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A22-116

Theme: Global Circulations of Asian Catholics and the Making of 21st Century Catholicism

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

This session explores ways through which Asian Catholics directly participate in or indirectly intersect with the making of global Catholicism. Based on anthropological and sociological approaches, presenters explore issues located at the intersection of Asian Catholic migrations, religious practices, public engagement, and ethnic identities. They investigate the ways Asian Catholics are not limited to their local or national belongings – nor to a static, universal, and homogenous expression of their religious belonging. Rather, presenters shed light on the various modes through which Asian Catholics, their religious symbols, or their political awareness circulate and evolve across borders. Ultimately, the session reveals that Asian Catholic circulations that occur at different levels and through various modalities question how Catholics perceive themselves and enact a “global” Catholic economy that shapes the many locales of 21st century Catholicism.

  • Abstract

    This paper is a consideration of the role of queer affect and sexuality the spiritual education of Chinese Catholic nuns who travel to Manila for religious training. Beginning in the late 1990s, Chinese clergy started arriving in Manila for education to minister to growing Catholic communities in the Mainland. For many Chinese nuns, this exposure was filled with hybrid encounters—they at once were immersed in a Catholic dominant society and also surrounded by visions of life outside the bounds of their ascetic expectations. A major point of religious reckoning was their encounter with sexualities both inside and outside of the classroom. Thinking through two cases: the discussion of sexuality beyond physical intimacy in a seminary and the recognition of queer Catholics in Filipino Church settings, this paper highlights how queer affect served the Church’s mission to form cosmopolitan Catholic nuns ready to address China’s changing religious landscape.

  • Abstract

    If you visit Caholic parishes in any Western European capital, you are likely to encounter Asian and African clergy at work. Clergy from India currently account for 30% of priests in Germany, and given the aging profile of European clergy, it is likely that most pastoral work is conducted by priests raised and trained in very different cultural contexts. This paper examines the case of Sri Lankan priests working in Italy, to reflect on how they engage with social problematics of the youth in Europe. In particular, I explore the work that priests and young parishioners do to bridge the cultural divide that separates them, and the unlikely points of convergence that they find. Sri Lankan clergy who actively organize youth groups, catechism courses and other pastoral activities for local youths are creatively developing new forms of religious engagement in European communities.

  • Abstract

    The People’s Republic of China and the Holy See have long engaged in diplomatic conversations to frame the status of Catholicism in China and establish formal diplomatic relationships. But the two sovereign entities have quite different and changing views on religion. Furthermore, the question of Taiwan adds another layer of complexity in their dialogue. While the White House has recently increased its interference in their dialogue, the ups and downs of the Sino-Vatican negotiations have attracted large media coverage. Thus, I argue that this international attention reflects the importance of the geopolitical issues that are at stake – i.e. defining sovereignty, religious autonomy, state-church relationships, human dignity, and the territorializing of Catholicism. As fieldwork in China confirms, Chinese Catholics are well-aware that they are not a mere national question but an international one with highly political ramifications.

  • Abstract

    Since her first apparition in 1798 in Vietnam, Our Lady of Lavang has been associated with miracles within the contexts of martyrdom and other life-threatening experiences. In 1901, a French Bishop used a French model of Our Lady of Victories to (incongruously) represent the Virgin Mary with her Vietnamese name -- “Our Lady of Lavang.” It was not until 1998, that this statue was replaced. This time, the Virgin Mary was represented as a Vietnamese woman, an image created by a Vietnamese American Catholic sculptor and funded by the Vietnamese Catholic community in California. Although this Vietnamese image is a recent creation and the Vatican has not confirmed the historical accuracy of Our Lady of Lavang’s apparition, it has become popular throughout the world. This paper traces the globalization and transplantation of the Vietnamese-looking Our Lady of Lavang in the U.S., Germany, and Israel. 

  • Abstract

    How do religious institutions shape the civic participation of corporate professionals in rapidly developing contexts? Drawing on data from participant observation and in-depth interviews (n=135), this paper compares Indian Roman Catholic corporate professionals in two rapidly globalizing cities, Dubai, UAE, and Bangalore, India. The findings of this study reveal a paradox: Indian professionals in Dubai, though expatriates in a non-democratic nation, are actively involved in providing forms of economic, human, and social capital through the Church; meanwhile, their counterparts in Bangalore, despite being citizens in a democracy, are intentionally disengaged from such activities. I discuss three key factors that explain this variation—legal frameworks, authority structures, and institutional priorities—and conclude with implications for understanding the role of religious institutions in both facilitating and inhibiting the civic engagement of professionals in contexts of rapid development.

A22-117

Theme: Cognitive Historiography of Religions

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

This session presents papers that employ cognitive science methodology to questions of religious history and the engagement with historical minds. This session is intentionally broad in scope. Of particular interest is how to employ cognitive science as a means to recover otherwise lost religious histories. 

  • Abstract

    The National Institutes of Health indicate that 10% of US adults suffer from addiction. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also pinpoint drug overdose deaths as one of the leading causes of the decrease in life expectancy in the US in both 2015 and 2017. The isolation and stress associated with Covid-19 has only exacerbated this problem. Despite these and many other sobering statistics, churches struggle to address the problem of addiction in a way that is theologically robust, while psychologically and scientifically responsible.

     

    In this paper, I propose a theological conception of SUDs that is grounded in and modifies St. Augustine and John Calvin’s metaphor of the bondage of the will, in order to offer a theological understanding of addiction that is consonant with neuroscientific understandings of addiction, while allowing for a pastoral response to those struggling in the form of validation and a reduction of shame.

     

  • Abstract

    This paper will explore the relationship between the psychological approaches to forgiveness and the philosophical and theological conceptualizatons of forgiveness in order to determine their similarities and where they diverge. While there is much that can be learned through the cognitive and evolutionary approaches to forgiveness, what we will find is that the conceptualizations of forgiveness with which many cognitive scientists are working are too simplistic to realistically be able to explain the motivations and effects of forgiveness--particularly for the religious person. With this in mind, I will then suggest a few ways that the two fields may be able to move forward togethr in the study of forgiveness. 

  • Abstract

    Defenders of the sui generis nature of religion such as Ninian Smart and Peter Byrne have appealed to the concept of family resemblances because it allows them to assert that religion is a valid independent category without specifying essential characteristics of all its members (i.e. specific forms of religion as practiced in human history). Yet critics of the concept of sui generis religion such as Timothy Fitzgerald have argued that appealing to family resemblances provides little definitional control and effectively smuggles in an essentialist definition of religion based on European Christianity. This paper argues that in its modern cognitive formulation as radial categories, the updated family resemblances approach to religion survives Fitzgerald’s criticisms and even has the potential to synthesize older historical and newer cognitive approaches in powerful ways. I sketch an example of this using Dale Cannon’s Six Ways Model of religion.

A22-118

Theme: The Political Implications of Comparative Theology

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

The papers of this panel analyze specific examples where comparative theological analysis highlights political aspects of resonant practices from diverse religious traditions. While previous comparative theological studies involving politics typically have centered on the broad issue of the political implications of comparative theology itself (i.e., as a discipline), the papers of this panel pursue a more focused inquiry at the intersection of politics and comparative theology. Specifically, they examine the political dimensions which emerge when comparing specific practices and traditions across multiple religions. Such practices include normative understandings and traditions involving “saints” in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism; perceptions and practices of women's ordination in Christian and Hindu traditions; and compelled self-naming in Christian and Buddhist texts. United by their common attention to political aspects and implications, the four papers of this panel advance comparative theology by showing how it elucidates resonant political dimensions among the practices of diverse religious traditions.

