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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)

A23-118

Theme: Judaism and Anantheism

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

We seek to apply to the academic study of Judaism the critical method of Richard Kierney’s anatheism. This approach seeks to move past prior concern with aporia, difference, and impossibility. Instead, they view religion as uncertainty and creativity, a location envisioned by potentiality, profundity, and enrichment. The first speaker will look at the role of the Jewish concept of hospitality through Kearney’s wager of hospitality and this concept anticipates Jonathan Sacks notion of covenant. A second speaker will discuss Kearney’s concrete overlay of carnality, sacramentality, and hospitality in comparison to Levinas, focusing on some of the implications for time, memory, and the im/possibilities of returning to god after god. The third speaker will focus on anantheism and Biblical exegesis, focusing on Kearney’s presentation of the biblical narrative of the Burning Bush. The fourth speaker will focus on the importance of interreligious encounter in Judaism, which for anantheism is an act of both translation and imaginative openness to another worldview. A respondent will comment on the difference from Christian applications.

  • Abstract

    One of the most fertile aspects of anatheism, as Kearney conceives it, is what he calls inter-religious hermeneutics: how we better understand our own religious beliefs in the light of awareness of the beliefs of people in other faiths. Here anatheism converges with other vital movements in religious studies such as comparative theology. Encounter with other religions may allow the imagination to stretch beyond its established religious boundaries and to conceive of symbolic universes hitherto unimagined. It is through the imaginary insights and experiences of other religious traditions that one may come to a new awareness of distinct aspects of one’s own religious tradition. The alterity of the perspective of the other, treated as a welcomed stranger, thus constitutes an important factor in the process of self-understanding and growth. Encounter seeks to come to an understanding of the interreligious that embraces the ambiguity, historicity, and dynamic relationality of religious difference – in a word, its unruliness. While many approaches in theology implicitly recognize this unruliness, they typically try to bring it under control, to pacify it, or keep it at a distance.

  • Abstract

    This presentation will seek to address the value of applying the Anatheism concept of the wager of greeting the stranger to the Rabbinic concept of welcoming the stranger. The similarity and importance of Anatheism for Rabbinic thought was already noted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Kearney’s anatheism presents a wager of hospitality: do we confront the Divine stranger with hospitality or hostility. This wager will be used to demonstrate the ambiguity of the word Adoni (God) in Genesis 13:3, and that it may refer to either God or the strangers arriving in Abraham’s tent, and this concept anticipates Sacks’ notion of brit (covenant). Prior discussions on hospitality in modern Jewish thought worked with Levinas and Derrida, but without taking into account the significant ambiguities in the encounter. In such a manner, Kearney’s concepts of ambiguity becomes a vital resource for the integrity of Divine-human interaction.

  • Abstract

    This lecture will explore the concept of 'Anatheism' according to Richard Kearney, from a Jewish perspective focusing on the prominence of Jewish texts in the development of the concept of anatheism, especially vis-'-vis the role he gives to Rashi and other rabbinic commentators. The lecture will undertake a Jewish reading of Kearney's presentation of the biblical narrative of the Burning Bush.It will be suggested that Kearney's interpretative effort based on Jewish commentators and philosophers, invites a Jewish response: to ngage in mutual textual interpretation. However, reservations will be pointed out, especially in his Levinasian reading of Moses as mirroring the Transfiguration. Few Jewish thinkers to date have yet to engage with the idea of anatheism ' though one who did was Jonathan Sacks on the subject of the Burning Bush, and this will be offered as an example.

  • Abstract

    In Anatheism, Kearney speaks of the 'Eucharist of the Everyday' in a blend of Levinasian and Christian registers as a 'sharing bread with others''a decidedly concrete overlay of carnality, sacramentality, and hospitality. In Totality and Infinity, Levinas engages a sacramental hospitality predicated on a 'separated' moment of carnality which he describes in and through the enjoyment of biting into bread. Looking at a number of Kearney's works--including his most recent work on touch--and turning to Levinas' writings from the 30s and 40s, I compare and contrast these two carnal moments of bread in relation to concrete embodiment and touch, and in relation to what I identify as an earlier Levinasian embodied logic of "past-pause-paradox-pardon." As part of the inquiry, I compare and contrast Kearney and early Levinas on time, memory, and the im/possibilities of returning to 'god after god' in their similar but different Christian and Jewish atheologies.

