Theme: Preparing Scholars of Religion for Non-academic Careers: What's a Faculty Member to Do?

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM (Virtual)

In recent years as the job market for tenure-track academic positions has tightened and the use of contingent faculty has exploded, increasing numbers of graduate degree seekers are intending to pursue careers off the tenure track and outside of the academy. While some areas of study present obvious career options, for scholars in the humanities, nonacademic career opportunities and the best preparation for them may not be obvious and religious studies faculty are exploring how graduate programs can and should prepare all alumni for diverse employment outcomes. This panel brings together faculty members from a variety of institutions to discuss some of the problems confronting their students and their programs as more people turn by necessity and by choice to diverse career paths.

A20-106

Theme: Women and Revelation in India, Tibet, and China

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM (In Person)

This panel analyzes revelatory literature of India, Tibet, and China to shed light on the key roles women (divine, human, and everything in between) play in the writing, transmission, and alteration of sacred texts. It focuses on historical literature as well as oral discourse to compare the modes of textual production and dissemination in these regions. The papers draw on revealed literature to identify the social, literary, and ritual conventions shaping the religious lives of women, and analyze ways women have negotiated these conventions by engaging with revealed literature and the act of revelation. Papers in this panel shift the focus away from a Judeo-Christian concept of revelation by exploring the contours and limits of revelatory activities as the divine communication between humans and non-human agents in South and East Asian contexts. They also explore the manifold expressions and representations of women as recipients and/or bestowers of revelation in these religious communities, providing wide-ranging perspectives on the experiences of women and various approaches (e.g., feminist, historical, philological) to theorize women and revelation in South and East Asia.

  • Abstract

    Hinduism challenges the dominant understanding of revelation in the study of religion in several ways. To relate the concept more generatively to Hinduism, this essay proposes that we use a lesser-known yet potent meaning of revelation as realization, which unlocks the concept to illuminate women-authored voices in the making of religion. The case study of a classical bhakti female saint, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, reveals the devotional subjectivity she created in her poetry to Shiva in the Tamil language. Of particular interest are the demands and questions she directed to him, demonstrating her assumption that it is god who is listening to her. The potency yet vulnerability of her speaking is shown in the treatment of her later male hagiographer, who contextualizes her in a domestic story at variance with the themes of her own poetic speech.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines the literary representations of the khandroma (lit. “sky-goer”) in Nyingma Treasure sources from the 14th to the 15th centuries. By introducing a taxonomy of different types of khandromas and her role in Treasure revelations, I argue that Nyingma Treasure literature has reorganized the khandromas into Buddhist categories and revamped them as the most important female persona in Buddhist lores. More importantly, the khandroma plays a vital role in the process of revealing concealed Treasures. In her participation in this process, she serves as a conduit of knowledge and wisdom and embodies a dialectic interaction between the theological and social aspects of gender in the Treasure tradition. The negotiation between these two aspects of gender allows us to propose a new hermeneutic framework in Tibetan Buddhism that takes into account the theological identity of the khandroma as divine conduits of wisdom, and at the same time queries how this identity is negotiated in her earthly emanations. I also consider relational agency as a Tibetan way of thinking about subjectivity that extends beyond individuality and relies more on karmic actions and divine emanations.

  • Abstract

    Scholars have indicated that the appearance of auspicious signs during pregnancy and childbirth is one of the recurrent themes in Chinese Buddhist hagiographies. These omens serve to retrospectively show eminent monks’ inborn greatness and thereby prognosticate their future achievement. These birth stories full of revelations, however, are less told and examined from the mothers’ perspectives. The revelation of omens happening to the mothers are mostly attributed to the virtues of the fetuses. Nevertheless, viewing these revelations from the mothers’ angle reveal how women in history engage with Buddhism to acquire divine correspondence and employ these resources to get through the challenging process of pregnancy and childbirth. By reinterpreting these birth scenes in Chinese Buddhist hagiographies, this paper demonstrates the narrative similarity shared by the Chinese monastic birth stories and the Buddha’s biographies. When receiving divine revelation, mothers of Chinese monastics also draw inspiration from indigenous culture, including the Confucian tradition of auspicious signs, the birth myths of sage kings, vegetarian diet, and interaction with Daoist divinities.

  • Abstract

    This paper analyzes the role and impact of a female guru's 'performing revelation' to unravel religiously sanctioned gender and caste-based power relations in Hindu society. Based on ethnographic research conducted by the author from 2014 to 2019 in Uttar Pradesh with Trikal Bhavanta Saraswati (hereafter, 'Mataji'), this paper examines the dynamics involved in Mataji's experiences of 'revelation' and how her performing revelation through personal narrative works to dismantle the hegemony of dominant castes and advance subordinate identities' inclusion within Hindu power structures. The paper discusses three events in which Mataji reinterprets culturally dominant Hindu ideas and practices that disadvantage subordinate identities from exercising authority as monastic heads. Mataji's practices have opened new pathways for parity of access and representation, such as: the granting to herself, without institutional sanction, the status of the 'first' female Shankaracharya of India, and the spearheading of a women's liberation movement that is mobilizing historically marginalized identities to throw off the shackles of centuries of religious patriarchy and caste hierarchies.