  • Abstract

    Both Christian and Muslim traditions emphasize holiness as otherworldly spirituality. However, regardless of the similar negative perception about the world, Christians seem to have a more difficult time imagining the interconnection between holiness and politics than Muslims, as seen in the canonization process of Óscar Romero. This paper utilizes a comparative theology lens to draw insights from the Islamic tradition of friends of God, particularly through an account of a Muslim saint from Indonesia, to transform the negative perception of politics in Christianity. Several insights drawn from the comparison are these: rethinking Jesus’ political role, differentiating types of saints, and redefining the meaning of “miracle” or extraordinary power of saints. In addition, the paper will construct a theological rationale, drawn from Karl Rahner’s and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ideas, for revisiting the Christian notion of holiness and suggesting a different kind of saints for contemporary time: a worldly and political saint.

  • Abstract

    This paper compares the construction of the self of the devotee in relation to the archetype of the supremely holy person in early hasidic literature and in the Pauline epistles. In each, the political and the metaphysical are intertwined and mutually informing. Profound theological concepts are evoked to explain, and encourage, financial donations which will help their respective nascent movements. Does this transform or merely disguise the nature of the giving act? A second issue concerns hierarchy and collectivism in the similar analogies (head and body, root and branches) used to mark the relationship of the devotee(s) and the tsaddik (hasidic leader) or Christ. These texts often reinscribe hierarchy even where it may seem to be subverted. Yet in each there are intimations of a holographic model, in which each “part” is not only necessary to the whole but also, in a sense, a unique instantiation of the whole.

  • Abstract

    Theological debates about legitimizing Catholic women deacons and priests are ongoing, and while there are innumerable Catholic theologians who support and advocate for reform to allow women’s ordination, the Church remains resolutely opposed. In the late 1990s, women began to seek ordination, and those conferring and receiving this sacrament were promptly excommunicated from the Church. Women priests and their congregations are now the subject of recently published academic and ethnographic studies as the politics of women priests deepen. Hindu women, in the early 2000s, began to study Sanskrit texts, receive the sacred thread in upanayana ceremonies, and become priests. Without a Magisterium to excommunicate them, Hindu women priests rely on believers that will either accept their priestly identity, or refuse to hire or include them in religious life. This paper contributes to the exploration of legitimizing Catholic women’s ordination by examining these tensions in light of Hindu women priests.

  • Abstract

    This paper addresses a significant lacuna in comparative theological studies by reading Christian and Buddhist texts through the political hermeneutic lens of Louis Althusser’s interpellation theory. While this theory has typically been used to understand how hegemonic systems subjectify individuals, this paper illustrates how interpellation also provides a compelling way to account for the dynamics of manipulation in texts where names and naming are used to compel certain behavior. Specifically, the paper examines the exorcistic battle between Legion and Jesus in Mark 5 and a tenth-century collection of spells featuring the Buddhist deity Bhṛkuṭī. The paper analyzes each document in light of both Althusser’s theory and the other text in order to show why and how onomastic obtainment plays such a powerful role via interpellation. Following this comparative analysis, this paper concludes by discussing the enduring resonance of such texts with the perpetuation of interpellation in contemporary socio-political hierarchies.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines comparative theology through a feminist approach, utilizing the concept of “outsider-within,” which was coined by a black feminist scholar, Patricia Hill Collins, and adopted into the field of comparative theology by Michelle Voss Roberts. Voss Roberts’ framework of the outsider-within confronts the traditional comparative theology manifested as a conversation among the privileged who are considered to have the authority to speak for their own and to others. Furthermore, it attests to the possibilities of the marginalized becoming part of interreligious discourse, namely women in diverse religious communities. Utilizing this framework, this paper attempts to explore a way in which women religious leaders, who are outsiders-within their respective traditions, claim their authority, which is unfolded as a power to hear voices. By inviting Monica A. Coleman and Jarena Lee as interlocutors, this action of hearing voices will reveal as both pathology and a path-toward-authority in interreligious dialogue.

A22-119

Theme: Catastrophe in the Life of the Church

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

Many discussions of catastrophe as a dimension of religious studies or theological analysis focus on public events which religious communities must interpret or to which they must respond: how do theologians, religious leaders, lay adherents, and others, make sense out of (for example) climate change, political upheaval, or a public tragedy? Without ignoring such considerations, these papers engage in a more specifically ecclesiological conversation on catastrophe as an internal dynamic of Christian communities confronted with realities that obligate profound soul-searching and transformation. Reflecting on the sense of catastrophe as a sudden overturning (kata-strephein) of things as they are, these papers highlight forms of catastrophe in response to climate change, as suggested by this year's AAR theme, as well as other forms of catastrophe in ecclesial life - the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Shoah, and the more personally felt catastrophe of infertility. 

  • Abstract

    Maurice Blanchot describes the dilemma facing anyone seeking to respond to a catastophe, “the disaster takes care of everything.” It consumes all; it “swallows” meaning; it “ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.” This paper analyses ways in which the Christian churches have struggled to navigate such challenges in the face of climate change, and how this exposes issues in ecclesiology. The paper analyses such dynamics in three ways. First, it will focus on the impact on Hurricane Katrina (2004) and Typhoon Haiyan (2013) on Christian discourse. Second, an analysis of the film Don’t Look Up (Netflix, 2021) illustrates a secular version of a similar theodicy. Finally, the paper concludes with an account of the Church and its relationship to the Spirit that seeks to naviagte the temptations of both "disaster porn" and "disaster fatigue," while nuturing a capacity to continue to look up to God in hope.

  • Abstract

    Following the Shoah, much work has been done on the bimillennial history of Christian antisemitism among both Christian and Jewish leaders and theologians.  Some investigations have been done looking at the tireless work of Jules Isaac, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Elie Wiesel, Edward Flannery and Franklin Littell who pioneered the efforts to help the Church acknowledge her historical sins against the Jewish people. Little exploration has been done of the work of female religious thinkers who similarly explored Christianity’s anti-Jewish problem with a similar desire to help the historical Church return to the God of Israel and to His people. I will assess two who lived their lives to do just that: Charlotte Klein and Eva Fleischner. Both fled Europe with their families in the Nazi era and became devoutly religious women in their adult years. Additionally, each one lived and worked to make Jewish-Christian dialogue and reconciliation a living reality.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines how Catholic ecclesial structures and cultures in the United States contribute to pressures that women feel to conceive biological children and shape opportunities for communal discernment––in person and virtually––among American Catholic women experiencing infertility. The paper argues that adherence to magisterial teaching on reproductive technologies functions as a boundary marker that shapes how American Catholic women seek and receive support for infertility in ecclesial settings. Further, the church’s institutional structures privilege women who adhere to magisterial teaching, such that accompaniment offered in institutional ecclesial settings and in virtual communities often excludes women who dissent.

