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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)

A20-126

Theme: The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics (NYU Press, 2020)– a Roundtable Discussion with Author Janet R. Jakobsen

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

This roundtable brings together an interdisciplinary and cross-generational panel to discuss Janet R. Jakobsen’s provocative book The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics (NYU Press, 2020). In this book, Jakobsen shows how gender and sexuality reappear again and again at the center of US political life - from women’s liberation and gay liberation in the 1960s and 70s, the AIDS crisis and ACT UP in the 80s and 90s, welfare and immigration reform in the 90s, wars claiming to save women in the 2000s, and battles over health care in the 2010s, to recent demands for reproductive justice, trans liberation, and the explosive exposures of #MeToo. Jakobsen breaks with the common sense that blames religion for much of the resistance to gender gender equality and sexual freedom in the US. Rejecting a religion/sex binary, she instead charts the kaleidoscopic ways in which sexual politics are embedded in social relations of all kinds: not only the intimate relations of love and family (which are so often set down as the "proper" homes of gender and sexuality), but also secularism, freedom, race, disability, capitalism, nation, housing and the environment.

A20-127

Theme: Negotiations of Religious Space: Focus on Economics

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

Case studies of religious spaces in Asia and Buddhist centers in the West reveal the complex ways economic survival becomes salient. Historical records from medieval China demonstrate that state control over Buddhist precept platforms, supported the economic interests of the state, while simultaneously supporting the broader spiritual interests of the Buddhists. In 18th century Japan, the port city of Nagasaki, through centering the burakumin ghetto people, portrays a delicate spatial compromise of the political and economic apprehensions among foreign economies, religions, and people. These historical cases in Asia illustrate the shifting relationships between religion, the state, outsiders, and marginal groups. Shifting to contemporary Britain, Buddhist organizations utilize funding from wellness retreats for non-Buddhists as an integral part of financial sustainability, adapting their physical space to create a fusion of the secular and sacred. The global Buddhist lineage of popular teacher, author, and Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, has relied on physical retreats at monastic practice centers as a main source of funding. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these centers have developed widespread online outreach, representing a model for maintaining spiritual and financial viability outside of the traditional Buddhist merit economy. These four case studies analyze the economic negotiations of religious spaces through a diversity of methods including ethnographic, historical record analysis, and digital mapping.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I will examine examples of fangdeng or “Vaipulya” precept platforms found in Chinese Buddhist historical sources. “Precept platforms” (jietan) are a type of structure principally found in East Asian Buddhist cultures that are used as a space to conduct precept ceremonies: rituals whereby monastic or lay buddhists would vow to uphold Buddhist moral injunctions, or ‘precepts.’ These range from the strict rules governing monastic life to more general vows for laypeople to live according to Buddhist principles.I will show that in contrast to precept platforms that were built by Buddhist organizations prior to these fangdeng precept platforms, these fangdeng platforms were built by the mandate of Chinese government officials. This serves to illustrate not only how the Chinese government and officials saw the relationship to Buddhism—in some cases instrumental for their own financial gain—but also how Buddhists who supported, or were complicit the operation of such platforms, saw ordination as an end in itself, regardless of the goals of the individuals receiving the precepts and becoming registered as a monk.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I consider the early modern formation of the Nagasaki burakumin ghetto in order to grapple with the ghetto as a transnational spatial contestation with social difference in an expanding global landscape. I argue that, by considering the Nagasaki ghetto within a globalizing framework of transnational port cities, including the Venice and its Jewish ghetto, new understandings of the early modern world--in particular, emerging conceptions of race and social hierarchies, the political and economic life of port cities, and the mechanisms of social control associated with a budding global infrastructure--are possible. My project investigates the socio-political configuration of Nagasaki as a port city through digital mapping, geo-spatial technologies, and comparative examinations of early modern maps of Nagasaki and corollary port cities. Threaded throughout this paper is the question: what does this historiography tell us about the nascent relationships of empire, religion, and race of the early modern world?

  • Abstract

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Buddhist communities offered virtual practice sessions, as well as free audio guided meditations, courses, and live dharma talks to stay connected with practitioners and donors while temples and practice centers remained closed. From a Buddhist perspective, these offerings were made out of compassion to those suffering. However, they can also be understood as an argument for the religion’s relevancy in a time of financial insecurity. Loss of income has been anticipated by the Plum Village monastic practice centers, founded by the popular teacher, author, Buddhist monk, and Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Buddhist communities have historically relied on the concept of merit to sustain the monastic institution and temple infrastructure. Buddhist monks take care of the spiritual needs of their lay donors, while the laity cares for the physical needs of the monks, in exchange for merit. Through an investigation of Plum Village's outreach endeavors and an analysis of communications related to donations, this presentation analyzes a model for maintaining spiritual and financial viability outside of the merit economy.

  • Abstract

    Although an under-theorised topic, a growing number of Buddhist organisations in contemporary Britain engage in wellness tourism through the provision of retreats for non-Buddhist audiences. These programmes often centre around secular mindfulness meditation, and reconnection with the natural world. The funding raised through these programmes is an integral part of financial sustainability for many Buddhist organisations in Britain. This paper analyses this trend, drawing on qualitative interviews with programme facilitators across different geographic regions of the British Isles, and from varied Buddhist traditions. The paper takes a spatial approach to investigate how Buddhist organisations in this context engage with the wellness tourism trend, centering on their adaptation of physical space and aesthetic which leads to a fusion of the ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’. Although financial motivations are an important consideration to engage in wellness tourism, there are other factors at play in the rationale offered by Buddhist practitioners, including the idea that there is an increasingly porous relationship between the sacred and the secular in this context.

A20-102

Theme: Fieldnotes from 2020

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

For most of us, 2020 was a time of upheaval. The coronavirus pandemic sent us home, to work remotely or to face the loss of employment. It sent students home, turning parents into full-time teachers and teachers into full-time parents. We lost lives and livelihoods; our students struggled and some faced serious threats not only to their education but to their well-being and safety. Just as quickly we were back out on the streets demanding racial justice, justice for farmers, restoration of democracy. We watched the US presidential election with anxiety over its security and integrity, and looked on with horror if not, as religionists, with surprise as a demonstration turned into an insurrection at the US capital and as the pandemic provided excuses for populist leaders around the world to tighten the reins of their rule. As we pick up the pieces in the aftermath of this time of both devastation and inspiration, the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession wants to hear from you about what youve experienced, what you need, and how we can best serve all women and people impacted by sexism and misogyny in the guild. Please join us for an informal sharing, debriefing, and brainstorming session as we work out what cultural and institutional structures to hospice into a quiet passing and what new developments to midwife into being amidst the rubble of our former lives. If you would like to participate but cannot make the session, please email committee chair Melissa Wilcox at melissa.wilcox@ucr.edu.

A20-128

Theme: Discursive Transgression: Tantra and Ritual Language

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

Nonstandard language is a pervasive feature of Tantric traditions. From the ritualistic use of mantras and dhāraṇīs within Tantric ritual to the intentionally nonstandard Aiśa Sanskrit in Tantric texts, these traditions have a clear affinity for intentional language (saṃdhā-bhāṣā) that disrupts conventional norms and narrative, and also short-circuits the rational and deluded mind. This panel will consider Tantric language in a variety of contexts. The first paper will treat the Apabhraṃśa dohās quoted and "misquoted" in Tantric Buddhist texts, while the second paper treats the coarse Sanskrit in Jaina Tantric Love Magic. The third paper will discuss the "gestural language” that allows for dialog between deity and practitioner, while the fourth paper will look at the semiotics of chommakās within the Svacchanda Tantra. The final paper will consider the vernacular mantras found in mass-produced booklets in West Bengal. Whether esoteric or vernacular, magically protected or distributed at bus stations, these texts and traditions addressed by this panel offer magical power and accomplishment through fluency in extramundane discourse, and this panel will treat them comparatively.

  • Abstract

    Verses composed in Apabhraṃśa are numerous throughout the Tantric Buddhist canon, appearing not only in collections attributed to Mahāsiddhas but also root tantras, sādhanās, and other works. This paper will examine the Apabhraṃśa dohās in the Buddhakapāla Tantra (BKT) and how they are quoted and “misquoted” in a variety of contexts. Many chapters in the Sanskrit-language BKT end in a capstone dohā in Apabhraṃśa that summarizes or challenges the chapter’s contents, and many of them appear in collections (dohākoṣas) attributed to the Mahāsiddha Saraha. Throughout these quotations in the BKT and other texts, there is a clear spectrum of phonology and terminology, while the semantic import is identical. This paper will consider the possibility of recovering original “ur-verses,” as well as what the specific phonology of the verses in the BKT indicates about the transmission and composition of the text itself. This paper will ultimately argue that in diglossic Tantric Buddhist texts Apabhraṃśa dohās invoke and create another level of discourse above and beyond the surrounding narrative, characterized by intimacy, directness, and intensity.

