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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)


Theme: Exile, Migration, and Diaspora

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

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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


Theme: Anti-Asian Hate Roundtable

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

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


Theme: The Future of Orthodox Christian Studies

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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


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

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

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


Theme: A Conversation About the Biblical Hermeneutics of Race and Justice

Friday, 5:00 PM-6:30 PM (In Person)

Marriott Riverwalk-Alamo C

SCJ invites friends and colleagues from all streams who identify with the Stone-Campbell Movement tradition for fellowship, light refreshments, and interesting conversation. For additional information contact William Baker (


Theme: Futuring Feminist Studies in Religion

Friday, 5:00 PM-7:00 PM (Virtual)



Theme: Trans Caucus Meeting

Friday, 5:00 PM-7:00 PM (In Person)

Hilton Palacio del Rio-La Vista West (ABC)

This Trans Caucus meeting is intended to provide a space for those attending the conference who are trans/non-binary/genderqueer/two-spirit/or who otherwise exist beyond binary gender. This gathering will provide opportunities for us to connect, commiserate, and to discuss strategies for creating a more inclusive and affirming conference and academic experience.


Theme: The Philosophical Qoheleth: Two visions of Ecclesiastes and its centrality in Philosophy of Religion

Friday, 6:00 PM-7:00 PM (In Person)

Grand Hyatt-Bowie C

Ecclesiastes has always presented itself as an enigmatic book in the Hebrew Bible. In what Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft called “the greatest of all books of philosophy,” it seems to lend itself to varied interpretations and possibilities. What lasting impact has Qoheleth had in developing a scriptural anthropology and an understanding of God? In what ways does Ecclesiastes anticipate and answer the conditions of modernity in alienation, confusion, estrangement, and anomie? How are we to read and interpret its central theme? The Panel seeks to answer these questions and engage the audience in two rich philosophical understandings of the book.


Theme: The Gospel According to Bono: A Critical Conversation Around Neoliberal Religion

Friday, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM (Virtual)

This panel is a roundtable discussion of the religious politics and economic promotions of U2's Bono. It takes the recent publication of Chad Seales's Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism as an occasion to reflect critically on the promises and perils of corporate philanthropy and global entrepreneurship in a neoliberal marketplace enchanted with evangelical desire. Panelists will discuss topics ranging across the history, politics, and theology of white American evangelicals alongside the rise of Bono as a pop culture icon, his preaching of consumer love for Africans in need, and his stewardship of corporate campaigns for humanitarian aid and economic development in Africa. The goal of the conversation will be to think critically together about promises made to alleviate global poverty by way of interventions that benefit the richest and most powerful individuals, corporations, and institutions in the world.


Theme: Religion and the Environmental Humanities: Opportunities for a (Re)emerging Field

Friday, 6:30 PM-8:30 PM (Virtual)

Religion is an insistent feature of the anthropocene, finding its way into apocalyptic discourses and vitalizing resistance movements and materialisms alike. And while scholars of religion have a longstanding engagement with ecological issues, the proliferation of ‘turns’ in the environmental humanities and social sciences have often moved away from, rather than toward theology and religious studies. As creative scholarship on religion and environment takes new forms, the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture seeks to provide space for transdisciplinary connections that attend to the power of religious studies as a theoretical lens for the environmental humanities and social sciences. In the spirit of building collegiality around these shared disciplinary and methodological challenges, our session at the AAR Annual Meeting seeks to help provide early career scholars with opportunities to broaden their networks and deepen collaboration on a variety of practical topics.


Theme: Job: A Philosophical Commentary, by Owen Anderson

Friday, 7:00 PM-8:30 PM (Virtual)

Owen Anderson's new book Job: A Philosophical Commentary looks at Job as the first philosopher who confronts the first question of philosophy. This is the problem of meaning. As Job struggles to make sense of the world and his belief in God, his own integrity is challenged. Each of the philosophers included on this panel have done work on the problem of evil and suffering and will bring their own useful perspectives to this discussion. The questions will include: in what way does Job anticipate later articulations of the problem of evil? What are the various solutions found in the book and how can Christians benefit from a reading of Job? What is the role of natural theology in Job?


Theme: Discussion of Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics by Francis X. Clooney, Winner of the Best Book Award in Hindu-Christian Studies (Theology/Philosophy) in 2020

Friday, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM (Virtual)



Theme: Parasite

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

Convention Center-210

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


Theme: Mennonite Scholars and Friends at the AAR/SBL Reception

Friday, 8:30 PM-10:00 PM (In Person)

Grand Hyatt-Texas C



Theme: Sabbath Breakfast Buffet

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

Marriott Rivercenter-Conference 20-21



Theme: Society for Hindu-Christian Studies Business Meeting

Saturday, 7:30 AM-8:30 AM (Virtual)