  • Abstract

    The responses of Dignity USA, a national gay and lesbian Catholic ministry, to the catastrophes of the mid-1980s yielded new forms of ecclesiology and church. In 1986, HIV was spreading like wildfire, and Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued the infamous “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” which reiterated church teaching describing homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” and called on bishops to stop supporting ministries like DignityUSA. By the end of 1987, most Dignity chapters were expelled from parishes and dioceses. The catastrophic events had a radical impact on the group. No longer interested in assimilating to the church’s heteropatriarchal culture, DignityUSA embraced fully affirming theologies and women’s full sacramental leadership. Today, the group stands as a powerful example of the possibilities for ecclesiology transformed by catastrophe.

A22-120

Theme: Evangelicals and Politics

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

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  • Abstract

    Evangelicals in the United States have been explicity embracing and promoting capitalism as a God ordained system for nearly two centuries. Recent trends in scholarship on the intersections of American religion, business, and economics have rendered clear and identifiable a tradition I call Enterprise Evangelicalism. Enterprise Evangelicalism presents capitalism as a natural God-ordained system that properly respects human freedom, rewards virtue, and punishes vice. Capitalism, according to Enterprise Evangelicalism is a conduit of God's disciplining love. This paper analyzes the intriguing case of Enterprise Square, USA, a 60,000ft2 economics education center built at a cost of $15 million by Oklahoma Christian College in 1982, as a brick and mortar example of the Enterprise Evangelical tradition. The aim of this paper is to offer the category of Enterprise Evangelicalism as a useful historical frame that may guide future scholarship on the intertwining of evangelical theology and economics in American life. 

  • Abstract

    This paper argues evangelicalism’s eventual “embrace” of democratic governance in the early republic was one of convenience as opposed to conviction. For evangelicalism and democracy to mutually thrive, individuals like Jedidiah Morse believed the movement needed to recalibrate the purpose and role of ministerial authority. Without well-educated clergy to lead and guide the American electorate, the country would divulge in anarchy. Morse’s efforts to found Andover Theological Seminary served to address the challenges of democratic governance. Following Andover’s lead, theological seminaries became an important institutional mechanism through which evangelicals sought to engage and regulate the American political and theological landscape.

  • Abstract

    Much work has been done on *what* white evangelicals do and think politically. This paper investigates *how* and *why* many deeply religious people find right-wing populism to be the ethical stance. What in white evangelical religious and political history, theology, and present circumstances makes right-wing populism seem best? The paper begins with a minimal definition of populism and explores each aspect as it applies to current white evangelical politics. As populism is a response to duress that finds solutions in us-them binaries, the paper reviews the economic and non-economic duresses from the white evangelical perspective. It discusses the psychology of us-them formation and the historico-cultural resources that, under duress, are drawn upon and re-shaped by such binaries. Several examples from current politics illuminate this trajectory from duress through resources to us-them binaries. Ironically, the resources that contributed much to U.S. and evangelical vibrancy may, under duress, turn to exclusionary populism.

  • Abstract

    This paper offers an analysis of portrayals of Haiti in American evangelical missiological literature. Specifically, I investigate portrayals of Haiti as a demonic or possessed land, often made in reference to the trope of a pact with the devil at Bwa Kayiman on the eve of Haitian independence. The American Christian provenance of this pejorative narrative has recently been demonstrated by scholars of Haitian Protestantism and white American evangelicalism. My presentation expands on their work by analyzing the theological and rhetorical roots of this evangelical trope, comparing it to the “curse of Ham” in American white supremacist theology. Specifically, my paper argues that the literature on the evangelical appropriation of Bwa Kayiman has ignored the American Protestant logic of demonic genealogies, first worked out in rhetoric regarding the curse of Ham.

  • Abstract

    The basileia tou Theo—often translated as “the kingdom of God”—is the central metaphor in the gospels’ account of Jesus’ message. Jesus used this metaphor to describe the ever-present domain of God’s love and justice. However, many Christians in positions of cultural dominance have sought to expand their power under the banner of advancing the kingdom of God. This paper will give particular attention to the contemporary culture wars in the United States, studying the secularizing impulse of white Christians’ bid for social and political dominance in the name of their faith.  

A22-121

Theme: Innovative Sources for the Study of US Religions

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

This panel brings together scholarship that looks to new and "non-traditional" sources for building accounts of religion in North America, and scholarship that approaches more "traditional" sources in new ways.

  • Abstract

    This paper seeks to find the Penobscot who peopled Maine at the same time that they peopled the pages of Thoreau’s traveling writings and private writings.  Specifically, it looks at the religious world of the Penobscot of the 1840s and 1850s with whom Thoreau came into contact, and, second, to turn, as best as possible, their gaze back onto him.  The backdrop is Thoreau’s set of travel writings that took place in Maine, posthumously compiled as The Maine Woods and Thoreau, as representative “tourist,” but the religious and cultural worlds of the Penobscot of Oldtown (“Ktaadn”), Joe Aitteon (“Chesuncook”), and Joe Polis (“Allegash and East Branch”) are in the foreground.  By re-centering and re-placing Polis and the Penobscot in Thoreau’s accounts, it is they, not he, who have final say about “true” Indian religion.

  • Abstract

    In 1869, domestic scientist and abolitionist Catharine Beecher published The American Woman’s Home, a guidebook for homemakers that brought soteriological stakes to the banality of chores and to oft-ignored spaces of the home: the space beneath stairs, the clearance of door swings, the recesses of kitchen cupboards. This paper considers the architectural drawings of Beecher’s The American Woman’s Home as theological technologies, visual and material interventions into a white familial grammar in the post-plantation United States. It proposes that the interventions Beecher makes are yet haunted by a logic of mastery, a logic of the plantation, even as she subverts other racialized and gendered structures of power. These spatial moves present a way to think the nexus of American religion, white abolitionist politics, and domestic reform that accounts for the era’s millenarian sensibilities by way of the humdrum.

  • Abstract

    Simultaneously an autobiography, slave narrative, and an exposé of the Lincoln family, Elizabeth Keckley wrote and published Behind the Scenes in 1868 to redeem Mary Todd Lincoln’s reputation after the “Old Clothes Scandal” in 1867. Keckley’s attempt to clarify the the scandal was unsuccessful, destroying the relationship between the two women and inspiring public backlash against Keckley for supposedly revealing the private affairs of the Lincoln family for her own gain. However, the concluding sentences of the autobiography link two creative processes together: sewing and writing. I suggest that, by connecting her work as a seamstress with her work as an author, Keckley explores the transformative possibilities of U.S. spiritualism through veils, dresses, and other mundane pieces of clothing. Through her work produced by the pen and needle, Keckley’s autobiography crafts proximities between the living and the dead and between U.S. citizens divided in the wake of the Civil War.

  • Abstract

    Building from original archival research and critical analysis this paper introduces two photographers—Margaret Bourke-White and Yoichi “Oke” Okamoto—whose work gestures to a broader "repertoires" of photographic production and reception between 1930 and 1970. Whether in primarily commercial venues (Bourke-White) or in official government offices (Okamoto), both photographers trafficked in visual grammars of race and religion to define the affective contours of American citizenship. Throughout, this paper brings into focus many ways in which photographic representations of religion were embedded in systems of production, circulation, and reception that collectively contributed to the development of visual grammars of citizenship in the twentieth century.