  • Abstract

    In this paper, I examine new forms of monastic curricula in India that preserve traditional Buddhist study alongside imparting a secular education to monks. I argue that there are three factors that have led to Tibetan Buddhist leaders in India re-examining traditional monastic curricula a decrease in the number of people ordaining as monks, an increase in the number of monks disrobing, and an increased demand for qualified monastic teachers to teach Buddhism to Tibetan and non-Tibetan audiences. To explore this topic, I focus on the ways two prominent figuresthe Dalai Lama and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche have incorporated secular educational curricula and leadership training programs to provide monks with the skills required to flourish as Buddhist teachers across the globe in contemporary times. Through my ethnographic data collected in 2012-2014 and 2019-2020, I investigate the deployment of Buddhist and secular educational programs at four monastic institutions, Dzongsar Institute and Kanishka School in Chauntra, Sera Je Secondary School in Bylakuppe and Namgyal Monastery School in Dharamsala.

AV23-119

Theme: Tillich and Health

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

This session highlights research focused on Tillich's engagement of the idea of health with respect to such diverse topics as the health of the nation and society, physical and mental health, public health, illness, and psychology. His engagements with contemporary psychologists and psychotherapists are well-known but perhaps inadequately explored. This session features papers that use Tillich's work and method to engage the topic of health broadly.

  • Abstract

    This article applies Paul Tillich’s existentialist analysis of the human predicament, particularly what it means to exist and to be fallen, to social media. I argue that social media heightens feelings of alienation and estrangement, supporting this claim with evidence from empirical research in psychiatry and communication studies. I identify three primary ways social media exacerbates existentialist emotional states: 1) social media allows us to construct artificial versions of ourselves through the use of filters and photo editing software; 2) it provides the means to quantify social approval in groups the size of which the human brain has not evolved for; 3) it extends the size of our social networks but decreases the quality of interactions, leading to an intense lonliness. Social media is yet to receive significant philosophical or theological engagement, despite its prevalence, particularly within younger generations. I argue that this is a mistake – philosophy has a duty to engage with such a ubiquitous feature of modern life and Paul Tillich's theological framework provides the perfect tool with which to do so.

  • Abstract

    Paul Tillich saw himself as “a theologian of culture” and he situated himself “on the boundary line” of theology and philosophy, theology and psychology, theology and sociological analysis etc. According to Tillich, culture asks the questions that theology seeks to answer, and the task of the theologian is to correlate the questions of culture with the answers of revelation received in religion and articulated in theology. While the influence of Tillich’s thought on Rollo May’s approach to psychotherapy and Rollo May’s writings (and vice versa) is relatively well known, this paper will explore traces of Tillich’s thought not only in Rollo May’s publications, but also in more popular writers like M. Scott Peck in his “The Road Less Traveled” trilogy as well as the writings of Eckhart Tolle. The paper will argue constructively that the concepts of “The Courage to Be,” of “The Eternal Now,” and the encounter with “Being Itself,” experienced as “The Ground and Power of Being” are concepts that ought to be recovered in existential psychotherapy, in theological anthropology and spiritual meditation.

  • Abstract

    Paul Tillich’s three-volume Systematic Theology uses the method of correlation to philosophically explore questions of human existence and provide answers centered on Christian revelation, which reorient the questions to analyze their importance through the lens of Christian symbols. While each volume is crucial to the expansive analysis, Tillich’s work on existence and the Christ (New Being) continues to be incorporated in the works of scholars across lifestyles and disciplines. While many are drawn to New Being, others disagree with his conception and remain loyal to a more classically theist conception of Jesus. One of these communities is the Baptists of the National Baptist Convention. Their view of Jesus focuses on his other-worldly divinity and the need for human faith in that divinity. These views are quite distinct from one another and offer different analyses for issues contemporary issues that plague communities. This work aims to analyze Paul Tillich’s conception of New Being against the National Baptist Convention’s understanding of Jesus to uncover possible ways the two perspectives could respond to the social ill of Black maternal mortality.

  • Abstract

    In this paper, I argue that aspects of Tillich’s understanding of the demonic, especially in relation to symbols, resonate with disability theory in striking ways. Indeed, I show that an application of Tillich’s thought could complicate the discussion about the harm done (subordination, marginalization, etc) by disability as signifier, since Tillich does not reduce the link between the symbolic and material to a relationship of necessary causation. Instead, Tillich explains how demonic power moves through and distorts symbol systems, such that demonic distortion becomes ontologically constitutive not only of individuals but also of the entire network of relations in which one finds oneself. Counterintuitively, the paper defends thinking the demonic and disability together.