A20-107

Theme: Work, Sex, and Money: Generating Catholic Masculinities

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:00 AM (In Person)

From the bedroom to the workplace, and from parishes and into the boxing ring, these papers explore how Catholic rituals, doctrines, and spaces create men and examine how masculinity is produced and navigated in different institutional and intimate spaces. Panelists offer historical and ethnographic views into the relationships Catholic men build with each other and the images they project into the world through sport, in on-and offline homosocial communities, by cooking and praying together, and through their physical and financial labor. The panel provides a chance to think about the relationship between masculinity studies and Catholic studies. In a tradition officially dominated by men, scrutiny of what it has actually meant to be a man in different settings can destabilize supposedly fixed categories of meaning and authority. Catholic masculinity and its authority are not natural or stable, but constantly made and remade through practice, and in conversation with tradition and surrounding environments. In opening these processes to critical analysis, this panel exposes the insecurity and the wounding, the creativity and the uncertainty in the production of Catholic manhood.

  • Abstract

    One Sunday in December, 2019, the leader of Emaús, a lay Catholic charismatic group at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (OLG) in Ferguson, Missouri, walked up to the pulpit after mass. He announced that Emaús would be hosting a retreat for new members. He dared hombres valientes—or brave men—to attend the retreat. He then turned to the women in the pews and encouraged them to convince their husbands to attend. This was, as he explained, the next step in their formation toward becoming good Catholic men. Relying on ethnographic research, this paper argues that that through participation in Emaús, men at OLG construct notions of what it means to be a Catholic man in this predominantly Latino parish. This paper shows how texts such as the menus offered during after-mass meals cooked by Emaús, the retreats they attend, and devotional objects like scapulars, group members construct a Catholic masculine identity. This project intervenes by taking the parish seriously as site where gender identity is constructed, and by bringing attention to the lived experience of Latino Catholics in the Midwest.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines formations of Catholic masculinities in the twenty-first century. With a case study of lay, married men who practice Natural Family Planning (NFP), this paper examines three ways Catholic manhood is be performed and cultivated with a contemporary subculture in the U.S. A strong subculture of Catholic men and women practice NFP within their marriages. Examining this subculture involves reconsiderations of the contours of gender, family, and religious identities in the U.S. The gender performances of men in Catholic marriages require prayer, physical discipline, and Catholic community of men. NFP is an important site for these formations because men see this practice as challenging cultural norms. In the face of 'weak men,' NFP families often embody 'strong men.' Their Catholic masculinity is a response to a particular interpretation of men's shifting gender roles in contemporary life. These formations rely on an anxiety about these changes and a concern about how men will find their place in the landscape. Part of what happens here is that they end up crafting a particular definition of what it means to be a man'a reclamation and reworking of masculinity.

  • Abstract

    This ethnographic study is about money and masculinity, and how Catholic men imagine themselves and their labor as the engines by which their parishes stay alive amidst gentrification and neighborhood change. At the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a parish in the super-gentrified neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, survival always seems tenuous. Each year the church hosts its Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. While the feast is an occasion for devotion it is also an occasion to make money—as the largest fundraiser for the parish it raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and helps the parish stay alive. For men, to be devoted to the saints and the church is to help make money to sustain the parish. Fundraising is a masculinized devotional practice. Moving beyond assumptions that men are not active in devotionalism, this paper explores how they use conceptions of “productivity” and “dedication” to construct masculinity through working for the church. By “following the money,” we see how lay men imagine themselves as agents assuring the endurance of their churches, and how masculinity is made in the devotional economies of Catholicism.

  • Abstract

    This paper is about white-ethnic Catholic men in the 1980s and 1990s who commuted to the New York City financial district for work, spent weekends in the suburbs with their families, and took work trips and vacations all over the world. I argue that the patterns of their professional lives and family activities illumine the most common ways in which U.S. Catholicism in the late twentieth century became a symbolic religious choice deeply intertwined with the American Dream, citizen-soldier masculinity, and global markets. The lives of financial-sector men can tell us much, not only about Catholic lay masculinities, but also about trajectories of US Catholicism to the present day. The “work-hard play-hard” financier who lived a “regular guy” life at home in the suburbs sheds light on the attrition of white-ethnics from parish rolls and the related growth of the “nones.” It illumines the non-factor that “the Catholic vote” played in the 2016 presidential election and will play in the 2020 election. And it shows another way in which the grassroots level of the white-ethnic US church now approaches the globalism that has characterized the clerical level since early modernity.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines formations of Catholic masculinity in the sport of boxing in the late 19th and early 20th century. Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the United States, generating crowds and journalistic attention that rivaled and sometimes surpassed those of baseball, basketball, and football, and was especially popular among immigrant Catholics. Contrary to narratives in sport history arguing that money or prestige cemented the affection of immigrant Catholics for the sport of boxing, the voices and records of Catholic boxers themselves suggest that it was appealing because it engaged a distinctively Catholic constellation of devotional practices and religious ideas about the nature of violence and the experience of the body in pain, especially devotions related to the Sacred Heart, reparational theology, and “victim souls.” Yet this portrait of Catholic manhood shaped by embodied devotional violence is complicated by how Catholic men associated the fistic pursuits not just with reparatory self-immolation but rather also with an exuberant physical aggression learned in the streets, in the parish schoolyard, and in the homes of their childhood.