A22-122

Theme: Theory in the Wake of Hegel and Marx

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

This panel explores the legacies of G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx in relation to the study of religion. Two of the papers examine how Hegel's philosophy in relation to ritual theory, engaging with Catherine Bell's ritual theory and the relationship between thought and action in ritual. The third paper turns to the thought of Marx, as developed by Michel Henry and Simone Weil, and the role of labor in constituting subjectivity. The final paper examines apophatic and genealogical criticisms of Enlightenment rationality, in conversation with Eberhard Jüngel and various figures in the Marxist tradition.

  • Abstract

    The great ambition of Hegel's speculative thought is the generation of a philosophical system, which begins without presuppositions and builds to comprend all intelligibility. In facing the challenges posed by this project, especially in the moment the system is founded or begun, we find Hegel turning to the language of ritual, which, so far from being a supplement to reason, points to a crucial aspect of its ongoing activity. Reading Hegel alongside the ritual theorist Catherine Bell illuminates what ritual offers to philosophical thinking and what this relationship means for the study of religion today.

  • Abstract

    In Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (1992) Catherine Bell rejects the understanding of ritual as a second-order medium for the expression of thought. According to Bell, while this expression framework offers an attractive resource for classificatory approaches that define ritual as symbolic or non-instrumental action as opposed to technical or utilitarian action, it ultimately illustrates of the basic thought-action dichotomy that pervades ritual studies. While agreeing with Bell's overall critique, my paper identifies a subtle elision in her account whereby her rejection of the thought-action dichotomy implicitly accepts the “secondary” status of expression. Drawing on G.W.F. Hegel, whose work demonstrates the secondary nature precisely of thinking, I argue that it is possible to challenge the reduction of ritual action to a second-class status without simultaneously designating expression a “secondary” act. In this way, Hegel's work offers a philosophical resource for undermining the thought-action dichotomy alongside Bell’s notion of “ritualization.”

  • Abstract

    This paper considers two heterodox interpretations of Marx’s living labor: that of Simone Weil and Michel Henry. Both reject traditional Marxism in favor of an approach that emphasizes what they will call the spiritual aspect of Marx—his notion of living labor. For both thinkers, living labor provides a way of rethinking the philosophical category of subjectivity. This kind of labor has nothing to do with wage labor, or what Marx designates dead labor. Weil and Henry reject dead labor and argue that it has infiltrated all forms of thinking, whether philosophical, political or religious. In place of dead labor, they draw out the possibility of a subjectivity rooted in living labor: a uniquely singular and creative capacity. Henry calls this capacity life, or living subjectivity. Weil simply labels it labor. Both contend that social, political and religious life have ignored this subjectivity. My paper argues that reconsidering subjectivity along Weilian and Henryian lines situates spirituality in an unsuspecting place—laboring. It is thus a very “mundane” activity: the chef baking, the student studying, the runner running. I conclude by discussing what Weil and Henry’s version of spirituality offers to the disciplines of philosophy of religion and political theology.

  • Abstract

    The contemporary philosophy of religion is dominated by two methods, “apophasis” and “genealogy.” Both claim to challenge models of modern rationality associated with the European Enlightenment. Using the work of Eberhard Jüngel, I first argue that apophasis’s turn to a mystical archive, which reaches its apex in French phenomenology, covertly colludes with the discourse it claims lies behind modernity: ‘ontotheology.’ By framing the alleged object of religion, ‘God,’ as supra- or nonrational, apophasis risks homogenizing religious experience and rendering doxographic differences between and within traditions unintelligible. I then propose that genealogy has historically, but mainly only implicitly, accounted for religious truth-claims’ rationality. If the philosophy of religion makes such “doxographic interventions” explicit, it could advance a pluralistic concept of reason able to appreciate non-Western religions’ philosophical rigor without ignoring the field’s historical origins in the study of Christianity or refusing an engagement with non-Western traditions through the excuse of untranslatability.

A22-123

Theme: Reflecting on the Belhar Confession After 40 Years

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

The Belhar Confession has its roots in the struggle against apartheid in Southern Africa. This “outcry of faith” and “call for faithfulness and repentance” was first drafted in 1982 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) under the leadership of Allan Boesak. The DRMC took the lead in declaring that apartheid constituted a status confession in which the truth of the gospel was at stake.

2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Belhar’s initial drafting and adoption, with full ratification coming in 1986 at the next General Synod. This session will feature papers offering reflections on the signifcance of Belhar and its ongoing relevance.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines the Belhar Confession in conversation with other theological responses to apartheid. By contrasting Belhar’s confessional theology with the liberationist approach of the Kairos Document, and the African cultural approach of Desmond Tutu's Ubuntu theology, Belhar’s strengths and weaknesses come into stark relief. Its greatest strength lies in its emphasis on the central kerygma of the Church: the one Lord who calls people into one church, which is not to be separated by so-called “natural” revelations like ethnic differences. At the same time, Belhar needs supplementation by more overtly contextual and cultural theologies that reflect the theological conversation in the global church, including the Reformed community worldwide.

  • Abstract

    The connection between Karl Barth and the Belhar Confession is widely known, if not fully understood. Most know that the German Confessing Church and their Barmen Declaration inspired the South African Confessing Church and their Belhar Confession. Some know that Belhar’s threefold pattern of unity, reconciliation, and justice was first articulated by students at University of the Western Cape who were studying Barth’s “Doctrine of Reconciliation.” Hardly anyone appreciates how Barmen and Belhar embody the theology of Confession that Barth develops before and during the Church Struggle, especially his emphasis on what he calls “the second turn of the Reformation,” the Reformed turn from dogmatics to ethics and politics. This paper revisits the composition of Barmen and Belhar, revises the standard story of their authorship, and revives the intrinsically political and inherently democratic character of Reformed Confession as a resource for engaging contemporary Black Lives Matter struggles for racial justice.

  • Abstract

    The continuation of unjust policing practices of Black and Latino men and the targeting of Asian women and elderly peoples in recent years raises the question of whether Belhar still matters in our times where geopolitical instabilities; economic and environmental catastrophes; and gendered or racial anger and hatred intersect in insidious and oftentimes dangerous ways. This presentation contends that while Belhar contains wisdom that remains pertinent and critical for our unstable times, it alone is insufficient because of the intersectionality of race, economic systems, and environmental destruction. Hence, inspired by Augustine of Hippo's idea of veritatis facere, the presentationa argues that to "do the truth" that Belhar unfolds requires us to name the concrete sins that feed racial apartheid. Thus, the 2004 Accra Confession provides a concrete blueprint for what it means to truly confess our complicities with racisms and to “do the truth” that Belhar has uncovered.

A22-124

Theme: Islam, Secularism and Contestations of Identity in the State

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

his panel addresses the relationship between Muslim identity, secularism, and inequality in comparative state contexts (United States, Turkey, Germany, and Iran). Through ethnographic and social scientific theoretical analysis, this panel illuminates mechanisms of religious and social exclusion, and explores how diverse Muslim groups negotiate religious identity and seek to craft their own public narratives amidst exclusion and in relationship to secularism and public discourses on religion in the nation. In so doing, the papers in this panel offer important insight into the value of including Muslim communities and non-Western perspectives in collective efforts to address social inequalities and environmental catastrophe.