A23-120

Theme: Visions of the End: Wastelands, Doomsdays, and Ecological Collapse in Art and Literature

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

Screens, veils, revelations. Climate change is on trend to produce over one billion refugees by 2050, US-Russia nuclear treaties are set to expire, and the world is an anxious place. In so far as the apocalyptic event is an unveiling or moment of revelation (ἀποκάλυψις), this panel considers moments of revelation, rupture, and obfuscation in visual art and literature. What is screened; what remains veiled; and what is uncovered in literary and visual depictions of the apocalypse? Following the advent of the nuclear bomb, there was an explosion of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. As climate change transpires, we are seeing a resurgence of apocalypticism in popular media. This panel aims to bring critical methods into conversation with fictive accounts of unveiling and uncovering. What do apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictions and artworks say or leave unsaid about prospects for hope and for political and ethical action in light of impending collapse? How do they shape ethical and political subjectivity? These questions are pursued through analyses of novels, films, and photographs, by scholars of religion and a novelist.

  • Abstract

    Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of landscapes transformed by industrialized extraction and production represent wastelands of various kinds. Many of them are strikingly beautiful. They unveil ecological devastation and portray it in aesthetically pleasing ways. What is the nature of aesthetic appreciation, and its ethical implications, in response to such images? Cheryl Foster claims that we should experience “aesthetic disillusionment.” I argue, however, that while we may experience dissonance between aesthetic and ethical responses, such experiences should not be disavowed. Apocalyptic artworks are media through which we may grapple with the complexity of dissonant aesthetic and ethical responses. Apocalyptic scriptural texts are rich in extravagant imagery of destruction as well as the restoration that follows, eliciting aesthetic responses to their imagistic beauty alongside fear and horror at the devastation depicted. Eco-apocalyptic images like Burtynsky’s function similarly. Such works may help us cultivate appreciation for beauty in ecologically compromised environments while simultaneously inculcating the desire to repair ecological damage and avert ecological collapse.

  • Abstract

    Bruce Conner’s film Crossroads and Nancy Spero’s War gouaches both represent nuclear weaponry. Interpreting the artists’ work through the philosophy of Georges Bataille, we see that they invite contemplation of death, and in doing so foster a willingness to accept human mortality in such a way that could mitigate the tendency to protect society at any cost. Crossroads presents the nuclear bomb as at once horrifying and mesmerizingly gorgeous. In beautifying not just death, but state violence, it risks supporting nationalistic ideology. Spero’s gouaches anthropomorphize the mushroom cloud in repulsive ways, resisting ideology and highlighting our complicity in state violence. Turning from nuclear apocalypse to climate change and the hopelessness it engenders, I apply insights gleaned from Conner, Spero, and Bataille to argue that we should seek to attend to textual and visual representations of climate-related crises with an openness to experience the value of humanity and the material world in such a way that we find motivation to act from the present-tense immediacy of the situation around us, not from a future-tense expectation that things will get better.

  • Abstract

    Issues of orientation and disposition underlie much of the commentary on McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road and von Trier's apocalyptic film Melancholia. Scholars have noted The Road's vague apocalypse and theorized the apocalyptic conclusion of Melancholia as a statement on the end of cinema; readers and viewers keep questioning the sincerity and nihilism of both works; and both works have been treated as 'climate' fiction. Importantly, both implicate the reader-viewer in the revelatory apocalyptic event and foreground the problem of perspective. For example, the apocalypse depicted in the The Road gives the reader access to the apocalyptic event and its protracted aftermath, while Melancholia attempts to represent the apocalyptic event as a moment of total destruction (which, paradoxically, requires both the film and its audience to remain as indestructible witnesses). Joining debates surrounding nihilism, gender, ecology and perspective in these works, I argue that orientation'as it relates to gender, sexuality, and interpretation'might allow for the reframing of nihilism as a hopeful affect, reorienting Melancholia and The Road as climate ethics.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I will speak to my influences and artistic/intellectual process in writing a post-apocalyptic novel without war or cannibalism, a novel that is full of technological tricksters and a vision of the good life. My novel, The Amateurs, is in dialogue with (reaction against) compelling and desolating works like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and Russel Hoban's Riddley Walker; in those works, people have finally ruined the possibility for human survival and proven themselves unable to be good. The Amateurs is interested not in evil but in haplessness; the apocalypse is a result of overenthusiasm, ambition, lack of understanding, and lack of care. Instead of trauma, the engine of the technological rapture is nostalgia, to which most people are prone. This presentation describes the influences of evolutionary just-so stories, post-humanist discourse, and eco-criticism, and draws on the Timothy Morton's sublime hyperobjects and Rebecca Solnit's cultural criticism to argue for a futurism that falls somewhere between despair and blissful ignorance.

