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A22-130

Theme: Islamic Piety and Devotion in New Contexts

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

Convention Center-401 (Street Level)

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)

Hyatt Regency-Granite A (Third Level)

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)

Convention Center-501 (Street Level)

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)

Hyatt Regency-Granite B (Third Level)

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)

Convention Center-301 (Street Level)

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)

Hyatt Regency-Granite C (Third Level)

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)

Convention Center-503 (Street Level)

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.