  • Abstract

    This presentation discusses tensions that emerged in an interfaith initiative called Religions for Biological Diversity. Sponsored by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Abrahamic Forum, this project promotes nature conservation through religious communities. Based on participation observation, semi-structured interviews and action research, findings show that participants’ concerns extended beyond either religious or environmental ones; rather, they revolved around social status, social cohesion, discrimination, and secularization. Muslim participants faced suspicion of instrumentalizing nature conservation to improve their social image, while the Catholic Church came under fire for child abuse and embezzlement. Moreover, although the project is supported by major nature conservancy organizations in Germany, grassroots-level conservationists often resisted partnering with religious communities, fearing indoctrination and social regression. This empirical study expands our understanding of the potentials and limitations of religiously-motivated environmentalism and its contributions to civil society, challenging simple assertions about religions’ potential contribution to environmentalism.

  • Abstract

    How do American Muslim advocates craft public images of Islam in the U.S.? American Muslims are one of the most excluded groups in the United States. Yet, little do we know about how American Muslim advocates navigate the exclusionary mechanisms of U.S. civic life and how they craft public images for Muslims. This study is based on a comparative ethnography of two Muslim advocacy organizations that engage in different image crafting practices. I argue that these different public image crafting practices emerge from the folk theories of inclusion that Muslim advocates embrace. I show that folk theories of inclusion are constituted by three components: a) a cartography of public Islam; b) a bundle of American values; and c) a set of strategic solidarities. I conclude by arguing that public image crafting practices deserve more attention to understand how the exclusion of religious minorities is perpetuated in U.S. public life.

  • Abstract

    According to Max Weber (1978), religious charisma rarely survives intact the death of the charismatic individual. ‘Hot primary charisma’ can translate itself into ‘cool secondary charisma’ (Lindholm 2013) as posthumous institutionalisation takes place, yet the intensity of the original charismatic encounter is inevitably diminished. In this paper, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in Turkey to interrogate this claim, and more specifically to illustrate the role of political context in shaping the routinisation of charisma. Using the Nur Movement as one example and the Alevis as another, I show how charisma is transferred from religious leaders to material objects and places in diverse and creative ways. In both cases, contestations over Islam and its relationship to Turkish secularism have been profoundly influential on the ways in which religious charisma is encountered in the present day.

  • Abstract

    In February 2022, the second part of the IPCC report was published emphasizing there is no doubt that climate change will worldwide affect the most vulnerable communities. As a consequence, inequalities, in particular social and economic inequalities, will only increase under the unfolding climate catastrophe. Plenty of studies are performed on investigating inequalities, however, too often marginalized cultural and religious insights of non-Western communities are excluded from this field. In an attempt to contribute to the healing of this ongoing deficiency, this research is specifically dedicated to the work of an Iranian scholar from the 20th century: Ali Shariati. In focusing on these writings from a non-Western, Islamic context, this paper aims to contribute to a broader understanding of sociology of religion in light of increasing (economic) inequalities worldwide. In addition, it will be discussed how the work of Shariati can still contribute to overcoming these inequalities nowadays.

A22-125

Theme: Jewish Thought and Indigeneity in North Africa

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

This panel brings together scholars of religious studies, literature, intellectual history, and philosophy to offer a set of broad reflections on the relationship between Jewish thought and indigeneity in twentieth-century North Africa. The panel understands the relationship between Jewishness and indigeneity as a question traversed by formations colonial power: legal, religious, and racial. It further posits North Africa as a significant site for negotiating the thematics of indigeneity across modern Jewish thought. On the one hand, this means interrogating indigeneity as a major theme and point of debate in North African writing. On the other hand, it means considering how the question of indigeneity in North Africa has ramified and inflected discussions of the topic across other contexts, including the relation between decolonization and post-Holocaust Jewish identity.

  • Abstract

    This paper reads Jacques Derrida’s writing on Algeria, Jewishness, and colonialism in conjunction with his reflections on the Christianity and Latinity of globalatinization. Through a reinterpretation of a controversial passage in his 1996 book, Monolingualism of the Other, the paper calls for a reconsideration of Derrida’s globalatinization as a decolonizing intervention into the legacy of French Algeria. The paper argues that Derrida’s reading of colonialism can unsettle the inheritance of a colonial formation structured around an opposition between Jews and indigeneity.

  • Abstract

    This paper analyzes the reclaiming of Algerian Jews’ North African indigeneity in post-1962 literature, as an aporia, in other words, a conceptual framework that has historical, philosophical, and affective efficacy, and inherent limitations. Through the analysis of memoirs and autobiographical essays, I claim that Algerian Jewish authors are fascinated with the notion of a redemptive indigeneity, while also trying to avoid its pitfalls.

    My analysis of writings by three Algerian Jewish authors – Albert Bensoussan, Hélène  Cixous and Denis Guénoun – argues that reclaiming indigeneity in literature navigates the theoretical paradoxes of indigeneity and testifies to the contemporary evolutions of Jewish thought and religion, while also pointing at the aporia faced by Algerian Jews after 1962.

    I argue that this cautious reclaiming of indigeneity offers to our reflection a new paradigm: a paradoxical claim of identity and belonging without exclusion and authority.

  • Abstract

    The interwar period was a time of tremendous political upheaval for Moroccan Jews. Between rising currents of fascism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, Zionism, and internationalism, Moroccan Jews increasingly began to examine their place in their homeland and the nature of their relationships to Moroccan Muslims, Jews abroad, and Europe. One organization which proved particularly popular among Moroccan Jews was the LICA. The LICA, or the International League Against anti-Semitism, began activities in Morocco in the mid-1930s. Originally founded as the League Against Pogroms in Paris in 1927, the LICA was active across the Middle East and North Africa and brought together Jews and Muslims in the fight against fascist influence in the region. Through a discussion of the LICA in Morocco during the 1930s through to the outbreak of war in 1939, this paper will discuss Moroccan Jews’ evolving notions of indigeneity against a backdrop of rising racial and political tensions.

  • Abstract

    This paper argues that indigeneity is intimately bound with the experience of exile and dispossession. It takes as its starting point the Jean Améry’s essay “How Much Home Does a Person Need?,” in which he argues that what was previously thought of as home is to be understood after atrocity as having been no home at all. I develop this claim by showing how although Améry is writing of his experience as a Jewish-Austrian Holocaust survivor, his thought is shaped by North African questions of indigeneity, and in particular the thought of Frantz Fanon. Building on this expanded understanding of Améry’s philosophy, I compare his theorizing of Jewish indigeneity and its loss with Edward Said’s “Reflections on Exile.”

A22-126

Theme: Curating Covid and Healing: Womanist Rituals and Responses

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

“Curating Covid and Healing: Womanist Rituals and Responses,” names significant challenges to Black disabled and abled bodies, amid systemic oppression and engages womanist responses through artistic digital, virtual engagement, and rituals toward healing. The 2022 President theme of “Religion and Catastrophe,” emphasizing ecology and the environment, resonates with womanist theological aesthetics/praxis/activism, current issues, the pandemic, and the threat to loving our whole selves.

  • Abstract

    Womanist process casts the imago Dei with disabilities as incarnate. According to the CDC, one in four African Americans has a disability in the midst of it reporting over 950K deaths due to COVID in the United States alone. African Americans have disproportionately succumbed to this insidious virus. With calculable grief noted by USAFacts, African Americans have disproportionately succumbed to this insidious virus by making up 13% of the US population and 23% of COVID-19 deaths. This presentation uses ethnographies to elevate voices and validate experiences of Black women of faith with disabilities during the COVID pandemic to theoretically inform and radically transform an African American theology of disability among our cache of liberation theologies and congregational care. African American churches are charged with directives for action-oriented disability justice to accommodate persons with disabilities while they live and take notice when they die.