  • Abstract

    Tantric writing relies on a variety of linguistic obfuscations. Writers encode mantras within texts so that they cannot accidentally be stumbled upon by outsiders. Semantic analysis called nirvacana offers commentators an avenue to prove the linguistic correctness of philosophical ideas by allowing them to play with the roots for words to form etymologies that may be historically inaccurate but demonstrate that the language itself has led to truth. This paper examines a third time to obfuscatory language called chommakā. This little studied phenomenon appears at the outset to simply be a list of words or gestures that a practitioner can use to identify a ritual partner. However, examination of chommakā within the Svacchanda Tantra demonstrates a semiotic relationship between a word and its chommakā. Kṣemarāja often uses the semantic analysis of nirvacana to explain these connections. This paper seeks to identify usages of chommakā within the tantric corpus, to examine the relationship between words and their chommakās where possible, and to outline further avenues for researching these phenomena.

  • Abstract

    Jain tantras readily incorporate pan-South Asian magic rituals, but the rites are fitted into an elaborate, Jain-like context. Two Jain tantras--namely Jvālāmālinīkalpa Chapter Seven and Bhairavapadmāvatīkalpa Chapter Nine--present erotic spell catalogs with little organization and no analysis. Reading Jain and Śaiva sources together, Jain tantra chapters abandon the elegant language and composition found throughout in favor of a workaday Sanskrit register and organization style more akin to the least sophisticated Uḍḍ-corpus sources. This overlap shows not only the ubiquity of erotic magic at the time but a dilemma for Jain authors who choose not to adapt but incorporate erotic magic unchanged. Jain authors adapt warfare magic, such as immobilizing armies, or demon-wrangling, such as eradicating obstructers, by embedding the rites inside larger rituals organized by yantras and maṇḍalas overseen by Jain holy figures; furthermore, throughout the texts, shorter rites with simple Sanskrit are surrounded by more elegant verses. Such strategies are abandoned for erotic magic.

  • Abstract

    Every single tantric ritual, whether Hindu or Buddhist, involves the display of some specific physical gestures that creates a mental space for a ‘dialogue’ between the deity and the worshipper. There are specific gestures for welcoming the deity to the ceremony, for offering her a seat, for receiving pleasing objects like flowers, and for bidding the deity farewell. Along with these simple gestures, tantras provide some refined and complex mudrās that the practitioner performs, which convey sophisticated meanings. Tantric rituals simulate theatrical performance in many regards whether the audience is the deity alone or public rituals where the priest is mediating the audience and the deity, besides keeping his private ‘dialogue’ through gestures. The objective of this paper is to first treat gestures as a form of language, explore the parameters in which tantras constitute internal meaning for gestures, and import the theory of meaning derived from the discussion on gestures to address semiotics in general. Displaying gestures is thus the creation of meaning with actions being transformed into meaning, with the body expressing itself both as meaning and what is meant.

  • Abstract

    This paper surveys inexpensively produced folk tantric handbooks from Bengal with attention to which kinds of mantras appear in vernacular languages versus Sanskrit and considers a range of possible emic rationales for the ritual efficacy of such mantras. It then focuses on the style and structure of the vernacular mantras in particular through comparison with the growing folkloristic literature on verbal charms. Later this paper will look at these vernacular mantras in particular with an eye to the question of what makes them ‘work’ both from the point of view of the compilers/practitioners and by putting the mantras in conversation with the folkloristic literature on verbal charms. By engaging this archive with cutting-edge research on ritual and folklore studies we can understand the kinds of mantras presented in these chapbooks and the phenomenon of vernacular mantras more generally, with potentially disruptive implications for scholarly consensus on the role of language in Hindu ritual.

AV20-103

Theme: Disabling Theological Education

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

What does it mean to disable theological education? To crip the teaching of religion? The panelists in this roundtable session will address these two questions by exploring core insights related to teaching and learning through a disability hermeneutic. Both their conceptual proposals and practical reflections will identify how the category and lived experience of disability can enhance, challenge, and expand current policies and practices for learners and educators in contexts of religious and theological education. The panelists will offer specific reflections on how attending to ableism, disability justice, transformative pedagogy, the intersections of race and disability, and Universal Design for Learning might shape classrooms marked by equity and belonging.

A20-129

Theme: Author Meets Critics: Church in Color: Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Montague Williams (Baylor University Press, 2020)

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

Join Dr. Reggie Williams, Dr. Almeda Wright, and Dr. Angela Sims as they discuss Montague R. Williams’s Church in Color: Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Williams's text examines the realities of race in multiethnic youth ministries in the United States and places the findings in dialogue with a nuanced engagement of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theological aesthetics. Reviewer and King scholar Lewis V. Baldwin writes, Williams ultimately has in mind a fresh and more vital ecclesial vision that is tailored to the unique and complex challenges facing what some cultural theorists call the post-millennials, the most racially and ethnically diverse generation of young people in American and world history. This book is a clarion call to action. This panel is moderated by Dr. Emily Dumler-Winkler.

A20-132

Theme: New Books on Gender and Religion

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

This session presents women scholars who have published books in the discipline of women’s studies, gender, theology and religion in 2019-2021. This panel’s authors will provide an overview of their books and share their perspectives on current research being published on women and gender studies. Authors will also discuss how they visualize their books in constructing knowledge and influencing the public sphere. In addition, these scholars will share their experiences regarding strategies and mechanics for getting women’s studies in theology and religion books published, and to offer advice for those seeking publication of related book manuscripts.

  • Abstract

    Abortion remains the most contested political issue in American life. Poll results have remained surprisingly constant over the years, with roughly equal numbers supporting and opposing it. A common perception is that abortion is contrary to Christian teaching and values. While some have challenged that perception, few have attempted a comprehensive critique and constructive counterargument on Christian ethical and theological grounds. Margaret Kamitsuka begins with a careful examination of the church’s biblical and historical record, refuting the assumption that Christianity has always condemned abortion or that it considered personhood as beginning at the moment of conception. She then offers carefully crafted ethical arguments about the pregnant woman’s authority to make reproductive decisions and builds a theological rationale for seeing abortion as something other than a sin.

  • Abstract

    Insights into the Publishing Journey of Devotional Hindu Dance: A Return to the Sacred Abstract: Devotional Hindu Dance: A Return to the Sacred (2021), sheds light on the purpose of Hindu dance as devotional. MisirHiralall explains the history of Hindu dance and how colonization caused the dance form to move from sacred to a Westernized system that emphasizes culture. Postcolonialism is a main theme throughout this text, as religion and culture do not remain static. MisirHiralall points to a postcolonial return to Hindu dance as a religious, sacred, dance form while positioning Hindu dance in the Western culture in which she lives. Many texts today discuss Hindu dance as a cultural dance form of India. However, this text explains why Hindu dance is religious, how to engage in devotional Hindu dance, and how to negotiate the boundaries of religion and culture to position Hindu dance in the West.

  • Abstract

    Meant for Good: Fundamentals of Womanist Leadership (2019), highlights leadership fundamentals glean from the biblical story of Joseph’s exile and rise to power in Egypt and from the stories of black women’s experience is that may be redeemed for the good of ourselves and our organizations. African American women survived nearly 400 years of oppression by crafting a creative culture of resistance, personal perseverance in the struggle and the ability to adapt while remaining undergirded by faith. Of particular interest to womanist theory scholars, pastors, faith-based leaders, and other leaders seeking new strategies for organizational transformation, this book emphasizes the voices and perspectives of African American women on theories of leadership. It provides an accessible introduction to womanist leadership; demonstrates the faith, strength, and perseverance of African American women throughout history; and highlights leadership fundamentals relevant for ministry, nonprofit, corporate, and volunteer work.

  • Abstract

    Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church (2020), is a study of The Roman Catholic Womanpriests (RCWP), which looks to reframe and reform Roman Catholic priesthood, starting with ordained women. Womanpriest is the first academic study of the RCWP movement. As an ethnography, Womanpriest analyzes the womenpriests’ actions and lived theologies in order to explore ongoing tensions in Roman Catholicism around gender and sexuality, priestly authority, and religious change. In order to understand how womenpriests navigate tradition and transgression, this study situates RCWP within post–Vatican II Catholicism, apostolic succession, sacraments, ministerial action, and questions of embodiment. Womanpriest reveals RCWP to be a discrete religious movement in a distinct religious moment, with a small group of tenacious women defying the Catholic patriarchy, taking on the priestly role, and demanding reconsideration of Roman Catholic tradition. Doing so, the women inhabit and re-create the central tensions in Catholicism today.