A23-121

Theme: Comparative eX-religion: Religious and Gendered Transitions

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

This roundtable takes up the intersection of religion and gender through an exploration of gendered and sexual transitions among religious defectors, or, religious exes. Highlighting exness as a marker of religious disaffiliation, and X-ness as a marker of transness, we consider how religion transcends gender through ex-religion, and how trans genders generate religious transitions. Building on trends in the study of religious disaffiliation and the post/non-secular, we bring queer and transgender religious studies and introduce comparative ex-religious studies to think about religious disaffiliates who move between religious and secular sex/gendered systems. Using transnational, transhistorical and transdisciplinary sources, we consider how categories of gendered and sexual signification are determined by religious, ethnic, temporal and spatial contexts that cannot be transferred across borders. This session interrogates the biopolitical conditions under which queer, trans and religious mark identity. We explore how gender and sexuality change as bodies move across differently religious and secular spaces through those who transition to lives beyond religion.

A23-122

Theme: Knowledge, Time, Imagination: Ordering Islam in the 21st Century

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

The study of contemporary Islam rests on its ordering around several key first-principles that too often go unexamined in studies that employ them. Chief among these first-principles are knowledge (textual, experiential, analytic), time (eschatological/messianic, linear progressive, nostalgic), and imagination (ontological, theological, social). The papers in this panel seek to interrogate these first-principles by turning them on their head, revealing in the process the root system that has sustained them for so long in our field, and imagining a study of Islam that is ordered otherwise. The first paper of our panel takes us to Egypt where a state project is underway to re-write the history of the scholarly class through the modern production of a classical Islamic genre: the biographical dictionary. Here knowledge both of and about this scholarly class is revealed to be not merely an epistemological endeavor, but one deeply embedded in the country’s fraught contemporary politics. The second paper of our panel offers a critical analysis of a key discipline in the study of contemporary Islam: anthropology. Using the example of a novel 19th century Islamic calendar in Iran and the way it imagines the future, the paper both builds on and complicates anthropology’s engagement with temporal experience in Muslim societies. The third paper of our panel takes us to the United States, where it finds that the place of the Quran in the imagination of non-Muslims is far more complicated than the dominating narrative of post-9/11 America has led us to believe. Popular American representations of the Quran serve here as data for examining the imaginative possibilities of the political space granted to Islam in the 21st century. Our final paper returns us both to the topic of time and to Iran, where the culture of waiting for the hidden Imam scrambles common temporal assumptions and produces a kind of nostalgia for the future. Here competing messianic narratives complicate official hierohistory as time takes on a relevance both mystical and political.

  • Abstract

    This paper looks at narratives from "Culture of Waiting" (farhang-e entezar) in 21st-century Iran. Culture of Waiting refers to a range of beliefs and practices that every true Twelver Shi’ite waiting for the emergence of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Mahdi, known as the "Hidden Imam" and “Lord of the Time,” should cultivate in the period of Occultation in order to prepare the self and society for the appearance of the Twelfth Imam and the fulfillment of his mission of establishing justice in the world. The past 20 years have witnessed a surge in the diversity of narratives as well as the number of claimants to Mahdihood. Informed by Hans Blumenberg’s theory of metaphorics, I study the changed metaphors about Occultation (ghaybat), Reappearance (zohur), and Waiting (entezar) in the official narratives. I argue that transformations of metaphors illustrate changes in the world-understanding and self-understanding of those who produce and consume these narratives in a context that perceived corruption and rise of injustice in a society being governed in the name of the Twelfth Imam have opened avenues for competing messianic narratives.

  • Abstract

    In 2019 the Alexandria Library published a ten-volume biographical dictionary, titled Jamharat a‘lām al-Azhar al-Sharīf. This dictionary, which was written by Usāma al-Azharī, a religious advisor to Egyptian president ‘Abd al-Fattāḥ al-Sīsī, details the lives and intellectual contributions of Muslim religious scholars (‘ulamā’) from al-Azhar from 1883 CE to the present. In this paper, I analyze the biographical dictionary to illuminate the anti-Islamist narrative that it constructs, and the related idealization of the history of al-Azhar and the ‘ulamā’ in the modern period. Most scholarship on al-Azhar in the modern and contemporary periods examines the ‘ulamā’ through the lens of their relationship to the state and their political behaviors. Much less attention has been given to the ‘ulamā’s production of knowledge, even when it can be deeply embedded in their politics. Through textual analysis of this dictionary, this paper demonstrates that the ‘ulamā’s knowledge production is a crucial means through which they engage in the political sphere in modern and contemporary Egypt.

