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A19-122

Theme: Religion, Moral Panics, and the American City

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

Hyatt Regency-Mineral D (Third Level)

The papers on this panel each offer case studies that consider the relationship between religion and moral panics in American cities, historically and today.

  • Abstract

    This paper explores the career of Father Tom McLoughlin, a New York City priest and national celebrity who became widely known as "The Singing Priest of Chinatown" at the turn of the twentieth century. Through lectures and vocal performances, McLoughlin celebrated the harmony of Catholic art and music while targeting the "noise" and “ungodly instruments” emanating from the Chinatown Theater close to his church, along with the “ragtime buffoonery” of Harlem jazz clubs.  Using McLoughlin’s personal writings, police records, and urban planning documents, this paper traces how McLoughlin, alongside other Catholic and non-Catholic reformers during the so-called "City Beautiful Movement", worked to protect “sacred” Euro-American communities from “profane” populations inhabiting the urban landscape at the time.  This paper also explores how McLoughlin theorized the religion of his neighbors as underdeveloped and premodern even as he recognized that his own parishioners were drawn to their well-developed and modernizing institutions.  

  • Abstract

    In 1989, Reverend Lynn Griffis, a lesbian minister in an LGBTQ church, claimed to have been physically attacked. Griffis was the San Francisco congregation’s first AIDS minister and her accusations touched a nerve in a community beset by catastrophe. They generated a wave of moral fervor against LGBTQ violence that crashed when her accusations were discovered to be false. This paper will use archives, media accounts, and interviews to tell the story of Griffis’s accusations and the revelation of those accusations as fraudulent. It will examine how the case mobilized the city against hate crimes, provoking religious leaders and police to condemn anti-gay violence. And it will analyze how moral passions can be generated not only in moral panics, where the target of the panic is imaginary, but in situations where the target of moral feeling is very real and efforts against it hindered by moral attention inflated by falsehood.        

  • Abstract

    As an attempt to overcome the upper-mentioned limitations and to give a more holistic account of the interconnected issues of immigration, race/ethnicity, city, culture, and religion, this paper delves into one specific contemporary socio-religious phenomenon: the growing trend of buying, selling, closing, and subletting church buildings in Greater Boston since 1970.

    This project pays special attention to the fact that not only have ethnic, immigrant religious institutions ‘emerged’ around the country but many local religious congregations and communities have struggled to incorporate these new immigrant groups into their established congregations and neighborhoods. By focusing on conflicts, struggles, messiness, and mutual negotiations behind this phenomenon, I suggest that selling, buying, leasing, and closing congregations become a social process and a site of strategic, political action.

A19-123

Theme: Book Panel: Process Thought in Roman Catholicism: Challenges and Promises (Lexington Press, 2022)

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

Embassy Suites-Cripple Creek 2 (Second Level)

This book panel brings together contributors to the recently published Process Thought in Roman Catholicism: Challenges and Promises (John Becker and Marc A. Pugliese, eds.), alongside respondents to explore convergences and divergences between Process thought and Roman Catholicism with the goal of identifying reasons why Process philosophy and theology has not had the same impact in Roman Catholic circles as in Protestantism and of constructively navigating avenues of promising engagement between Process thought and Roman Catholicism. In creatively considering the Roman Catholic tradition from the vantage point of Process thought, different theoretical perspectives are brought to bear on Catholic characteristics of historical theology, fundamental theology, systematic theology, moral theology, social justice, and theology of religions.

A19-124

Theme: The Resurgence of Kingship in the Pentecostal Social Imagination

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

Convention Center-108 (Street Level)

The ascensions of Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump, stylized as evangelical “kings,'' into presidential offices in the US and Brazil animated forceful challenges to both democracies. This roundtable examines and compares the provenance, function, and dissemination of kingship tropes in evangelical political narratives in the US and Brazil.