  • Abstract

    Women: Icons of Christ (2020), traces the history of ministry by women, especially those ordained as deacons. History teaches that women ministered in baptism, catechesis, altar service, spiritual direction, and confession, and anointed the sick, either as deacons or as lay persons. Women: Icons of Christ demonstrates how priestly clericalism effectively removed women’s leadership, voices, and official ministries from the life of the Church by eliminating women from sacramental ministry, altar service, and preaching. The question, “Who can be an icon of Christ?” underlies the discussion. There seems to be a simple answer. We know from the revelation of Scripture that all Christians are equally human, all Christians are part the Body of Christ. Yet, the Catholic Church both really and symbolically excludes half its members. Women cannot be ordained to the renewed diaconate, even though the most complete Church histories demonstrate genuine precedent. Why? The reduction of all the arguments, supported by the manipulation of history, is that women cannot image Christ. Phyllis Zagano presents cogent arguments supported by history to refute arguments against restoring women to the ordained diaconate.

A20-130

Theme: Migration and World Christianity

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

Migration is a worldwide mass phenomenon with vast implications for world Christianity, the academy, and society. While there are a plethora of studies on the impact of migration on society and the academy, few studies have focused on how migration has contributed to the global expansion of Christianity and the revisioning of Christian theology. The proposed panel grew out of a semester-long seminar on migration and religions at the Center of Theology Inquiry in Princeton, NJ with the participation of some 20 scholars from around the world. The seminar has resulted in a book titled Christian Theology in the Age of Migrations: Implications for World Christianity Migration and World Christianity (Lexington Books, 2020). The six presentations proposed here highlight aspects of world Christianity under the impact of migration: borders and boundaries, ecclesiology, worship and liturgy, climate change, religious education, and the arts.

  • Abstract

    Migration in the form of displacement or forced relocation as a result of climate change will continue to compel or drive movements of people across and beyond their borders. Environmental migration is not a new phenomenon as “changing environmental conditions have been migration drivers throughout history.” What is new about this “newly perceived form of migration” is “recognizing anthropogenic drivers of climate change which induce migration.” As Scott Leckie et al contend “the global displacement crisis is an outcome of decades of political and ecological displacement by the world’s most polluting nations.” The Pacific, “the liquid continent”, is among a number of countries in the world at the forefront of climate change. For those in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and the Maldives time is already running out. The rising sea level, the “overflowing ocean” is drowning them out. Several coastal communities across the Pacific have already been relocated due to environmental degradation. In Fiji for example, up to 40 coastal villagers have been identified for relocation inland due to rising sea or river levels. In the Solomon Islands, five islands have already been lost to the rising sea. The people of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea have already experienced the complexities of resettlement in Bougainville. Within the last four years Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Samoa have experienced destructive Categories 4 and 5 cyclones. The effects of El Niño are experienced in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji. Many die of hunger due to famine. It is estimated that 4.1 million people in the Pacific are affected and at risk from drought. For low-lying atoll countries, external migration looms large as internal relocation is limited. For countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu, migration in the form of forced relocation is an imminent option that they will need to consider. There is reason to address issues of injustice. Sujatha Byravan and Sudhir Chella Rajan convincingly argue that the responsibility for accommodating those who will inevitably be displaced - “climate exiles” - by climate change impacts should be a shared global responsibility. By this, they mean that the responsibility of absorbing “climate exiles” should be shared among host countries and proportional to each country’s cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases.” They contend that to “ignore potential victims until after they become “environmental refugees” – is morally indefensible as well as impractical.” As yet there is no legal categorization for terms such as "climate refugee”, “ecological refugee” and “environmental refugee”. Climate change does not take place in a vacuum. It is a result of underdevelopment, development policies, inequalities within and between countries, global injustice and the lack of solidarity between states, human rights or human security. Polices on the climate change-migration nexus should not neglect to explore the varying factors that make people vulnerable in the first place. Given this interrelationship, climate-induced migration and displacement cannot be addressed without considering climate justice. In this instance people are not moving out of choice but because they are forced to. With regard to the communities of low-lying atolls of Tuvalu and Kiribati, it is not their first choice to leave their islands. They are forced to move because the land is becoming uninhabitable. There is a responsibility on the international community to support countries such as these as they work through their options. The international community can do this in a number of ways – actively and intentionally reduce their carbon emission, be proactive in developing migration policies and what it will mean to receive migrants from these countries, and actively redress the issues of what has caused the problem in the first place. Explorations to do with climate-induced migration or displacement and international policy should not neglect climate justice. Both climate justice and migration are necessary to explore for the sake of policymaking and as a resounding reminder and practical expression of our moral and ethical responsibility. “Anthropogenic climate change exacerbates existing environmental, economic, and social vulnerabilities.” The interlocking nature of justice, environmental migration and displacement require that both need to be considered. For the people in the Pacific, there is a need to give equal weighting to both. In terms of policymaking and as Oli Brown emphasises “focusing on the impacts of climate change without factoring in the local context” can lead to policy distortions. Engaging a climate justice lens helps to keep a number of important issues in focus. Climate justice keeps at the forefront of discussions and/or debates on climate change the human faces of the people, their well being, dignity and integrity in focus as well as the demand to own the responsibility for climate change. Julia Haggstrom argues for a foundation in climate justice as a basis for international policies on migration on the grounds that this “allows responsibility to be put on those who caused the problem.” A climate justice lens highlights how people are affected by climate change not only disproportionately but also differently. Applying the principle of intersectionality highlights those most vulnerable and at risk. The concept of intersectionality highlights and brings to light the different ways inequalities and power imbalances are masked. For example, the impact of migration displacement affects women and children differently than men. A climate justice lens enables room for the perspectives and participation of the communities directly affected. This will mean including and engaging the perspectives of those affected on alternatives and models of future migration. In this regard, self-determination is the key. Migrants are not passive participants. Most people in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) want the option to be migrants with dignity but a dignity that they themselves define and determine. They want the ability to move as a result of their own decisions and free will. It is necessary for islands like Kiribati and Tuvalu to “review a number of migration and adaptation strategies in order to find long term alternatives for their citizens.”

  • Abstract

    The current so-called migration crisis is a central concern for churches. However, scholars searching for studies on ecclesiology in the context of migration will soon start to doubt their research skills. While churches have been vital to the work in refugee relief worldwide, little has been written about the impact that migration has on ecclesiology or the impact that ecclesiology has on migration. This paper presents challenges and chances that confront churches in the context of worldwide migration. I analyze and assess the core concerns and the core concepts of ecclesiology under the conditions of migration in order to argue for “coalitional church” as a central category for ecumenical ecclesiology. The coalitional church takes the other as its center, thus allowing ecclesiology to overcome the distinction between receiver and refugee—regardless of their religion—through a radical opening of the sociological and the theological identity of the church.

  • Abstract

    While scholarly attention has been given to the increasing number and variety of patterns of migration today and its impact on global Christianity, there has been little subsequent focus given to the aesthetic and spatial implications for displaced peoples. Recognizing that it is important to address these issues, this paper focuses attention on three major themes: sacred architecture that addresses the spiritual and physical needs of emigrant communities escaping war or natural disaster; sacred architecture and arts that are representative of the religious identities of emigrants in search of a better life; and the theological implications of sacred architecture and liturgical arts in relation to migration. Each of these issues has distinctive responses which will be addressed in terms of their aesthetic and symbolic significance and through accompanying images. Questions to be raised include the following: In the case of emigrant communities, how can the arts and architecture symbolically speak of religious identities that reflect a community’s sense of detachment and displacement? What is the social value of sacred architecture’s insertion/invocation of the ineffable into the built environment? What do the sacred arts uniquely reveal about a community’s values? In addition to discussions of specific works, the paper is rooted in modern theological/religious texts which address the relationship between theology and cultural forms, including works such as Paul Tillich’s reflections on modern architecture and the sacred.

  • Abstract

    In a seminal work on western cosmology and its Adamic inheritance entitled “The Sadness of Sweetness: The Native Anthropology of Western Cosmology” (1996) the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins warns us that the Augustinian tensions of pleasure and pain, self and society, brutish flesh and spiritual soul have been the foundation for a long-lived collective ‘western’ cosmological investment. This cosmological investment has been based on a Hobbesian politic of the state and on capitalism in charge of social production of desire lodged in corporeal feelings and the introjection of a fantasy of individual consciousness. But this cosmological investment is now in crisis, and some of its battlegrounds are borderlands, undocumented and forced migration.

  • Abstract

    In my presentation, I want to open up the connection between migration, religion and the necessity of religious literacy and global learning. As a first step, I will give an insight into the clash of different religions and cultures in immigrant educational systems. This implies discussions and conflicts as well as transformation processes of religious education and educational curricula. Secondly, I will attract attention to the significance of religion in the integration process of educational systems. Key issues in this context are, for example, the complexity of hybrid identities regarding culture and religion, religion as a risk and as a resource and most recently conflicts with Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The way in which, as Spivak says, subaltern thinking comes into play here will be discussed. Against this backdrop, I will highlight in the final step the importance of religious literacy for coping with the impacts of migration in formal and non-formal education. Special attention will be given to traumatization and strengthening resilience as well as to biographical narrations and identity building. To learn from the global for the local in terms of intercultural and interreligious potentials will be considered in conclusion.