  • Abstract

    Could it be that a Muslim who reads the Quran literally is more inclined towards terrorism? What kind of a book do Americans understand the Quran to be? Is it comparable to the Bible? Tracking what Appadurai terms the “social life” of the Quran as an American (racialized) text-object deepens our understanding of the complexity and diversity of Americans’ political and cultural interests in Islam over time and reveals how they are linked to culture wars. My research shows non-Muslim American political interests in Islam are complex and neither uniformly negative nor always in service of state power. Every Quran-burning protest in the US is out-sized by its counter-protest. Yet forms of political witnessing Americans perform in relation to the Quran mirror one another on the right and the left. By examining popular cultural representations, I show the range of political meanings assigned to the Quran. This paper will include close readings of "translations" of the Quran aimed at American publics: (1) “how to read” instructional guide books, The Koran for Dummies; (2) “how to read” Islamophobic materials, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran & (3) viral memes/Youtube videos.

A23-123

Theme: New Directions in Middle East Christianity

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

This roundtable engages critical methods and approaches to Middle East Christianity within the broader research parameters of the History of Christianity. Focused on conversation and peer engagement, junior scholar panelists across disciplinary fields will consider new and emerging scholarship from a diverse range of Christianities including modern Coptic studies to Armenian, Syriac, and other Christian traditions from the region spanning the nineteenth century to the present. Panelists will take up questions and considerations for this roundtable, including but not limited to:
- How are current trends and new directions in this scholarship pushing conceptual, theoretical, or methodological boundaries?
- Are these directions intersectional? Are we seeing work that engages race, gender, and class in relation to these Christian communities?
- How has critical, community-based, or public-facing work informed your own research and scholarship? And how can scholars support communities they research and work alongside?
- How does the scholarship push the History of Christianity towards a better historically-grounded and diverse representation of traditions within the broader field?

AV23-124

Theme: On the 50th Anniversary of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (Belknap Press, 1971) and the Study of Religion

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

In 1971, John Rawls published his landmark book, A Theory of Justice. In addition to rejuvenating political philosophy among anglophone philosophers, A Theory of Justice continues to be consequential for conversations in economics, law, political science, and religious studies. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of A Theory of Justice's publication; it also bears witness to economic, political, and social realities marked by deep and unsettling inequalities, with scholars calling attention to the ways that we are implicated in sinful social structures. Whereas earlier conversations in religious studies about Rawls focused on his purported individualism and restrictions on religious arguments in the public square, this Roundtable Session aims to open dialogues between Rawls's emphasis on institutional justice and developments in liberation theology, Latinx religion, Black religious thought, and religious ethics. Rather than revisiting longstanding debates about the relationship among Rawls, religion, and liberalism or celebrating A Theory of Justice, the panelists aim to reevaluate and potentially transform Rawls's import.

A23-125

Theme: Reckoning with Race, Science, and Religion in COVID-19

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

In response to the anti-CT (critical theory), anti-CRT (critical race theory) and anti-social science perspectives of conservative, white evangelicals before, during, and after the 2020 Black Lives Matters protests, and as evidenced by the fall 2020 statement delivered by six Southern Baptist seminary Presidents, this first paper contests the systematic rejection of CT, CRT, and social science by more fundamentalist strains of white American evangelicalism. It further argues for a particular brand of Christianity - a black prophetic, feminist, progressive and liberal tradition practiced by Cornel West and other Christian activists, that is compatible with CT, CRT, and the social sciences. In the midst of a triple pandemic, this second paper delivers a bird’s eye view of how systemic inequality and institutional racism are both structural and central to the development of two institutions. The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and the WCCs Ecumenical Institute. Placing archival research and interviews into conversation with critical and social theories, a shift is made in how the author tells the story about the organizational history and development of both institutions. With this shift comes greater emphasis on equity and inclusion, highlighting both positive and challenging efforts towards a more expansive view of religious openness and cooperation as well as gender, class and racial justice. This paper further treats emerging contentions between equality issues and the organizational elitism defining both institutions.

  • Abstract

    Contemporary discourse on the intersection of Critical Theory (CT), Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Christian theology and ethics has reached an all-time high. This is particularly true with white evangelicalism in the U.S., where denominations, popular figures, and an endless stream of media regularly, publicly, and explicitly decry “Critical Theory” in all its forms—even if it is clear that critics have not informed themselves of what exactly they are critiquing. What explains this social and cultural phenomenon? And is CT really inherently opposed to all things “Christian”? This presentation will suggest that, despite being categorically different, CT and certain traditions of Christian thought are highly complementary, even to the point where specific ideas of specific Critical Theories function as extensions of classical theological dogmas. Specific attention is given to the psychology of racism in Critical Race Theory and the doctrine of total depravity in reformed thought, among others.