  • Abstract

    “curating #blackgirlquarantine: digital altar work + ancestral collaging” is an autoethnographic visual essay that narrates a Black feminist praxis of ancestral collage-making within my curation of #blackgirlquarantine: an exhibition of blackwomxnhealing in the wake of 2020 (BGQ).  I detail my spiritual, affective, and embodied journey of stretching collage art to make room for memorializing the lives of Black womxn and girls who are no longer here to tell their stories. I write at the intersection of healing, memory, and mourning, and merge a Methodology for the Black Femme Sacred with visual anthropology and digital humanities to read creative rituals of digital altar work as text. In many ways, this project is a meeting of clairaudience and clairvoyance. It is an invitation to see the dead, to hear the dead, to listen closely. It is I See You, Sis meets I Hear You, Sis meets I hear you ancestors, I'm listening.

  • Abstract

    African derived religious practices in hoodoo, voodoo, and orisa traditions have been often women led and can trace their lineages of eldership back through priestesses. The synchronicity experienced in these local and global practices are linked to practices like Africentric Christianity, West African Orisa traditions and Candomble. These practices are too sustained by the religious practices of women who go to mass/church and lead African derived religious rituals. For these women who are central to the larger religious practice, their womanist religious practices are primarily embodied and communal. There are many women for whom, they also carry their spiritual power through possession and other embodied spiritual practices. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has shifted the realities of women practitioners in African derived religions due to strict social gathering mandates and social distancing. The lives of women practitioners have been changed and so have their ritual practices. Influenced by both their connections to ancient slave rituals and new available technologies like Zoom, African diasporan women practitioners have revolutionized gathering in ritual spaces. This paper will use womanist methodology to name and identify the shifts in embodied epistemology in ritual spaces of the COVID-19 realities.

A22-128

Theme: A Panel in Celebration of Daniel B. Stevenson’s Retirement

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

In what ways does Chinese Buddhist scholarship influence other fields of Buddhist Studies? To what extent has the guild of Chinese Buddhist studies influenced the study of Daoism and Chinese religions? Lastly, what is the role of collegiality, collaboration, and friendship in scholasticism? This roundtable answers these questions through a celebration of the academic contributions and influence of Daniel B. Stevenson on the occasion of his retirement. Over the span of over thirty years, he has produced some of the most important scholarship on Chinese Buddhist praxis and ritual. Unrestrained by disciplinary or sectarian parameters, he has explored the diversity of shifting religious idioms, liturgical knowledge, and historical networks that have formed the vast landscape of late medieval China (10th – 14th centuries). The seven panelists below will speak to his innovative approaches in the developments in the fields of Buddhist studies and Chinese religions.

A22-129

Theme: Constructive Proposals in Queer Theology

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

Apophatic Anthropology: Dionysian Insights for Queer Explorations, David Dawson Vasquez, Pontifical Beda College

Locating Non-Binary Persons in Messianic Times, Jamie Myrose, Boston College

Queer Hope: One Virtue’s Limits and Potential for Queer Lives, Theory, and Theology, Patrick Haley, Princeton Theological Seminary

  • Abstract

    Deification is at the center of Christian hope. However, the essential link between deification and the unknowability of God is often not reflected upon. If God is essentially unknowable, then what we are becoming is something unexpected. Today, LGBTQ+ issues are too often presumed to arise from the errors of modern society. Yet, an apophatic understanding of deification can help uncover an essential Christian perspective in queer concerns. The paper uses the thought of Dionysius the Areopagite to show that the unknowability of God equally implies an unknowability of ourselves. It then shows that apophatic theology is a journey of discovery and increasing unfolding of beauty where our transformation is not framed by a logic of human nature drawn from mere philosophical reflection but is an opening to unexpected possibility. It concludes by looking at how Dionysius’s apophatic anthropology can offer practical insight on the queering of human relationships.

  • Abstract

    Appeals to unsatisfactory anthropology have led to tensions between Catholic magisterial teaching and the experience of the LGBTQ+ community. The recent focus on complementarity—that the appropriateness of the male-female relationship manifests in gendered and sexual differentiation—dismisses relationships that do not conform to this schema. These documents, however, primarily discuss same-sex attraction and only secondarily address gender expression. Invoking the work of Kathleen Lennon, Rachel Alsop, and Giorgio Agamben, this paper examines how non-binary persons (NBP), who transcend the gender binary, can serve in healing this divide through the category of messianic vocation. I argue that Catholic theology can positively account for NBP because NBP serve as messianic witnesses to the Church’s relationship with human categories. By embracing multiple forms of gender expression simultaneously, NBP model for other Christians how to treat cultural categories functionally. Celebrating this witness would open grounds for healing and dialogue between both parties.

  • Abstract

    Hope has been rightly critiqued both in theology and queer theory for its potential to prop up oppressive regimes. Yet hope remains, for many, an essential component of flourishing, even and perhaps especially for LGBTQ people. Here I begin by appraising what theologians and queer theorists have said about hope’s limitations and dangers. Next I consider queer utopianism, which also seeks to meet these challenges. Then I show how queer utopianism helpfully accentuates what was nascent within the theological virtue tradition: First, rightly ordered hope hopes in the assistance of others (God, other people) and rejects presumption or despair about one’s own powers (pace oppressive forms of hope). Second, rightly ordered hope hopes for something (God, a better future) that is better glimpsed, as queer utopianism says, in the world’s ephemera than in the certainties of our own ambitions and projects. Finally, I argue such hope will inspire revolutionary action.

A22-130

Theme: Islamic Piety and Devotion in New Contexts

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

How do a tradition’s grammars of authority travel into new contexts? What tensions and relations are resolved, created, and re-made? This panel offers close analysis of three case studies in the work of contemporary Islamic piety and devotion. The first paper examines how Islamic investment companies and giving organizations navigate the financial instruments of late capitalism—even claiming to turn algorithms toward religious values of the “good” and the “just”. The second paper analyzes the survival of a halal restaurant in North Philadelphia, offering the term “devotional resilience” as a means of emphasizing the role of Islamic discourses, ethics, and bonds in enduring social crises. The third paper considers the contemporary role of audio technology in cultivating relationships with the family of the Prophet. Taken together, these innovative papers follow forms of Islamic piety and devotion through novel technologies, media forms, and social ruptures.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines finance companies’ claims that algorithms operate for the “good” and “just” in Muslim contexts. The main question of this paper is: How are algorithms made, designed, and owned through claims to serve various understandings of the good and just in financial settings, especially those structured by religious principles and pieties? This paper aims to contribute to scholarly conversations on algorithms by examining how algorithms are used through claims to benefit individuals and solve social issues in finance settings, even as these claims overlook the larger financial structures and operations in which these algorithms are located. This paper draws on ethnographic research at American Muslim investment and giving-based organizations that are creating new forms of capitalism.