  • Abstract

    Many individual Christians, as well as communities of faith, wrestle with the challenges of racism, various forms of nationalism, postmodern neo-tribalism, xenophobia, and hostility toward migrants and refugees. In this context, I will offer contours of a new liturgical political theology within the context of the current migration crisis. I argue that there are three constitutive foci of such a theology: God in migration; liturgy in migration; and liturgy as migration. The first two constitute the wider theological and historical horizon for contemporary constructive liturgical imagination. Hence I will only summarize the pivotal aspects of such theological and liturgical inquiries here since they are more fully developed elsewhere. First, what emerges from these recent theological visions of God as the Deus Migrator is a methodological sensibility that allows the reality of migration constructively engage with and re-envision the full range of theological landscape, including the pivotal and consequential loci theologici such as creation and incarnation. Second, historically speaking, if not for the multiple historical migrations, there would be no Christian church as we know it today. Migration is an intrinsic part of the church’s mission and history. Additionally, as Teresa Berger summarized (Liturgy in Migration, 2012), there is another dimension of migration without which a sound grasp of liturgical history is impossible: “there is no liturgy that does not already bear traces of migration.” The third focus, however, merits a more detailed exploration. It offers a constructive avenue for reimagining liturgy through the optics of migration as precisely an incessant migration from the rites of worship to righteous action in the world and back again in a mutually co-constitutive way. Liturgy is not something that the church assemblies, as it were, “own,” let alone “control.” As God’s work, opus Dei, liturgy can be re-envisioned as the uniquely dynamic, intricate, and synergistic enactment – the embodied “making real” – of the divine salvation in the history of creation. Vicarious and righteous human action for and with migrants and refugees across political and cultural arenas participates in this opus Dei insofar as it can be re-interpreted as liturgical. That is possible if we recuperate the ancient etymology of leitourgia as any public work of vicarious nature. For the full scope of divine liturgy to obtain as faithful, worship must migrate into righteous action of a politically, economically, and socially consequential “liturgy of the neighbor.” Liturgy is properly liturgy only if it crosses the stereotypical and dualistic borders between devotional worship and service to the neighbor, between aesthetics and ethics, between the sheer Godwardness of praise and the salvific utility of healing action for both vulnerable neighbors and strangers alike.

A20-131

Theme: Madhyamaka according to Yogācāras: Appraisals and Criticisms of Mādhyamikas’ Middle Way

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

This panel engages a straightforward but neglected question in Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy: what do followers of Yogācāra have to say about their Mādhyamika counterparts-cum-rivals? The division between Madhyamaka and Yogācāra is fundamental to both academic and emic scholarly engagements with Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy. The question of whether these two are complementary positions (“allies”) or opposing camps (“rivals”) continues to be a beneficial focus of attention. An abundance of attention has been given—by both academics and traditional Buddhist scholars—to questions of how Mādhyamikas distinguish themselves from their Yogācāra counterparts. The obvious corollary has received far less attention: what do Yogācāra thinkers have to say about their Mādhyamika counterparts?

  • Abstract

    Early Yogācāra thinkers were idealists: they believed that there are neither mind-independent objects, nor an inner subject (i.e., the self). But such things do appear in our mental states. This raises a puzzle: How can mental states represent, or involve the appearance of, mind-independent objects and internal subjects when these things don’t exist? In this paper, we find a Yogācāra answer to this question in Sthiramati's (6th cent.) Triṃśikābhāṣya and Madhyāntavibhāgaṭīkā. Sthiramati argues that mental states take on representational forms (ākāra) through the activity of discursive attention (jalpamanaskāra) and conceptual construction (vikalpa). We show that this view has two implications. First, no mental state is intrinsically representational, i.e., intrinsically involves the appearance of distinct objects and subjects. Second, the phenomenal character of our conscious mental states (in virtue of which objects and subjects appear to us) is an artifact of the discursive or conceptually modulated activity of attention. We explore the consequences of Sthiramati’s view for Yogācāra Buddhist soteriology and contemporary debates about mental representation.

  • Abstract

    The Buddhist scholar, Bhāviveka (c. 500-560 CE), lived in Northern India when the Madhyamaka tradition of Mahāyāna Buddhism was developing out of, and against, the earlier traditions of Indic Buddhist philosophy. Within this creative fervor, Bhāviveka enlisted two inferences adhering to the logical form of the “three-membered syllogism” (Chi. sanzhi zuofa 三支作法), intended to prove the emptiness of all the dharmas that compose reality as it really is. This paper examines how two eminent Sinitic scholar-monks of the seventh century, Kuiji 窺基 (632-682) and Woncheuk圓測 (613-696), attempt to refute the two syllogisms deployed by Bhāviveka to prove the emptiness of conditioned and unconditioned dharmas. By adhering to the rules of “science of reasons” (Skt. hetu-vidyā; Chi. yinming因明), Kuiji and Woncheuk determine the arguments mounted by Bhāviveka to be pseudo-inferences, in that they improperly attribute the property of pervasive emptiness to all dharmas. In their arguments, Kuiji and Woncheuk closely adhere to the doctrinal sources of Yogācāra Buddhism in which reality as it really is, is composed of causally-efficacious dharmas that have a “real nature” (Skt. dravyatva; Chi. shi實性), rather then being mere conventionalisms and essentially illusory.

  • Abstract

    This presentation engages the thought of the eleventh-century Buddhist polymath Ratnākaraśānti (c. 970-1045 CE) as given in one of his major philosophical texts—Establishing the Middle Path: A Commentary that Ornaments Madhyamaka (Madhyamakālaṃkāravṛtti Madhyamāpratipad-siddhi, MAV) Here Ratnākaraśānti critiques various Mādhyamikas’ interpretations of Nāgārjuna’s thought, but is primarily and explicitly directed against Śāntarakṣita’s Ornament of the Middle Way (Madhyamakālaṃkāra). This paper elaborates Ratnākaraśānti’s fundamental argument that because they do not accept the three-nature (trisvabhāva) theory, Mādhyamikas cannot provide coherent accounts of logic (pramāṇa), the Buddhist path, or the possibility of liberation. It first examines Śāntarakṣita’s argument against the possibility of a third nature, then presents Ratnākaraśānti’s critique and "correction" of that argument.

  • Abstract

    Madhyamaka and Yogācāra are the two official Mahāyāna traditions in India. They fought over how best to understand the Middle Way—as madhyamaka or as madhyānta-vibhāga. Madhyamaka in East Asia is less well known than in India and Tibet. This paper will be in three parts. Part I will outline the Madhyamakan literature translated into Chinese, indicating not only works well known from Indian and Tibetan sources, such as the Madhyamaka-kārikās along with the commentaries on it by Piṅgala, Bhāviveka, and Sthiramati, but works little known outside E. Asia, such as the Dazhidulun (大智度論, Mahā-Prajñāpāramitā Treatise), the Twelve-Gate Treatise, and Bhāviveka’s Jewel in the Hand Treatise (大乘掌珍論, Hastaratna), with attention to how they shaped the understanding of Madhyamaka in E. Asia. Part II will review the main arguments leveled against Madhyamaka by Xuanzang and Kuiji in the 7th century, primarily that their contemporary Mādhyamikans are “illusionists” (Māyopamādvayavādins) who can’t tell the difference between parikalpita and paratantra. Part III will explore what the East Asian materials reveal about the strengths and weaknesses of Madhyamaka in its earliest centuries.

A20-135

Theme: Academic Labor and Contingent Faculty Committee Working Group Luncheon

Saturday, 11:15 AM-12:15 PM (In Person)

Join us for lunch! Anyone interested in academic labor is welcome to join us. Hosted by the Academic Labor and Contingent Faculty Working Group, this annual lunch and business meeting brings together those concerned about changes in academic labor for discussion and a place to brainstorm ways to advocate and support contingent faculty and sustainable employment for all faculty. We will also have discussion tables on various topics, including the gig economy, contingent faculty scholarship, publishing, burnout, best practices, and more.

A20-137

Theme: What Just Happened? Religion, American Politics and Our Collective Future

Saturday, 11:15 AM-12:15 PM (In Person)

For decades evangelicals have worked to leave an indelible mark on American religion, politics and culture. In the face of a global pandemic, a racial reckoning and the transfer of US political power, their grip on American politics seems palpable. On issues of race, public health, education, governmentality, the economy, climate change and gender equity, their influence for good or naught is enduring. Yet, for how long? Several recent, influential books have emerged to help us better understand the cultural shifts as well as the vulnerabilities of the white evangelical conservative movement. This panel brings together the authors of some of these works to help us examine the religious narratives and commitments that have brought us here.