A19-125

Theme: Climate Catastrophe, Eco-Anxiety and Climate Grief: Psychological and Religious Perspectives

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

Convention Center-109 (Street Level)

The terms “climate grief” and “eco-anxiety” have been used to describe various reactions to the impact of climate change, including human loss from climate disasters, loss of species and landscapes, and uncertainty or hopelessness about the future of the planet and humanity’s future on earth. This session will focus on work that addresses these phenomena from the intersection of psychology, culture, and religion.

  • Abstract

    This paper aims to urge the significance of changing how we see and interact with nature. Its main argument is that now it is critical to re-learn how to live harmoniously with nature in anticipation of rapidly increasing climate catastrophes that give rise climate anxiety. To support the argument, the author takes three steps. First, our collective/ecological dissociation between our knowing about nature in danger and our acting for it will be explained with apparently noticeable consequences of global warming and anecdotes about individuals who suffer climate anxiety. Second, how such collective dissociation took shape in the human mind will be explained, with three concepts: biophilia (Erich Fromm and Edward O. Wilson), solastalgia (Glenn Albrecht), and collective Trauma (Kai T. Erikson). Third and last, the author will introduce an ecopsychological understanding of humans within nature as a way to revive biophilia.

  • Abstract

    Scholars have coined the terms “climate grief” and “eco-anxiety” to speak about the various reactions to climate change, which include (but are not limited to) human loss from climate disasters, loss of species and landscapes. Responses to these phenomena manifest psychosomatically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and can include anxiety, uncertainty, fear and hopelessness (without limit). Much of the work in the area of religion has focused on the intersection of “climate grief” and “eco-anxiety” with literature on grief. There is little, however, written on the presence of trauma—particularly notions of traumatic loss and communal trauma. Drawing on insights from trauma studies and embodied cognition, this paper examines how climate change may function as a traumatic stressor, particularly for marginalized communities. This has implications for the wider framing of “climate grief,” and for role of religion and spirituality as potential pathways toward integration and healing.

  • Abstract

    Literature has begun to identify climate trauma as a distinctive form of trauma that impacts the public in diverse and complex ways. This paper presents literature on trauma and the climate crisis arguing that the framework of climate trauma provides hermeneutical architecture to interpret diverse phenomena occurring in the public sphere – from climate denial and indifference, to political polarization to overt expressions of eco-anxiety and eco-grief. Further, the paper shows how the framework of climate trauma may help to conceive effective pathways for public and religious practices to serve earth’s flourishing.

  • Abstract

    Human acts of resistance, no matter how small, are central to maintaining courage and hope in the face of climate catastrophe. The scale of resistance will and must differ; nonetheless, all resistance is emboldened when understood as part of a larger scale concern. This paper draws on findings from the study of climate grief and civil resistance, Christian virtue ethics, and moral psychology. I begin by situating climate grief to perceptions of power, agency, and vulnerability in the context of civil resistance. I then place power, agency, and vulnerability in conversation with the virtues of courage and hope in their secular and Christian manifestation. Doing so demonstrates how such interdisciplinary approaches deepen resources for individual and social transformation. Findings from psychology and my own research in anticipated and experienced behavioral changes around climate change are integrated into my analysis.

A19-126

Theme: Reception History of the Qur'an

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

Convention Center-504 (Street Level)

This panel features papers focused on the reception and interpretation of the Qur'an in Islamic tradition.

  • Abstract

    Disillusioned with the discipline of theology, Islam’s great philosopher and theologian, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (1149-1209), increasingly turned to the Qurʾān in the later stages of his life. One way to understand his mounting inclination for the Qurʾān is by seeing how he found within scripture the means to human perfection. For al-Rāzi, mankind can reach perfection through achieving the knowledge of God. Such knowledge can be attained by means of a certain form of rational reflection and spiritual discipline. An analysis of al-Rāzī’s later exegetical works demonstrates that he found within the Qurʾān both of these means within their proper balance: the Qurʾān imparts to its readers an orderly but non-abstract form of rational reflection that points to the Divine while putting a relatively greater emphasis on spiritual discipline, which for al-Rāzi holds the key to the endless knowledge of God.