  • Abstract

    The following paper analyzes the devotional resilience of a halal restaurant in North Philadelphia as Islamic practice. The techniques of resilience of my interlocutors are "devotional" insofar as their engagement with Islamic discourses, ethics, and social bonds orients them toward God and against asymmetric forces. This restaurant faces challenges that afflict food service business across Philadelphia. As a locally-oriented and Black-owned business in an under-resourced community, these struggles have been especially acute. But they are not entirely novel. Whether eminent domain in the past or, more recently, family tragedy and slimmer profit margins, this business has persisted by circulating Islamic discourse, providing clean food, and cultivating Islamic social bonds. Catastrophe in the form of COVID-19 and market logics have pushed this restaurant to the edge of viability. Their devotional resilience shows some U.S. Muslims practice Islamic tradition by confronting catastrophe, as well as the neoliberalism and racialization entangled in it.

  • Abstract

    The family of the Prophet Muhammad holds a central position in Shiʿi Muslim religiosity. As immaterial beings able to intercede in this world they are said to be witnessing and co-present in the lives of Muslims. Anthropology has neglected relations with supernatural beings like these. Instead of regarding them merely as symbols or moral exemplars, this paper focuses on the cultivation of relations of intimacy with them through the devotional practice of vocal recitation. Amongst Shiʿa across the world, genres of vocal devotional lament and praise in honor of the Family of the Prophet lie at the center of ritual gatherings and, with the development of audio technology, are listened to in a variety of everyday settings. This presentation uses audio examples as sensory props to demonstrate how their vocal and discursive features offer ways for Muslims to cultivate love and intimacy to live life alongside these supernatural beings.

A22-131

Theme: Joy, Hope, Resistance and Resilience: Contextual Responses to Suffering

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

In the face of multiple, ongoing, experiences of suffering - individual, communal, global - hope and joy can come in many forms, not all of which may fit conventional or culturally-dominant models of “happiness” or “resilience.” Hope, joy, and resilience are, in part, socially constructed and can be influenced by place, culture, class, and ethnicity. Imposing a singular understanding of these concepts on any person, care seeker, or group can reflect a form of colonial dominance, especially in times of suffering and vulnerability. What are the parameters of joy, hope, or resilience that are meaningful in the real lives of people in widely disparate cultural, social, economic, familial contexts? This call seeks papers that address these questions from psychological and religious perspectives.

  • Abstract

    Our age of crisis, beset as it is by the specters of disease, social unraveling, accelerating climate change, and now wars and rumors of war, has underscored the importance of hope in promoting resilience and flourishing amid great suffering. Recent psychological research on this topic, however, has been dominated by Charles Snyder’s definition of hope as “the cognitive energy and pathways for goals” and by his corresponding survey measure (“Conceptualizing, measuring, and nurturing hope,” 1995). This is unfortunate, as Snyder’s account is inadequate for capturing the role of hope in the face of apparently overwhelming adversity. This paper will propose instead that psychologists might improve on Snyder’s conceptualization by drawing on Thomas Aquinas’s richer account of hope as the desire for a future, difficult good (Summa Theologiae 1-2.40.1) and on Viktor Frankl’s reflections, in Man’s Search for Meaning, on the role of hope in sustaining prisoners in Auschwitz.

  • Abstract

    The catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of our children cannot be understated. Before the pandemic, however, the mental health of our children had already undergone severe wounding and impairment by a culture at times deeply inimical to the wellbeing of children and adolescents. I argue that, at heart, this problem is a crisis caused by the incapacity of our children to imagine any possible public and private future, and the deep inability to make or engage with a framework of positive and sustaining meaning. Evoking contributions of existential psychology, and in conversation with data from the National Institute of Mental Health and my own experiences as an educator in a mental health facility, I propose a framework of adolescent care that engages them with meaning-making and engagement while enduring the COVID pandemic.

  • Abstract

    In the wake of the pandemic, the climate crisis, and international conflicts, trauma and strife are all around us. What would it look like to equip children who are growing up in this context with protective factors for resilience in the face of trauma? Combining insights from studies in children’s spirituality, with studies in psychological development and resilience, this paper explores gardening as a spiritual practice for resilience in the lives of children as they face an increasingly uncertain future in an ever-changing world. Drawing upon empirical studies in resilience and developmental psychology, this paper correlates specific protective factors in resilience to the act of gardening. Then bringing in work in children’s spirituality, gardening will be explored as an inter-religious spiritual practice which further builds resilience in children who face trauma.

A22-132

Theme: Liberalism and Islam

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

This panel considers several representatives and representations of Islam that reveal different ways that some Muslims have navigated liberal societies in pursuit of greater freedom, reform, accomodation, or integration.

  • Abstract

    This paper focuses on Malcolm X/ El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz’s perspective on Islam as a comprehensive and global revolutionary religion which functions as cornerstone of his multilayered perspective on race and social justice. It postulates that Malcolm X’s uncompromising Black Nationalism and Malik el-Shabazz unyielding Islamic identity must be understood as profoundly complementary binomial and that Islamic Studies must engage Malcolm X as a seminal African-American Muslim revolutionary voice who is fundamentally resistant to the temptations of forced one-dimensionality through de-Islamisation, secularization or de-radicalization.

  • Abstract

    Transnational Islamic networks are often characterized by their oppositions to the existing political structures. They seek allegiance from their members against both secular and Islamic governments. The Ismaili global community is an exception. Scattered from Tibet to Texas, this multiethnic community represent a version of Islam aligned with secular politics. Prince Aga Khan (b. 1936) advises his followers to be loyal citizens of their States. There is nonetheless an ambiguity inherent in this call, as Ismailis are supported by the Aga Khan Development Network that offers what is otherwise provided by the States: roads and infrastructures, energy networks, hospitals, universities, and “national” constitutions. What transformation in citizenship is represented by this global network? Drawing on the work of Jonah Steinberg, Michel Boivin, and Olivier Roy, this paper examines how the Aga Khan Development Network reunites cultural identities divided by political borders, while also shaping modes of belonging beyond nation-states.

  • Abstract

    The boom of right-wing comedy has increasingly garnered attention from scholars in various fields. As of 2021, Fox News self-described libertarian and comic host Greg Gutfeld joined Stephen Colbert as ‘king’ of late night television. Focusing on Gutfeld’s shows Gutfeld! and – secondarily – The Five, this paper examines the ways in which Islam plays a role in Gutfeld’s construction of group belonging, promoting an exclusionary (and exceptional) vision of American identity along the lines of a conservative-liberal division. Considering comedy’s rhetorical power, meaning-making possibilities and community dynamics, the analysis demonstrates that Gutfeld’s brand of juvenilian satire and rhetoric present a regime of ‘truth’ about ‘Islam’ that is free of journalistic conventions and perpetuate alarmist narratives of threat, peril and evil. Gutfeld’s discussions of Islam are particularly significant given the news channel’s use of satirical programming to expand its viewership.

A22-133

Theme: Emerging Scholarship Workshop

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

This format offers an opportunity for more substantive conversation about works in progress than the traditional panel presentation. This year, we will be discussing two exciting new projects exploring such things as religious identity, film, dance, memory, and alternative archives. There will be four panelists: two authors, who will share a brief overview of their work for the benefit of the audience; and two respondents, who will have read the longer versions of the papers and will share comments and questions designed to stimulate discussion and move the conversation and work forward. Audience questions and suggestions will follow.