A20-204

Theme: Jacob Olupona's Contribution the Study of African Religions

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

Few people have done more to enrich our understanding of African religions than Jacob Olupona. Spanning and incorporating perspectives from African and African diasporic religious studies, phenomenology, history of religions, and ethnography, among others, his body of work, while focusing greatly on indigenous religious traditions, has also contributed to our understandings of Christianity and Islam as practiced by Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. We invite papers that examine the impact and legacy of his work on the study of religion in Africa and the diaspora. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with both theoretical and materialist challenges to and opportunities for the study of African religions, defined broadly. These include but are not limited to emic and etic perspectives, phenomenology, hermeneutics, the public sphere, and modernity.

  • Abstract

    Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975) was one of the most influential Muslims of the last century, both in terms of the numbers of his followers and in terms of his political role on the domestic stage in Senegal and internationally. Previous studies of his political influence have mostly taken a functionalist approach to his religious role, seeing it as derivative of the social, economic, and political needs of his followers in Senegal, and observing in his role a continuity of forms of local authority that mediated between the political elite and the masses. This paper questions the assumptions of such an approach by noting the novel ways in which Shaykh Ibrahim engaged with political elites and international institutions, and applying a phenomenological perspective to Shaykh Ibrahim’s own assertions about his metaphysical authority, demonstrating how Shaykh Ibrahim’s involvement in politics can be seen to derive from and reinforce his metaphysical claims. It thereby illustrates what can be gained by a postcolonial approach to studying Islam in Africa that eschews the assumption that political and economic objectives are the key determining factors of a religious leader’s influence.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I seek to examine the methodologies deployed in various Oluponas works to determine his contributions to the development and evolution of scholarship in African Traditional Religion. I shall interrogate his methodologies to project the future of the academic study of ATR by proposing Olupona' scholarship as a bridge between the past and the present. Scholarship on African religions has witnessed evolution from the pre colonial and colonial period to post colonial, modern and post modern periods with various degrees of engagement by various scholars. Many of the pioneering efforts were by non Africans and African scholars. The second generation of scholars was mostly Africans who chose to respond to the "wrong" impressions generated by the pioneering scholars that African religion is nothing but JouJou, archaic, primitive, paganistic, godless, and so on. The third generation, are those scholars who are able to develop a critical and analytic methods to interrogate the study of ATR. Jacob Olupona is one of those who form the fulcrum of those involved in the study in modern scholarship. Historical and analytical methods shall be adopted for this presentation.

  • Abstract

    Perhaps more than any other, Professor Jacob K. Olupona has shaped the field of Religion in Africa, and arguably his greatest contribution in this regard has been his concept of indigenous hermeneutics. Although it received its fullest expression in his award-winning City of 201 Gods, this critical intellectual intervention can be seen to varying degrees across his own body of work as well as that of others who followed his lead. By examining Olupona’s broader body of work—including public lectures, his own publications, and edited volumes--this presentation traces how he developed this framework, applied it across religious boundaries, and has effectively communicated it to scholars, the public, and practitioners around the world. In addition, it analyzes the critical importance of this intellectual contribution for the academy and beyond as well as how it has become a foundational element of much of the most recent scholarship on African religions, religion in Africa, and Afro-diasporic religious traditions.

  • Abstract

    Jacob K. Olúpọ̀nà’s influence has been far reaching not simply in African religions and indigenous religions, but in African Diaspora religions as well. His groundbreaking methodology of indigenous hermeneutics requires scholars to use emic studies of local theories and philosophies. Such an approach proves essential in African Diaspora religions where notions of “indigeneity” must be interrogated and redefined. Here, I employ an indigenous hermeneutic to trace the historical lineages of Haitian Vodou’s African lwa (spirits), who hail from 21 diverse nasyon (spiritual nations) associated with various African ethnicities. I explore the spirit complex of Vodou’s four most renowned nasyon (Rada, Nago, Petwò-Kongo, and Gede), followed by a brief exploration of lesser studied spiritual nations. I argue that this “multinational” pantheon of Haitian Vodou lwa closely resembles a “spirit assembly of nations,” and offers insight into mythic and historical ethnic origins alike. Ultimately, this essay reveals how a spirit assembly of nations empowers Haitian Vodouizan to connect with their African spirits, proving “spiritual nationhood” to serve as yet another model of civil religion.

A20-205

Theme: Religious Scholarship as a Means of Improving Farmed Animal Welfare

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

This roundtable will reflect on a project aiming to use scholarship on animals and religion to effect improvements in human practice towards farmed animals. The Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare (CEFAW) project is a three-year interdisciplinary UK-based research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council aiming to assess farmed animal welfare in a Christian context and to enable research findings to be received by UK churches and other Christian organizations. CEFAW engaged partners from the outset to refine research questions and identify current issues of concern. At the end of the initial funded period of the project, members of the CEFAW research team will reflect alongside US scholars to consider learning points from this initiative for other efforts to use religious scholarship to impact on practice. Key questions will include whether similar projects in other countries, such as the US, might be useful given the very different contexts both in relation to Christian churches and farmed animal welfare, the possibility of parallel projects engaging other religious traditions, and wider implications for using scholarship to inform practice.

AV20-201

Theme: Off the Tenure Track: Career Services for Diverse Careers

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (Virtual)

When humanities scholars talk about exploring and pursuing alt-ac and post-ac careers, two concerns often dominate the conversation: 1) Graduate studies in the humanities don’t prepare us for or aren’t relevant to diverse nonacademic career paths, and 2) We don’t know where to look for or how to apply for nonacademic jobs. Whether you are a scholar thinking about career opportunities off the tenure track or outside the academy or a faculty member interested in supporting students engaged in such searches, join our panel of career services experts to discuss the many careers that are open to and even looking for people with advanced training in the humanities. Panelists will discuss existing resources and where to find them, as well as ways that departments, universities, and professional organizations like the AAR can better support scholars in diverse non-tenure track and nonacademic careers.

A20-206

Theme: Jane Iwamura's Virtual Orientalism, Ten Years Later: Reflections and Response

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

This session brings together three different papers that engage Jane Iwamura's work, Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture (OUP, 2011), which celebrates the tenth anniversary of its publication this year. Each paper draws upon the theoretical apparatuses of Iwamura's work to illuminate how historical and contemporary examples of popular culture either challenge or affirm religious Orientalist tropes. These examples include the film, Minari (2021); the Netflix documentary series, The Chefs Table (2017); and the early 20th-century film, The Cheat (1915). The last part of the session will offer an author's response to these papers.

  • Abstract

    In Jane Iwamura’s chapter, “The Oriental Monk in American Popular Culture,” and its elaboration in Virtual Orientalism, the Monk provides a salve to the West’s ills, thus resuscitating it. As she argues, the icon is carefully crafted to perform this salvific role, including desexualization and pacification. Using examples from popular media, Iwamura crafts an argument that drifting from this narrow lane can drive a US audience towards fear and revulsion. However, what she does not articulate is that there is an inverse popular culture icon that exploits the anti-Asian fear and revulsion, which I call the Oriental Conjurer. This paper details this inverse icon who immorally uses primordial power to seek revenge on the West and to amass a fortune of wealth and women. Put together, the Oriental Monk and Oriental Conjurer detail the limits of Asian religious icons in American popular culture.

  • Abstract

    This presentation takes cues from Iwamura’s pathbreaking work Virutal Orientalism (2011) to explore a recent iteration of the Oriental Monk—Buddhist nun rendered celebrity chef in a foodie culture. I suggest that the Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan (b.1957) provides a rich example of the way the Oriental Monk figure has evolved in American popular culture to address the rise of sustainable eating and “slow food” as a response to the ecological crisis. I discuss how the virtues of the Korean temple food tradition are marketed and received within the growing wake of the Korean Wave. Kwan, for those enamored with her cooking and philosophy, paves a way to a more enlightened engagement with food. Yet within the web of late global capitalism, even these ethical proclivities can become markers for a cultural omnivorousness (Peterson, 2002; de Vries, 2020) that reproduce class and racial markers. Iwamura’s work continues to resonate with contemporary cultural manifestations of the spiritual and racial other. This presentation ties in the ways foodie culture, Korean Wave, and ongoing spiritual desires intersect in the person of Jeong Kwan in current geopolitical configurations.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari as the unmaking of the American immigrant bildungsroman. Specifically, I examine the various postures towards religion and spirituality presented in the film’s narrative as ambivalence towards Christian narratives of sacrifice and redemption. Neither positing salvation as successful assimilation as model minority entrepreneur nor fetishizing the suffering and sacrifice of Korean American immigrants, Minari offers a complex visualization of the affective memories held by Chung and Third Wave Korean Americans. The first part juxtaposes the characters' religious orientations, contracting with the minimal role that religiosity has in the film's narrative structure. Second, I analyze these orientations and memories through Monica A. Coleman's concept of "rememory" and Jennifer Cho's notion of han as "mel-han-cholic posture" as offering different political possibilities rather than retrenchment in cultural or nationalist identities. Lastly, I employ Jasbir Puar and Rey Chow's notions of 'ethnicization of labor' and argue Minari eludes commodification by rejecting bootstraps narratives, model minority myth, and Orientalist caricatures.