  • Abstract

    In this paper, I argue that Mir Mohammad Baqer Asterabadi’s (known as Mīr Dāmād) (d. 1631-2) Book of Blazing Brands (al-Qabasāt) conception of time and eternity demonstrates how he combined Qur’ānic symbols with Twelve-Imām Shīʾite ontology and Neoplatonic cosmology to chart a way by which human beings can bring themselves closer to God.  I show how the concepts of time, eternity, and perpetuity are addressed in his Blazing Brands. Although this work has been translated, a study of how and why he employs the Qurʾān, in comparison to his Peripatetic predecessors, has not been undertaken. Through a study of Mīr Dāmād’s exegetical method in the fourth chapter of the Book of Blazing Brands, I argue that although Mīr Dāmād’s understanding of time and space fits within traditional Neoplatonic cosmologies, his utilization of verses of the Qurʾān validated his approach to ontology and cosmology in a Shīʾite Muslim context.

  • Abstract

    My paper examines letters involving Qurʾānic riddles and trivia in poetic verse sent by Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-Ṣafaḍī (d. 764/1363) to his contemporaries. Specifically, I examine the correspondence sent to Zayn al-Dīn al-Mawṣilī and Taqī al-Dīn al-Subkī (the problem of repeating a referent in Qurʾān 18:77, The two of them asked its folk for food); Jamāl al-Dīn al-Subkī (a lack of parallelism at the beginning of Qurʾān 76:3);  Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Subkī (an incongruent use of an intensive noun form); and al-Ḥusayn b. Sulaymān b. Rayyān (a grammatical riddle). My paper shows how non-specialists engaged with matters of Qurʾān commentary in a playful medium that struggled to serve its purpose. I also show how one correspondence comes to be promoted historically. My paper lends new insight to Ṣafaḍī’s correspondence, scholarly networks, the medium of poetry for inter-scholarly communication, and his participation in a specialized discipline like Qurʾān commentary.

A19-127

Theme: Interrogating Disability in History, Time, and Text

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

Convention Center-303 (Street Level)

These presentations examine both problematic and promising uses of "disability" at various intersections of critical inquiry: an archival analysis of how disability was used in 19th-century Protestant rhetoric surrounding slavery, a constructive use of feminist disability scholar Alison Kafer's work to imagine messianic time as "crip time," and an application of a narrative-critical approach to a passage in the Qur'an focused on female (in)fertility and their linking to environmental phenomena.

  • Abstract

    This archival analysis of 19th-century Protestant rhetoric shows how positive evaluations of disability as a sign of God’s grace worked to justify debilitation practices on plantations. The examination complicates a dominant narrative in disability histories that associates Christian rhetoric with only a negative evaluation of disability as indexing a state of sin. Instead, the paper explains that positive and negative evaluations of intellectual deficiency coalesced to shore up white Christian consciences, allowing for and encouraging violence perpetrated against the enslaved. The paper concludes, following Jina B. Kim and Julie Avril Minich, to query whether merely re-inscribing a positive evaluation of disability does disability justice.

  • Abstract

    Narratives of grim crip futurity imagine disability as a tragedy that effectively prevents an individual from leading a “good” life. Feminist disability scholar Alison Kafer rejects grim futurity, offering “crip time” as a more accurate conception of disabled temporality. Often out of bodily necessity, crip time is shaped by changing needs and abilities, challenging hegemonic conceptions of pace, priorities, and productivity.

    This paper presents crip time as an enfleshment of messianic temporality. Both are grounded in radical openness and attentiveness to the present, rejecting capitalist attempts at control of both present and future. The simultaneously disabled and resurrected Messiah is a symbol of embodiment capable of both reshaping ableist socio-cultural imaginaries and reinvigorating the ecclesial vocation to embody the time of the Messiah. In this temporal framework, resurrection becomes inscribed onto and performed by each person and community who is present to the God of the “now.”