  • Abstract

    Scholarly and Personal Reckoning in Time of Pandemic, and Racial InjusticeMy paper tells the story of how the pandemic and the racial protests laid bare the vast systemic inequality and institutionalized racism in the United States thus confronting me to revise my teaching and my two-year research project comparing the origin, evolution and implications of two religious organizations, The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute (Institute). As important, is the story of addressing my own complicity with these injustices.My original question was: Why did one organization (GTU) evolve to become a center of inter-religious study and the other (Institute) remain firmly grounded in one tradition, Christianity? Then the pandemic arrived, and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests took center stage. With new urgency, I began looking at how well the GTU and the Institute grappled with the issue of equality, equity and inclusion. Additionally, self-examination transformed my teaching and scholarship. I sensed in myself an arrogance of privilege that produced a lack of attention toward injustice and inequity. My research and teaching had to change.

AV23-126

Theme: A New Religion in South Asia? Caste, Language, and Identity in the Liṅgāyat Movement for Independent Religion Status

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

Over the past few years, the Liṅgāyat community of the south Indian state of Karnataka has renewed its efforts to gain legal recognition as a minority religion distinct from Hinduism. The ensuing controversy presents an opportunity for Religious Studies scholars to examine religious identity as embedded in multiple ideological, social, and political terrains and structured by sociohistorical and political forces. Categorized as a dominant group, Liṅgāyats have wielded tremendous religious and sociopolitical influence even well beyond the state of Karnataka across the Indian subcontinent. Using the movement for independent religion status as their point of departure and drawing from various theoretical and methodological approaches, the panelists address some of the formative issues surrounding Liṅgāyat religion and identity such as the discrepancies in the scriptural canon of the community and the role of the Liṅgāyat-Vīraśaiva binary in the arbitration of the independent status question. In doing so, the panel identifies important focal points of engagement to examine the unique features of Liṅgāyat mobilization for independent status.

  • Abstract

    What do we mean when we speak of “Vīraśaivism”? According to advocates for separate religion status for Liṅgāyatism, “Vīraśaivas” are the polar opposite of the Liṅgāyat movement. Liṅgāyat reformers equate “Vīraśaivism” specifically with the Pañcācārya tradition, which traces its origin to a set of five legendary teachers who are believed to have manifested spontaneously out of five śivaliṅgas spread across the Indian subcontinent. Supposedly a reactionary twentieth-century movement, the Pañcācārya tradition is emplotted as replacing social revolution with caste consciousness, devotion with ritualism, and Kannada with Sanskrit. As of yet, however, virtually no research, historical or ethnographic, has been done on the Pañcācārya communities. In this paper, I draw on historical textual evidence and contemporary engagement with the Pañcācārya community to argue that 1) prior to the colonial period, the Pañcācārya/Liṅgāyat binary appears nowhere in our textual record, and 2) an early synthesis of the Pañcācārya tradition can be traced back to the early modern period through Kannada sources (rather than Sanskrit) that speak to the active participation of non-Brahmin communities.

  • Abstract

    I examine the history of the tradition of the V?ra?aiva-L?ng?yatas and their systematic exclusion and inclusion within 'big-tent Hinduism.' I argue that the inclusion or exclusion of V?ra?aiva-L?ng?yatas within (what we would now call) 'Hinduism' has long been a political touch point in the Kannada-speaking south. Particularly, I am interested in the ways that the ultimate determination was outside of the V?ra?aiva-L?ng?yata's control as their religious identity was mobilized for political expediency'whether as allies or opponents. Therefore, I focus on two cases of rebellion against the Mysore court'one from the late 17thcentury during the reign of Cikkad?var?ja Wo?eyar and the other from the early 19th during the reign of K???ar?ja Wo?eyar 'by communities of Vira?aiva-Li?g?yatas in which the tradition and its leaders were the focus of political contention. Through these case studies, I hope to show how the Li?g?yata religious beliefs and practices had little bearing upon their acceptance into the fold of religious traditions of royal and political favor. Instead, their status as insiders or outsiders was prescribed and enacted upon them as a measure of political expediency.

  • Abstract

    Contemporary debates about the relations between the Lingayats and orthodox Hinduism hinges, among other things, on the historical origins of the tradition. Some align the tradition with other Śaiva strands by pointing to a prehistoric past as the bedrock of Virashaivism. Others, by contrast, point to a more recent cohort of saintly figures of twelfth century north Karnataka. The poems called vacanas, which are attributed to the twelfth-century figures, are presented as a historical proof for the originality and also the exceptionality of the twelfth-century movement and, by extension, of Lingayat communities today. But the textual history of the vacanas is complicated by the fact they were transmitted orally for the first three centuries. In this presentation, I will explore the alleged “textual fluidity” by addressing the following questions: How were the vacanas portrayed in these texts? What space did the vacanas occupy in the lives of the saints according to these authors? Are vacanas directly quoted in the contemporaneous devotional literature, and can we locate the vacanas quoted in the early sources in the later familiar canon?