  • Abstract

    Using queer theory and queer of color critique this paper seeks to explore the movements in Puerto Rico working to reclaim Taino and African identity and religion. The focus of the paper is on how that work demonstrates and reflects a desire for emancipation from Western political ideologies that deny Puerto Rico and its citizens (even those in diaspora) a sense of self-determination unless they opt for the rigid categories of U.S. statehood or national sovereignty. This paper proposes the idea of a queer Puerto Rico which, rather than give in to colonial and imperial force, finds a way to flourish and claim a self-determined identity in the midst of political and economic catastrophe by tapping into its indigenous and African spiritual past. 

  • Abstract

    This paper interprets the documentary Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) (1972) and salsa songs from the 70’s as archives that not only portray performances of brown migrant bodies in the U.S., but that are meant to inspire in others performative gestures that re-tell stories. The paper argues that salsa has a historiographical potentiality that is actualized in the form of dance and interprets songs as “minoritarian performances” that (mis)appropriate the Western musical canon to tell the experience of migration. Thus, salsa creates “beastly” narrations whose excessive nature reveals the “affective reality” of Latinos/as that creates new forms of knowledge and tradition. The paper compares the aesthetic and affective dimensions of salsa and a Santeria ceremony scene in the documentary to claim that Afro-Caribbean religious traditions can also be read as “beastly,” excessive performances that inherit and disfigure colonial inheritances, like Christianity, to transmit other forms of knowledge and history.

A22-134

Theme: The Monastery in South Asia

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

The monastery in South Asia has long been siloed within discussions of world-renouncing asceticism. Even with the welcome turn to critical analyses of the logics of monastic governance, the scholarly gaze has remained cloistered within the monastic walls, adverting to the alien logic of its maintenance. By constituting the South Asian monastery as a category of comparative study, this panel proposes to relocate the study of this institution where it belongs, firmly entrenched in the networks of power–economic, ethical, geographic, and governmental–that constitute and are constituted by such social institutions. The papers in this panel focus on the mechanisms of monastic subject-formation as a site for the analysis of the logic of monastic governance. By examining modes of governance that were developed in Buddhist, Jaina and Hindu monastic orders, this panel attempts to resituate the monastery as an alternative source of political and social order in South Asia.

  • Abstract

    The Vinaya texts of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition contain a series of narratives depicting rival groups of monks who stay, study, play, and work together. This paper explores the dynamics of the relationship between two such monastic groups as they compete for domination, goad each other into excelling in their studies, and inadvertently create the conditions for critical self-reflection crucial to ethical formation. In this paper, I argue that the Buddhist Vinaya narratives, which are frequently read merely as the background for disciplinary rules, can profitably be read as pedagogical devices to explore the messiness of the conditions in which a life devoted to ethical practice can grow. This messiness includes conflicts between competing groups and using the Buddha’s words for deceitful purposes—forcing readers, including us, to a second order reflection on the very function and limits of vinaya (discipline) itself as a way life.

  • Abstract

    This paper explores the power dynamics of the teacher-student relationship within the Buddhist saṅgha, focusing on the probation period before the upasampadā (higher ordination and official entry to the saṅgha) to examine the relationship between the upajjhāya (preceptor) and the saddhivihārika (student-attendant) and the rules meant for the sāmaṇera/sāmaṇeri (novice monk and nun). I argue that a student asserts considerable agency vis-à-vis their preceptor as well as in the monastic commune, as a yet-to-be permanent member. A comparison with the Dharmaśāstric promulgations of the teacher-student relationship, will be attempted to situate the students of the saṅgha in relation to the contemporary traditions and analyze the scope of subversion in this relationship as reflected from the prescriptive texts of the two religious traditions. The final section will note instances from Buddha’s own engagement with his students to identify how successful were those who either reasoned with or even challenged the Buddha.

  • Abstract

    My paper examines the relationship between Sanskrit jurisprudential literature (Dharmaśāstra) and epigraphic records concerning the royal supervision of monastic religious endowments in medieval (600-1400 C.E.) India. Dharmaśāstra articulates a juridical model in which (often richly endowed) monastic institutions are sui iuris: religious communities enjoy the privilege of formulating their own internal laws (dharmas) which govern their members’ conduct, their modes of succession, and, most importantly, the administration of their assets. In this model, the sovereign must ensure that monastic communities observe their conventional (sāmayika/paribhāṣika) dharmas – to the extent that they do not violate public order and safety – and intervene to rectify the situation when breaches of dharma occur. I explore several epigraphic records concerning the foundation - and concomitant sāmayika dharmas – of monastic endowments in connection to historical cases where disputes concerning the maladministration of these endowments (tax evasion, expropriation, diversion of resources to purposes other than those specified in the grant) elicited direct royal intervention. Drawing on these representative examples, I outline a legal phenomenology of ‘breach of dharma’ as it pertained to monastic religious endowments in medieval India and explore the remarkably consistent manner in which sovereigns invoked Dharmaśāstric principles to justify their interventions.

  • Abstract

    Beginning in the second millennium, the genre of the religious digvijaya (narratives of universal conquest) was adopted and employed to great effect by Jaina and Vedāntin groups, particularly in promulgating the legendary spiritual exploits of founding figures of ascetic orders and monastic institutions. The narratives of universalizing religious triumphs, borrowing directly from the courtly genre of the same name, was used to strikingly different ends by the Advaita Vedantins, who likely appropriated the idiom from their Jaina counterparts. Whereas, for the Jainas, the digvijaya enabled monastic leaders to liken the spiritual toil of ascetics to the heroic pursuits of kingship, for the Vedantins, the digvijaya served as an ideal medium to not merely unify a disparate tradition into a single Vedic order, but moreover to absorb kingship itself within the transcendent and moral hierarchy governed by the ascetic guru.

A22-135

Theme: Death, Destruction, and the Violence of the Present: Reflections on Grace Jantzen

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

This roundtable convenes a group of scholars who work with philosophical and theological materials, to reflect on the work of feminist philosopher of religion, Grace Jantzen. Jantzen’s work raised critical questions about the intellectual foundations of modernity, including questions about power, gender, and mysticism as well as questions about this tradition’s “necrophilic” orientation toward death and destruction. In the midst of the violence and catastrophe of the present, how does Jantzen’s work hold up? What are the elements of Jantzen’s thought that provide resources for thinking through these actual and conceptual impasses? And where did her analyses fall short? Scholars on this panel approach Jantzen’s work with both critical and constructive questions.

A22-136

Theme: Confronting Silences: Spiritual and Sexual Abuse in Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Perspectives

Tuesday, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (In Person)

Spaces for examining spiritual abuse are emerging, yet it is largely hidden, dominated by Christian discourses in which survivors feel shame and guilt and religious institutions fear reputational damage. Moreover, while spiritual abuse can present as a single phenomenon, it is often integral to other violence - such as sexual abuse - but can be missed in these experiences, which are inflected with gendered dynamics that disproportionally impact women. To confront these silences, this roundtable brings together insider and outsider academics and pracademics, using cultural, psychological, sociological, criminological, political, and feminist approaches to share interdisciplinary insights across religious contexts. Panellists draw on various methodologies and methods (ethnography, focus groups, interviews, surveys, content analysis) to analyse the relationship between spiritual and sexual abuse in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Finally, we discuss strategies for creating the collaborative, safe, public conversations necessary for survivors and researchers to challenge this pressing topic.