  • Abstract

    The Qur’an’s annunciation scenarios emphasize God’s omnipotence by recounting the stories of the birth of a son to non-reproductive bodies. This paper examines (in)fertility in the Qur'ānic story of Isaac’s annunciation in Q 51:24-30. Using a narrative-critical approach that engages the concept of “narrative prosthesis,” I argue that female (in)fertility, and its association with the concept of natural disasters, is invoked as a “prosthetic” to make the Qur’an’s theological arguments more “accessible.” The term “barren,” for example, is used to describe both Sarah and the winds destroying the non-believing community of ʿAd. I argue further, that conceiving bodies are also connected to environmental phenomena and evoked to lend physical meaning to divine retribution. Sarah’s reaction to the annunciation, I propose, hints at the anxieties surrounding pregnancy, valorized by other parts of the Qur’an, including Q 51, which illustrates the imminence of Judgment by invoking representations of bodies “carrying” a burden.

A19-128

Theme: Decolonization, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Care Ethics in Environmental Collapse

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

Convention Center-110 (Street Level)

Climate change has caused localized environmental issues requiring imaginative responses. This panel identifies political and ecological problems and strategies for addressing them. By bringing together different locations with varying political contexts, this panel reveals the variety of ways people develop environmental ethics through resources from religious traditions. The first paper outlines coral decimation and its impact on Pasifika islanders, whose Hawai’ian and Samoan religious perspectives inform farming and fishing practices ensuring the health and sustainability of the reefs. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has coexisted with unstable landscapes, using Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to adapt to stochastic change. The ongoing legacy of colonialism is present in ecological degradation. Addressing this includes increased access to land ownership and developing small scale farming and ranching projects. Aotearoa/New Zealand vaccine protestors demonstrate their resistance to mandates through ecological healing practices, advocating against public health measures in favor of land-based community. 

  • Abstract

    Scientists predict that 70-90% of coral will die within twenty years, creating global ocean dead zones. Among the peoples most impacted by the loss of these animals are Pasifika peoples who live on islands in the Pacific Ocean. We draw on their religious perspectives, examining Hawai’ian and Samoan stories of the origin of coral as divinity, ancestor, or divine gift for families. The Pasifika reverence shown for coral invites us to “coral-ize” or center coral as an animal in our readings of biblical texts. Using historical-literary critical methods to examine biblical texts in their original context, we contest colonialist hierarchical theologies of “man’s dominion over nature.” We examine explicit references to coral (Heb: ramoth) in Job 28:18, Lam 4:7 and Ezek 27:16, and texts on “swarming things,” the sea, bone, and rock, to discover deep reverence for tiny animals that have a divine origin.

  • Abstract

    Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) – the deep-rooted ancestral knowledge of living with a landscape conveyed through stories, rituals, and practices – understands humans as integral components of an interconnected, responsive landscape. This approach to relational interconnection extends caring beyond human kin to include other-than-human beings, as well as forests, mountains, waterways, and the landscape itself, revealing an implicit care ethic. Building on the work of feminist care theorists and Indigenous studies scholars, this constructive paper identifies and articulates an ecological care ethic, arising from animist, shamanist, and Buddhist cultural values in Himalayan Bhutan. In addition to the established care ethics principles of attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness (Tronto 1993), this paper identifies two more – humility and reciprocity – as inherent in an ecological care ethic.

  • Abstract

    This paper considers the role of human displacement from the land as a key component of ecological degradation. It begins by evaluating theologian Willie Jennings and his work on how colonial powers, through the slave trade and the eradication of indigenous peoples, engaged in a project of separating people from the land. After reviewing Jennings’ historical perspective, it will turn to Wendell Berry’s work to show how many of the same dynamics Jennings uncovers in the colonialist era have found a new expression in the contemporary period through the industrialization of agriculture. In this way, the paper demonstrates how ecological degradation and human community disintegration often go hand-in-hand. It concludes by arguing for increased access to land ownership, in a climate that is increasingly making ownership of property unattainable for many, and a shift in education and beyond that (re)connects people the land.