  • Abstract

    Padodaka or “foot water,” which is commonly understood as water that has washed the feet of the guru or jangama and consumed by Lingayats, is one of the eight layers of protection in Lingayat philosophy. Of late, the practice has come under increasing scrutiny as a section of the community has opposed it as regressive owing to its resemblance with similar Hindu practices and because of its role in reifying castiest distinctions and priestly privileges. This essay maps contestations around padodaka to illuminate the different political projects that animate the Lingayat demand for independent religious status. I argue that while the movement remains entwined with questions of identity and belonging unleashed by colonial modernity, changing conceptions of the practice also gesture towards anti-casteism as a central energy that animates the Lingayat demand for independent religious status. I analyze how the resignification of padodaka to mean water that has washed the ishtalinga rather than the foot water of another human, performs a nuanced caste critique that also opens up one’s own religious history and convictions to examination.

A23-127

Theme: Multivalent Religious Histories and Identities in Latin America

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

This inter, and multi-disciplinary panel, draws from ethnographic, historical, and literary methods to challenge dominant narratives about religious membership and identity in Latin America. The presentations in this panel seek to reframe and re-contextualize the definitions of religious history and identities across Latin America. As each scholar demonstrates, religious identities exist within multiple intersections of racial, ethnic, national, and political realities and reflect their local histories and contexts. They highlight how movements within Islam, Christianity, and Regla de Ocha-If work to define their own social and political identities within a longer history of colonialism and foreign intervention and raise questions about innovation, appropriation, and revisionist readings of religious scriptures.

  • Abstract

    The expansion of the Protestant Evangelical Churches in Latin America is one of the most important religious phenomenon of the last decades. The “conspiracy theory” that explains this incredible growth as the result of a “low-intensity” operation sponsored by the CIA – even if largely true ­– is insufficient to explain this surprising rate of conversions. One important factor that must be taken into consideration is the conservative upsurge that occurred within the Catholic Church during the pontificate of John Paul II. My paper will focus on the Vatican attempts to silence the leading exponents of Liberation Theology and on the appointments of extremely conservative prelates as a strategy to delegitimize the progressive wing of the Catholic Church in Latin America. The basic thesis is that by strengthening the status quo and by urging the faithful not to follow extremist policies or tendencies the Catholic Church has also fomented division and polarization within itself. On the long run, this approach led to a “spiritual pauperization” of Latin American Catholicism that have prepared the terrain on which a fundamentalist and conservative religious culture ­is now prospering.

  • Abstract

    While an overwhelming minority both in terms of Puerto Rico’s overall population, Puerto Rican Muslim converts represent a numerically small, but categorically complex constituency that invites scholars to better understand the richness and diversity of religious traditions in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Due to their numbers, Muslims in the Latina/o Americas have received relatively little consideration in scholarly and popular framings of the region’s politics, religious make-up, and society. As this paper illustrates, there are significant aspects of their identities and practices that deserve attention to in order to better apperceive the complicated landscape of contemporary Latin American, Caribbean, and broader “American” religion and politics. Through a series of ethnographic portraits based on fieldwork in Puerto Rico, the U.S. (New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas), and online from 2015-2018 and in 2020, I present the lived experience of Puerto Rican Muslim converts in order to offer a more complex picture of contemporary Latin American, Caribbean, and American religion, politics, and the sometimes volatile convergences between the two.

  • Abstract

    Christian communities adopting Jewish narratives, rituals, and pro-Israel activism are growing across the globe. Existing scholarship on the phenomenon focuses on North-American cases and emphasises the political consequences of Christian Zionism. Although this framework is useful for explaining pro-Israel activism in the U.S., its emphasis on the U.S. neglects not only how this tendency is being organised globally, but also how some Christian communities are moving from diffuse pro-Israel anxieties to the adoption of Jewish rituals and even adherence to laws of the Hebrew scriptures (referred here as Judaizing). My research in Brazil demonstrates how former Charismatic Evangelical/Pentecostal churches are adhering to Jewish rituals and lifestyles as a way to emulate the life of early Christians and reform ‘degenerated’ forms of Pentecostalism characterised, in their view, by unauthentic exorcisms and materialism propagated by prosperity gospel. These findings make an original contribution to global Christianities debates by exploring the changing contours of Pentecostalism in Brazil.