A20-207

Theme: Confronting Black Death: Black Theology and the Politics of Social, Ecclesial, and Ecological Demise

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

This panel will address the various ways that Black Theology confronts the politics of Black death. Engagement with the necropolitical, legacies of mass incarceration, fatal conformity to neoliberalism, and impending planetary death, or ecocide, will guide the conversation and the diversity of creative theological pathways proposed to forestall imminent Black death.

  • Abstract

    Anti-Blackness constitutes a necropolitical theology, a white racist theopolitical imaginary legitimated by distorted Christian epistemes. Achille Mbembe’s work Necropolitics (2019), an evaluation of the geopolitical metastisization of Black reason, which posits the “Black condition” as inimical subhumanity, grounds this assertion. Yet Mbembe fails to address the coarticulation of Black reason and the theological as the animus of what I name necropolitical theology. To contest necropolitical theology I turn to the work of James Cone. Cone articulates the absurdity of the Black condition from within, as the experience of Black oppression under white supremacy. Although many scholars have critiqued the conceptual priority of suffering as it relates to Cone’s notion of Blackness, and whiteness, I suggest that one must draw a distinction in Cone between the Black condition and Blackness. I argue a nuanced reading that reveals an apocalyptic Blackness, a Black fire as liberation from and condemnation of American anti-Black necropolitical theology.

  • Abstract

    This paper seeks to develop a constructive liberative theological model that attends to economic existence and agency for members of the African American community. I utilize the language of liberative to acknowledge that the history of black liberative thought has always alluded to economic agency, but has not produced a theological model that attends comprehensively to economic identity and existence for African Americans. Economic existence is at the center of questions of race in America. If, the endogenous theology of neoliberalism seeks to deform theology within African American religious institutions, creating moments of complicity between African American religious institutions and neoliberalism, this effort seeks to provide a corrective. What are alternative ways of envisioning economic existence for African Americans in ways more faithful to the historical norms of this institutions and the theology animating black liberation theology.

  • Abstract

    In this chapter, I argue that Vodou embodies an eco-theological ethic that can be used to address issues related to ecology, race, gender, and sexuality. I maintain that Vodou ecological ethics can be used to address forms of oppression such as ecocide, racism, sexism, and homophobia. I examine the personalities, characteristics, and manifestations of the lwas as a theological source to construct an eco-theology of liberation. I demonstrate how different personalities and characteristics of the lwas are linked to the diversity of natural phenomena. For example, a Lwa like Danbala (the snake spirit who represents air and whose domain is the sky) requires his devotees to respect the natural elements associated with his being. Whatever elements associated with the lwas become visible when they mount their reklame (chosen ones). The lwas do not simply represent nature; they also make nature tangible through possession. Vodou’s ecological ethics can be used to affirm the dignity of the planet as well as the humanity of those who have been dehumanized because of their race, gender, and sexuality.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I trace the Black social gospel tradition through the lens of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s poor people’s campaign and the political advocacy of Georgia State Senator and Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. Specifically, On the one hand, King harnessed Christian values of love and justice to champion the poor through a campaign that included an economic intervention of a guaranteed basic income. On the other hand, Warnock applied a liberationist reading of the Gospel that emphasized setting the captives free, which applied to his fight against the criminalization of the poor. I argue that essential to both King and Warnock’s provocation of economic inequities is Christian witness that lays the groundwork for liberatory ecclesial responses that uses policies and transformative justice strategies to imagine a more just and equitable future without prisons. Hence, using King and Warnock’s religious and socio-political interpretation of the gospel, I summon churches in the black social gospel tradition to consider a construction I put forth called, “The Abolitionist Sanctuary.”

A20-208

Theme: Religious Bodies in Motion, Confinement, and Death: Migration and Transnational Movements

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

Bodies are in perpetual cycles of movement and stillness, and adaptability and restriction, whether in the shifting across borders of global imaginaries, in being confined to a sanctuary space, in the potential for exchanges of embodied reciprocity between strangers, and by engaging and opting out of community rituals and practices related to self-preservation, or among other dimensions. This panel explores the complexities of religious bodies in movement as icon, as lived-in, as displaced corpses, and as ritualized and migration voluntary or involuntary, conceptual, consequential, and tangible -- as analyzed in Indo-Guyanese Hindu practices in New York City, the first undocumented migrant in North Carolina to enter sanctuary following the 2016 election, as a site of fluid hospitality between the dead and living, and in tracing the global transformation of the bodily representation of a Jain icon.

  • Abstract

    In New York City, many Indo-Guyanese Hindus believe they are losing themselves. This loss of self is attached to the experience of migration and their changed priorities in New York. The cycles of conspicuous consumption that accompany moving to the US result in Indo-Guyanese Hindus losing their “true selves” as they forget their culture, religion, and history to become American. Diagnosing this loss of self as a problem of faith linked to the inaccurate performances of their bodies, Indo-Guyanese Hindu temples focus on bodily practices to solve it. From educating devotees in the proper performance of ritual practices and prayers to discussions of what suitable temple attire is, all temples are invested in educating its devotees in the appropriate performance of their bodies to cultivate their true, Hindu selves. However, I argue these efforts are also designed to counter experiences of racialization, especially internalized racism. Since their brown bodies prevent them from being viewed solely as Americans, the practices Indo-Guyanese Hindus learn within the temple may inculcate them with the pride that should be embodied by their brownness to counter being the other in the US.

  • Abstract

    The Shrimad Rajchandra Mission of Dharampur, Gujarat (SRMD) has risen to wide popularity over the last six years. Supplementing the philosophical and "mystical" writings of the Jain layman Śrīmad Rājacandra (d. 1901) with the creation and worship of realistic sculpted icons (mūrtis) of his extremely emaciated body, the SRMD’s icons of Rājacandra and new forms of worship (pūjā) stake out a comprehensive new form of Jain devotional expression. The SRMD markets to upper-class Indian and diaspora Jainsin the neoliberal mode of self-branding to create a “Globalized Jainism.” The creation and worship of "hyperreal" images asserts a radical individualism marketed to devotees who see him as independent of caste and sect, seeing a reified Jainism solely as the pursuit of liberation. The colossal image of Rājacandra unveiled in 2017 placed the SRMD on both a global and national stage, as high-profile religious leaders and Hindu Right politicians attended the events. The Mission appeals broadly to wealthy Jains for its ability to create a universalist, essentially philosophical form of Jainism beyond sectarian differences while providing avenues for meritorious patronage of these images.

  • Abstract

    Shaped by the Christian ideal of welcoming the stranger as it is radicalized by Løgstrup’s ethical demand in which you never encounter another human being without holding pieces of her life in your hand, we seek to open a conversation about the nature of hospitality when the “other” that we hold in our hands is dead. Specifically, we ask how the presence of the body of the dead migrant, either the drowned body on the shores of Lampedusa or the desiccated body under scrub in the Sonora desert, changes or even eliminates the idea of hospitality. We begin with Rønsdal’s revision of hospitality away from the binary guest/host and toward a “fluid hospitality” relying on dynamics of embodied reciprocity and equality between those in the relationship. Exploring different practice such as the work of the Aguilas Del Desierto, we ask whether ritualizing the dead in simple ways such as locating dead bodies in the desert, identifying their names and returning artifacts to their grieving families can be as or more honoring of the call of the dead on the living than grand gestures signaling triumphal, though ultimately (living) self-serving, forms of life after death.

  • Abstract

    Juana Tobar Ortega was the first undocumented migrant in North Carolina to enter sanctuary following the presidential election of Donald Trump. Protected by a 2011 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo that prohibits enforcement operations in “sensitive locations," migrants across the country have moved into churches to resist deportation. But despite living in sanctuary for three years, Juana does not describe her situation as a safe haven but rather as sacred isolation. In this paper, I consider the ways sanctuary is experienced as exile and imprisonment—paying careful attention to the ways meaning is produced through the gendered, racialized, illegal body. I study how the migrant body, aspiring to flight and movement, navigates confinement within a church. Building on Michel Foucault’s work on technologies of domination and power, I am interested in how Juana negotiates and transgresses sanctuary's demands and prohibitions.