  • Abstract

    Amongst spiritual practitioners I worked with in Aotearoa/New Zealand, “healing” is a widely used term that may be understood as a response to climate change. It involves reclaiming spiritual connections and re-sacralizing relationships that are human, nonhuman, more-than-human and transhuman. Participatory “connection” is emphasized in opposition to the separations that are at root of our climate crisis. In this context, and particularly as Aotearoa/New Zealand was spared the worst of the pandemic, the social interruption presented by Covid-19 was widely understood as a time of hope and healing, accompanied by profound personal experiences. This understanding could come to clash with government solutions in the form of vaccinations, masks, and mandates, resulting ultimately in a protest at parliament taking shape as a festival.

A19-129

Theme: Christian Nationalism and the Limits of Liberalism

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

Convention Center-Mile High 4C (Lower Level)

In the wake of the Trump presidency, this panel explores the theological and practical implications of Christian nationalism as a basis for theological reflection, paradigms of gender, and the formation of new religious and political movements. The first paper explores the Christology of Christian Nationalism in groups such as QAnon through a spiritualization of nationalism and messianic views of political leaders. The second explores the roots of illiberal and antidemocratic conservatism in natural theologies of gender. Finally, the third paper explores the theology and praxis of Lance Wallnau and the influence of his Seven Mountain Mandate on Evangelical and Charismatic Christians in the Trump era. All three case studies demostrate the broad and continued influence of nationalistic theology on the American political and religious landscape.

  • Abstract

    Famed scholar of nationalism Anthony D. Smith posited that nationalist ideology may be understood as a “species of religion.” Thus, in addition to an interrogation by the social sciences, nationalism(s) can be and must be examined as inherently religious and fundamentally spiritual phenomena. Building on this supposition, this paper will explore one virtually ubiquitous religious element of nationalist movements—what I term as “the Christology of nationalism.” By examining a variety of historical and contemporary examples, I illustrate the spiritual dimension of nationalist movements via the ways such movements appropriate messianic characterizations of political figures. Furthermore, this paper will explore how nationalist Christologies are instrumentalized to provoke religious—and often fanatical—devotion within the enterprise of political engagement. Special attention will be paid to recent instances in which Qanon and Qanon-adjacent communities radicalized adherents by cultivating a religo-political imagination through a syncretistic blend of Christian and nationalist messianism.

  • Abstract

    National conservatism has been characterized as an authoritarian ideology that offers a critique of liberal democracy. To understand what this critique is, I argue, we have to examine the role that natural theologies of gender play in undergirding the views of the nation held by national conservatives. I evaluate the roles that gender plays in the thought of political theorist Yoram Hazony, theologian R. R. Reno, and philosopher Patrick Deneen. For all of these “post-liberal” thinkers associated with national conservatism, gender is essential to the construction and security of the nation. They appeal to natural theology rather than revealed theology in making these claims, which enables interreligious unity among national conservatives. This analysis enables us to understand major shifts in conservative thinking, especially the move away from the U.S. “fusionist” consensus between economic liberalism and social traditionalism and the rise of illiberal or anti-democratic tendencies among conservative thinkers.

  • Abstract

    Lance Wallnau was one of the principal theological architects of the Capitol Riot, but his widespread influence has been largely overlooked. This could be because Wallnau, an independent Charismatic prophet, author, and celebrity, is mostly unheard of (or mocked) within elite Evangelical circles, despite being one of the most influential pro-Trump Evangelical voices. This paper situates Wallnau within a cadre of nondenominational Charismatic leaders who surfaced in the Trump Era and formed the inner circle of Trump’s Evangelical advisors. Far from marginal, Wallnau is perhaps the most influential political theologian of Charismatic Evangelicalism, and his core idea – the Seven Mountain Mandate – has become ubiquitous within Charismatic networks. I argue that Wallnau’s political theology is inherently anti-democratic and envisions a strategy for global Christian supremacy that is antithetical to liberal democracy. Nonetheless, Wallnau’s influence continues to grow through the Truth and Liberty Coalition, a Colorado-based nonprofit he cofounded in 2017.