  • Abstract

    The Regla de Ocha-Ifá or Santeriá Cubana is described as ‘syncretic’ since it carries the imprint of different areas of Yorubaland, Spanish popular Catholicism and, to a lesser extent, spiritualism and some Chinese aspects. While this religion is understood as a Cuban form that arises from the extended practice of slavery, until recently, slavery as such was never a factor in the relationships between the divine and the mortal strata. However, recently the transatlantic human traffic and slavery have found their way into the sacred stories of Ocha-Ifá. This work presents a series of concerns that arise from these contemporary insertions of human traffic and slavery into the verbal and written narratives of Ocha-Ifá. The inquires will be directed to the discussion of models that shape these narratives, the academic instrumental to explain these insertions, and the relationships between history and popular religiosity. By examining the significance of the slave trade and slavery as a mediating component between the sacred and the secular, this work will generate a dialog on the possible outcomes of absorbing human traffic and slave system into the economy of religious practices.

  • Abstract

    Often in religious studies, the prosperity gospel acts a negative image of liberation theology: it is neoliberal, reactionary, and individualistic, while the latter is anticolonial, revolutionary, and collective. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork with Brazil’s Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, this presentation argues that attention to neo-Pentecostal practices of “liberation”—from demons, drug addiction, personal failures—breaks down this clear dichotomy between the individual and the collective, the personal and the structural. These neo-Pentecostal liberation practices meld aesthetics and performance to collectively translate the effects of systemic poverty into physical spirits that can be expelled from the body, leaving only the free and autonomous individual in their wake. The sovereign neoliberal subject is not presupposed but produced. I argue that any interpretation of the legacy of liberation has to account for the ways the individual and the collective become enmeshed through neo-Pentecostal performance, challenging scholars to find new paradigms through which to conceptualize how freedom becomes thinkable and performable.

A23-128

Theme: Emmanuel Falque and Recent Debates in Phenomenology and Theology

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

This panel interrogates the relationship between phenomenology and theology. The first paper focuses on the French philosopher-theologian Emmanuel Falque, whose unique perspective has only recently been widely discussed in Anglophone circles. While the paper acknowledges Falque's creativity and importance, it argues that his approach to gender is too bound to conventional binaries and seeks out resources in Falque's own work to address this inadequacy. The second paper addresses itself to the "theological" turn of which Falque and Marion are prominent examples, arguing that the debate between those two thinkers echoes the earlier theological debate between Rahner and von Balthasar. The final paper brings the tools of phenomenology to bear on pentecostal liturgy, which challenges many of the commonplaces of phenomenology of religion.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines the role of the body in Les Noces de l'Agneau: Essai Philosophique sur le Corps et L'Eucharistie. It focuses on Falque's attempt to reintroduce an emphasis on the body into theological anthropology and phenomenology, through the Eucharist. The paper explores the way in which Falque receives concerns characteristic of French phenomenology, including the distinction of the flesh from the body. In a critical engagement with Falque's philosophico- theological anthropology, I question whether his noon of 'differentiation' is sufficiently inclusive of the diversity of bodies and whether his emphasis on interpenetration is conducive to his wider attempt to understand the body philosophically and theologically. My paper will bring Falque's work into conversation with Ephraim Das Janssen's 2017 work Phenomenal Gender. The aim is to demonstrate how Falque's understanding of the unity of human bodies in the Eucharist is underlaid by an essentialist binary concept of gender, and unified by a patriarchal power dynamic. I argue that Falque's attempt to reintroduce an emphasis on the body into theology is ultimately flawed, due to his binary understanding of gender.

  • Abstract

    In this paper, I attempt to integrate the first and second waves of the phenomenological study of religion exemplified by thinkers such as Marion (first wave) and Christina Gschwandtner (second wave) to study the particular religious context of Pentecostal liturgy. Thinkers like Emmanuel Falque and Christina Gschwandtner have criticized Marion for only attending to the excessive and transcendent while neglecting more mundane religious phenomena. They suggest turning to particular religious liturgies in order to ground phenomenological reflection in lived religious experience. I argue that when one attends to the Pentecostal context, this distinction between excess and liturgy begins to break down. By performing a phenomenological analysis of pentecostal liturgy I hope to shed light on both pentecostal practice and method in the phenomenology of religion.

  • Abstract

    This paper aims to excavate the theological underpinnings of two figures in contemporary French phenomenology: Jean-Luc Marion and Emmanuel Falque. Despite obvious points of convergence between Marion and Falque, there is a significant divergence between them regarding the relationship between phenomenology and theology, a divergence which I take to represent two differing conceptions of the nature of phenomenality and its hermeneutical mediation. Moreover, it is my contention that these divergences represent a (non-identical) repetition of the debate between the 20th century Roman Catholic theologians Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner, concerning the nature of Divine revelaon and the creaturely capacity for its reception. I argue that Balthasar and Rahner each exercise a determining (though partially elided) influence over the contours of the present debate between Marion and and Falque, with the former being fundamentally indebted to Balthasar and the latter being thoroughly shaped by Rahner.