AV20-209

Theme: The Lived Realities of Buddhist Economics

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (Virtual)

This panel illuminates how Buddhist cultures incorporated, and continue to do so, economics and value-making as a part of maintaining and sustaining religiosity since 200 BCE. In doing so, this group of papers provides new perspectives on how Buddhism and economics are not a new theoretical approach but a continuous necessity of maintaining and sustaining Buddhist sites, religion, and practices. The study of Buddhist Economics so far primarily focuses on theory that highlights how Buddhism and economy are in contradiction. However, this panel provides new research on how Buddhist groups have always relied upon economics as a means for growth and stability. In similar ways, groups from South Asia, Tibet, Sikkim, China, and Hawaii formulate methods of value-making of religious material and sites that expand beyond ideas of merit-making or purification. In this way, the study of Buddhism expands to include how religious groups are not constrained by religious ideas but fully incorporate business models, which are not perceived as separate or non-religious.

  • Abstract

    I devise the concept of "scriptural economy" as a framework for describing how Buddhists employed anthologies in order to solve problems of supply (scriptures too abundant to digest) and demand (the needs of specific audiences and context). First, I describe the Buddhist anthological project of the seventh-c. Chinese scholar-monk Daoshi, drawing attention to how this Buddhist anthologist directs the management of scriptural text. Next, I argue that Daoshi figures both himself and his readers as bodhisattva-entrepreneurs, developing virtuous bodies that forgo most of the dharma available in order to focus more intensively on targeted readings of the canon. Anthologies create "new" value at the risk of losing fidelity to the fullness of the canon, which they each claim not only to preserve but to lift up as well. Heroic, self-sacrificial, efficient, beneficent the medieval Asian bodhisattva-anthologist prefigures the nineteenth c. European bourgeois.

  • Abstract

    This paper explores how Sikkim is reaping economic gains through the creation of a “Buddhist” national identity for tourist appeal. The relationship between religious sites and national identity helps to understand how growth and stabilizing of a religion depends upon economic support of a region. I focus on: 1) the incorporation of Buddhist mythic narratives on Sikkim’s national identity, 2) the promotion of religious sites and festivals on Sikkim’s tourist websites, and 3) the range of activities performed at Sikkim’s sites. Specifically, for this paper, I focus on the myth of Guru Rinpoche and how it is incorporated into Sikkim as a Buddhist land even though most Sikkimese do not identify as Buddhist. The government’s tourism website promotes Buddhist sites and festivals as appealing to non-religious tourists. I also describe the types of tourists and their activities in various locations found in Gangtok, Sikkim’s Do ‘drul monastery as examples on how visitors to a religious site cannot be identified as Buddhist or non-Buddhist but do add value to a location and to a state thereby exemplifying the need for Sikkim to create itself as a “Buddhist” state.

  • Abstract

    This paper argues that there is a contrast between contemporary “Buddhist Economics” theories and historical economic practices of Buddhists. By providing two material cultural case studies from ancient Sri Lanka and India, from circa 200 BCE to 500 CE, I evaluate the academic argument that early Buddhists possessed a socio-economic vision remarkably similar to Modernist views toward justice and social order. The data suggests something else: that early Buddhist societies in South Asia were not market denying but rather market embracing for the betterment of practitioners’ lives. In ignoring the history of Buddhism in Asia, the field of “Buddhist Economics” has missed economic innovations and practitioners' contributions who have made their spiritual and lived realities easier, better, and more prosperous by embracing market forces. By reinterpreting the ancient religious formula “for the welfare and happiness of all beings” I argue that early Buddhism advocated for moral and material prosperity together in line with Adam Smith’s idea that commercial societies and their markets are moralizing forces that generate preferable social outcomes and thrive with moral actors.

  • Abstract

    Japanese Buddhist temples outside of Asia draw on mutually-reinforcing networks of Dharma practice, social association, and fund-raising/labor to meet community and individual needs. These three phenomena can be individually labeled but rarely if ever occur apart from one another. Rather, each is an indelible aspect of the others, such that fund-raising is a form of Dharma practice, gathering with peers is a way to raise money, and Buddhism is practiced as a form of group solidarity and support. These tight weaves have enabled temples to thrive in racially and religiously hostile lands, under changing economic circumstances, and through periods of stability, war, and natural disaster. Drawing on archival material and oral history, this paper takes as its case study the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Founded in 1889, it is the oldest surviving temple outside of Asia. As such, it provides an unusually full display of the stages that Buddhist institutions have gone through as they developed their Dharma, social, and financial/labor support activities, and the adaptations that have been necessary as Buddhists evolved to survive in non-Buddhist societies.

  • Abstract

    Lay Buddhists, especially in modern Chinese cities, had been active entrepreneurs. Groups of devotees today look for new ways to practice religion, which are more compatible with their lifeworlds. This paper focuses on how Lay Buddhists have operated to facilitate their practice in urban spaces against the Chinese state's attitude towards Religious Groups. A case study on a Tibetan Buddhist group in Shanghai explores the phenomenon of "Living Hall" (Shenghuo guan), a business model employed by the group for building an urban Buddhist community. The author argues that the Living Hall model represents religion and state's delicate dynamics, suggesting it is used to assimilate and nuance their religious practice. Relating to frameworks such as merit economy and commodity enchantment, the paper aims to show how the commodification of objects and the enchanted actors who consume them can also suggest a subversion to other entities within society. The enchantment of Buddhism-inspired commodities and urban spaces works as a creative- power structure. Commodities serve as material agents that enable, de-facto, the revitalization of Tibetan Buddhism in Han China.

  • Abstract

    This talk explores some economic and social dimensions of the lavish material productions of the central Tibetan state. I share evidence from the giant stupa that was built to inter the fifth Dalai Lama, the first ruler of this state, after his death. The tomb stands out both for its opulence, formed of vast quantities of gold, gemstones, and pieces of jewelry, and also for the richness of detail with which it was documented in texts. These sources open a rare window onto details of Tibetan economy, society, and material culture that are often hard to recover. In particular, I explore how the tomb was represented as a thing of value, its many component parts and their provenance assiduously accounted and their worth calculated according to silver and grain standards. I ask also why it would have been important to represent the golden tomb in this way at all. Thus, in addition to considering the positive data I am also interested more abstractly in how this built object functioned as a symbol of value, and accordingly how its production participated in the production of the state.

A20-210

Theme: What Does Catholicism Sound Like?

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

While Catholicism has long been associated with canonical soundscapes like liturgical bells, the participants of this proposed session contend that Catholic Studies has not plumbed the depth and breadth of non-canonical soundscapes. Our panel proposes that we expand the conceptual boundaries of what constitutes Catholic sounds to embrace a broad expanse of locations and contexts, sound media, and human activity. In doing so, we document the seemingly contradictory sounds of joyful children at play and the scream of an agonized penitent engaged in self-discipline, ambient nature in the gardens of a Marian shrine and commercialized sounds of the rosary broadcast through electronic technology and a chart-topping popular recording of Gregorian chant, the reported buzzing and grunts of a 16th century exorcism and the growling, wailing, and sliding of African American Catholics adapting the the gospel tradition into the Mass. Each presenter will offer a 3-5 minute recording or a representation of a specific Catholic sound, followed by a reflection on what new element or insight this specific piece of Catholic sonic culture reveals about the nature of Catholicism as it unfolds in specific social and cultural contexts. Taken together, these sounds represent a new approach to exploring Catholic experience on-the-ground in immediate human experience.

  • Abstract

    Over the course of seventeen weeks in 1994, the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos sold two million CDs of their laconically-named Chant album, topping out at number three on Billboard’s rankings of US music sales. As Y2K loomed and apocalyptic anxieties accelerated, Chant promised its ethereal and unintelligible (to most) ambient waves of prayer would help listeners “prepare for the millennium.” Chant’s commercial success catapulted Gregorian chant into the pop spotlight, and unwittingly offered the Abbey of Regina Laudis – the US’s first Benedictine cloister for women – a path towards reinvention, after a decade of incrimination for rumored “cult-like” activity. However, the real trailblazer for plainsong’s explosion was Enigma’s decidedly impious 1990 breakthrough single “Sadeness (Part I)” – an ambient cornucopia of psalm quotes, breathy Marquis de Sade-inspired lyrics, a bamboo flute, and pulsating synthesizers. This paper will use a clip from “Sadeness” to discuss the 90s Gregorian chant revival, which music critic James Oestreich described as a “spiteful comet” come to obliterate the “watery folk-pop” of post-Vatican II liturgy.