A19-130

Theme: Perverted Pleasures: New Sexual Frontiers in Religion and Popular Culture

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

Convention Center-402 (Street Level)

This panel explores dynamic changes in representing religion and sex in Japan, the United States, and the virtual Anglosphere. Focusing on Buddhist deities in a multitude of contemporary Japanese media, queer white poverty in 1970s American horror, and gay Satanists on Twitter this panel investigates the way that religion and sexuality are dialectically constructed through popular culture.

  • Abstract

    Buddhist characters have been employed in popular culture for centuries: their awesome powers, epic adventures, beautiful bodies, and dark origin stories make them the perfect candidates for novels, theatrical plays, manga, anime, and videogames. Buddhist deities can be used in popular educational works to teach and promote Buddhist doctrines; they can maintain some religious elements but be completely removed from their “original” context for purely entertaining reasons; they can assume brand new roles that are often hyper-sexualized. In this paper I examine three case studies focused on the Buddhist goddess Hārītī (a Taiwanese cartoon, a Japanese manga, and a videogame) to shed light on the impact of Buddhist figures in popular culture. I argue that religious figures appearing in popular culture should be considered valid because they inform us on the new roles deities have assumed in the twenty-first century, and how people, Buddhist or not, understand them.

  • Abstract

    This paper explores the production and poetics of “white trash” in American popular culture as an iconographic figure of perverted nature religion. Through popular hicksploitation films and pop culture ephemera—namely the films Deliverance (1972), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977)—it looks to hillbillies as a censure for white supremacist masculinity’s imagined body, a cautionary tale of white Christian men’s presumed dominance over nature soiled by its abject intimacies with the bestial. The horror of “white trash,” it argues, is the imagined penetration and saturation of the modern masculine body by the rural with its abject oozing of superstition and sexuality. Tracing the imagining of rural spaces as sexually violent and religiously deviant, this paper unearths queer histories of rural religion as a dialectical homoeroticism and homophobia: white men’s spiritual bonding in and through nature regurgitated back as white trash’s superstitious bestiality in bumfuck nowhere.

  • Abstract

    This paper employs netnography and critical discourse analysis to examine the ways gay men on Twitter foster Satanic communities and orient themselves to gay Satanic practice. How do these men centralize the language of pleasure, the erotic, and phallic objects as a linguistic ploy that both bathes in the pornographic and reifies their identities as Satanists? How does the use of cultural taboos within imagery shape the ways gay Satanists orient themselves within this social media context? For this project, common language, terminology, and themes surrounding queer pornographic discourses on self-identified Satanists twitter pages will be examined as touchstones that shape, twist, and deconstruct gay Satanic devotional practice. Each of these techniques will create a synthesized look at the employment of gay pornographic imagery and language and its potential benefits and complications for Satanists who exist in this social media-driven contemporary moment, intent on drafting community and connectedness online.

A19-131

Theme: Constructions of Religion in Education in Europe: Empirical and Theoretical Analyses

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

Convention Center-503 (Street Level)

This session brings together papers that offer qualitative and theoretical analyses on how religion is being addressed, contested, construed, or otherwise conveyed within various schooling communities and institutions across Europe both from below - in European school systems by all actors involved in the educational process, and from above - in official documents of the European institutions and of the various European countries that implement European guidelines. The purpose of this session is to examine how the discourse and practices of religious education have been developed and influenced by various actors in different European historical, geographical, cultural, social, and political settings.