  • Abstract

    What is the sound of Catholicism? For the youngest Catholics, it’s the sound of playing—laughing with friends about nicknames assigned to the priests or nuns, mumbling through a re-enactment of the consecration of the Eucharist for a congregation of stuffed animals, or the sharp bangs made by marbles clashing as they meet each other across the line that demarcated the black Catholic school playground from that of the white. As Jay Mechling reminds us, “Where ritual confirms, play doubts.” Play, allows children to “experiment with otherwise terrifying objects or ideas and [provide] a safe territory for trying out alternative solutions to everyday problems.” The form of play I am exploring here is play outside and beyond adult control, rather than play that is instrumentalized by adults for adult purposes. While these two forms of play often happen simultaneously, children verbally signal a shift between adult-controlled play and their own explorations with laughter, screams, and other sounds of joy or disbelief. In this paper, I will apply folklore notions of play to the experiences of Catholic children to critically analyze these sounds of play.

  • Abstract

    This presentation explores the "catholicity" of African-American voices as they sing the songs of Zion, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, which many have incorrectly racialized as white and characterized as European. Because the highly affecting human voice emanates from the body, the voice discloses the unseen. Marginalized persons can call attention to their ever-present but forgotten bodies through growling, screaming, sliding, wailing, whooping sound. Through African American sacred music, Black Roman Catholics' in the post-Vatican II Black Catholic Movement proclaimed themselves to be "authentically Black" and "truly Catholic." These two phrases express two different notions of "catholicity," which is a multivalent mystery. Within the Black Church, Black Roman Catholics sing universal songs full of the protesting hope birthed in hush harbors and resounding on the streets of Ferguson. Within the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church, Black Roman Catholics have led and sustained the efforts to enculturate the Gospel through music for diverse peoples. In both senses, catholicity means unity in diversity.

  • Abstract

    This paper focuses on a seventeenth-century case of possession and exorcism in colonial New France to ask after the sounds of the demonic in early modern New France—sounds that included noise, music, speech, buzzing, grunts, and other kinds of non-verbal vocalization. What did sounds like these signify to those who heard them or heard of them in seventeenth-century Quebec, and why? How did conceptions of possession and exorcism inherited from early modern France affect such signification? What difference did the colonial context, including the presence of religious and ethnic others, make to the discernment of sounds in early modern Canada? What does attending to the sounds of the demonic—and to sound more generally—contribute to our understanding of early modern Catholicism and the history of religions? And how can historians of religion learn to listen for sounds both within and beyond the textual artefacts with which we’re left?

  • Abstract

    Reading 'against the grain' the accounts in the Georgetown Slavery Archives, we meet Sucky who has lived a very long life in the company of the Jesuits. Through the stories told about her, we hear her scream as a young girl when she witnesses a priest of the community 'taking the discipline' (in the Jesuit's words) and 'wipping himself' (Sucky's description). Attending to him out of concern for his well-being, the encounter has dramatic results. An analysis of two parallel accounts of the event reveal a complex dynamic of relationality, complicity and resistance in an economy of enslavement. Ashon Crawley's analysis of the power of breath will help draw out the theological dimensions of this sound, while feminist theories of relationality will ask whether Sucky provides broad resources for a consideration of Catholicism today.

  • Abstract

    Tucked away on a busy side street on a congested block that boasts multiple marijuana dispensaries and strip clubs, The National Sanctuary of the Sorrowful Mother (known to locals as “The Grotto”) includes 62 acres of pine woodland, gardens, statuary, and walking paths, 2 chapels, a monastery, and a gift shop. The Servites who run The Grotto orient their main ministry toward making the shrine a welcoming place, a sanctuary, for average, religion-adverse Oregonians-- the fleece-clad nature lovers who walk the Grotto’s mediation labyrinth, and tattooed seekers who pause to photograph the tall trees against the sky. The Servites are adept at translating Catholic religiosity into idioms of nature, wellness, and interconnectivity that appeal broadly in the Pacific Northwest. Sound is one significant aspect of this outreach. This paper will use a clip from a recorded garden walk as a jumping off point to explore the ways that both silence and sounds of the natural world are partners in ministry with the Servites in reaching out to the “nones” of Portland to offer literal and spiritual sanctuary to seekers who otherwise interact very little with institutional Catholicism.

  • Abstract

    The rosary is a consumer good that has been repackaged, redesigned, and reimagined to fit more easily into the lives of its users. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, inventors and Catholics reinvented the rosary and filed patents for new designs, creating pedagogical tools to guide Catholics in prayer. This paper explores how sound figures in the saturated sensorium of praying the rosary. It examines the sonic user experience of the rosary across various twenty-first century (re)inventions like the Vatican-sponsored “Click to Pray eRosary,” a wearable device and mobile app, and prior handheld devices that play recordings of the prayers and Mysteries of the rosary. These objects create soundscapes that are electronic, practical, and utilitarian. Rather than organs, chants, or bells, here Catholicism sounds like garbled and monotonous prayers played from cheap plastic electronics, and meditative music linked to sleek wearables. Across these devices we can see the rosary as a multimodal sensory technology that relies on connectivity and convenience for its popularity.

A20-211

Theme: Buddhist Intra-religious Networks and Buddhist Religious Innovation in Late Imperial and Modern Sichuan

Saturday, 12:30 PM-2:30 PM (In Person)

This panel aims at bringing attention to the South-West region of China and focuses on Buddhist intra-religious networks in the late imperial and Republican periods in Sichuan. Because of war devastation and massive migration to Sichuan, we observe the establishment of new communities and the influx of new religious practices that merged with the local religious landscape. The three papers in this panel will, in different ways, discuss three interrelated issues: religion movement and migration, the creation of intra-religious networks, and the creation of wide religious networks. One of the papers explores the role of migrants to Chongqing and their influence in creating new Buddhist spaces there. Another paper discusses Tibetan-Han Buddhism intra-religious exchange in Chengdu. A third paper explores Tibetan Buddhism and its development from Kham to other national and international locations. The panel addresses Sichuan as a place of innovation, exchange and experimentation, a place of original production of religious meanings, where different religious cultures come together and create new realities, and from where these realities move far and wide, nationally and internationally.

  • Abstract

    During the Qing, Chongqing (Sichuan in general) witnessed mass immigration, which fundamentally shaped many aspects of local life. I will rely on local archives to investigate the impact of migration on the local development of Buddhism. First, Buddhist monks migrated to Chongqing to rebuild deteriorated temples in the mid Qing. Here I’ll emphasize the previously unappreciated role of monks’ lay family members in facilitating this process. Monks often followed the footstep of their lay kinsmen who migrated to the same place. They often provided accommodations and financial support to their clerical relatives and facilitated the rebuilding process. Moreover, by the late Qing, Chongqing had become a migrant society in which lineage organizations were weak and the presence of the gentry class was minuscule. The porous social hierarchy in turn helped clerics establish themselves as a dominant presence in the rural society. One major source of clerical power was their control of sizable landholdings, a valuable type of asset in a mountainous and overpopulated society like nineteenth-century Chongqing. In sum, migration significantly shaped the formation of Buddhism in Qing Chongqing.

  • Abstract

    With increasing interactions between Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Buddhists, Sichuan became a hub of intra-religious exchange in the Republican period. After being ordained in Chengdu, Nenghai (1886–1967) went to Lhasa to study Tibetan Buddhism. Through his strategic engagement with the local Buddhist leaders, he established a Tibetan Gelug lineage in Chengdu in 1938. It had seven branches in Sichuan, Shanghai, and Mount Wutai by the 1950s. The paper traces the history of his lineage and contextualizes its rise in the changing religious cultures of Sichuan. The discourse of Buddhist reform provided a powerful rationale for the Sichuan Buddhists’ acceptance of Nenghai’s lineage. By sharing the common ground of doctrinal learning and disciplines, and by cooperating with other Buddhists in education and protecting temple properties, Nenghai broadened the network of the lineage in Sichuan and beyond. The paper highlights Sichuan’s distinct cultures and geographical location for facilitating the admixture of Tibetan and Chan Buddhism. It also offers an example of the Han Buddhists’ efforts to establish an institution to spread Tibetan esoteric Buddhism in a major Chinese city

  • Abstract

    Treasures (Tibetan: gter ma) are teachings hidden in the Tibetan landscape for revelation at appropriate moments in history. For Treasures to be revealed, there must be auspicious connections (Tibetan: rten ’brel) present, which include the appropriate revealer and location. Historically, many Treasure lineages came from parts of Kham that are now in Sichuan Province. However, these lineages have transcended their region of revelation, as teachers in Treasure lineages have become globally known. What happens when place of revelation is detangled from lineage? This paper will explore this question by studying the lineage of Dorje Dechen Lingpa (1857-1928). Dorje Dechen Lingpa’s principal seat was Domang Monastery in Kham, but he traveled throughout the Himalayas, and two of his reincarnations were born in Sikkim. One of them, Yangthang Rinpoche (1929-2016) spent his life between Sikkim, Sichuan, and Taiwan, where he had many Han Chinese students. This paper will examine how auspicious connections on local and transnational levels – including historical circumstances, sacred landscapes, and shared religious histories – contributed to the migration of this lineage beyond Sichuan.