  • Abstract

    The paper wants to have a look at religious diversity within the context of Viennese schools during the 1920s and 1930s. It is based upon an Oral History-project under the title ‘Religiöse Vielfalt an Wiener Schulen der Zwischenkriegszeit (ZwieKrie) / Religious Plurality at Viennese Schools during the inter-war period – undertaken by the Spezialforschungsbereich ‘Interreligiosität’ (SIR) / Special Research Focus ‘Interreligiosity’ that is situated at the Kirchliche Pädagogische Hochschule Wien/Krems (KPH) / Private University College Wien/Krems. On the basis of in-depth interviews with 24 contemporary witnesses, the project proposes that – at least as far as Vienna is concerned – religious plurality has been very much part and parcel of the school-environment during the inter-war period (Lehmann 2021). The analyses show in which ways, the pupils of the 1920s and 1930s have been aware of religious plurality during the inter-war period; and how they reconstructed their respective perceptions today. Along those lines, the paper presents an analysis of the structures of religious plurality during the inter-war period – with a particular focus on the micro-level of individual religious self-descriptions as well as the meso-level of religious plurality - with a particular focus on the school context.

  • Abstract

    This paper offers a critical analysis of the category of religious education within France’s private school system, shedding ethnographic light upon interpretations and manifestations of religious education within different schools and schooling communities. The emergence and expansion of private Muslim schooling alongside the unprecedented growth of independent private schooling in 21st century France have contributed to the politicization of religious schooling in France, making it essential to better understand the contemporary nuances of the religious education landscape. Drawing upon extensive ethnographic fieldwork carried out in French private Muslim, Catholic, and secular schools intermittently from 2012-2020, I demonstrate how certain assumptions and particular interpretations of the relationship between religion and culture contribute to how religious education is understood within different French educational contexts. I will also show how such assumptions can fuel unequal judgment and treatment of schools, especially hyper-mediatized, and hyper-politicized Muslim schools.

  • Abstract

    This paper aims to analyze the projects Finestre/Incontri and the European Union (EU)-funded project IERS-Intercultural Education through Religious Studies as two competing but complementary examples of theorizing religion in education in Italy. Starting from the reconstruction of the environmental background and through the examination of the profiles of the associations and public bodies involved in both projects, the activities they have performed and the outcomes they have achieved, this paper intends to examine the core idea of religion that these projects have produced and to offer a critical approach to the discourses and narratives on the definition of religion in education in Italy.

    Keywords: Italian educational system; the projects Finestre/Incontri; the European Union (EU)-funded project IERS-Intercultural Education through Religious Studies; the concept of religion; biographies, discourses, and narratives

  • Abstract

    This presentation discusses dilemmas concerning play-based pedagogy in religious education (RE) for young children. While researchers and policymakers recommend play-based learning in general, religion is often related to seriousness rather than play, and surrounded by precautions in public education.

    I discuss if play-based learning is a beneficial approach to RE, and how teachers can evaluate different didactical approaches within a matrix of risk and potential.  The study is based on data from 37 days of fieldwork with children aged 4 – 6 in a Norwegian Kindergarten. I apply Biesta’s terminology of qualification, socialization and subjectification as entangled aims of education, and discuss possible consequences of what he calls a “pedagogy of interruption” (2010, 2021).

    Play-based pedagogy may risk interruptions of cultural and religious conventions, but also create potentials for subjectification, contextually justifying the approach. The risk/potential matrix outlined here may aid teacher’s reflections when making pedagogical decisions in RE.

A19-132

Theme: Author Meets Critics: Tisa Wenger and Sylvester Johnson's Religion and US Empire: Critical New Histories (New York University Press, 2022)

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

Convention Center-Mile High 4E (Lower Level)

This roundtable brings a diverse set of analytical perspectives to the topic of religion and US empire. It places the co-editors of Religion and US Empire (NYU, 2022) into conversation with scholars of African American religious cultures, American Islam, Asian American religions, American Catholicism, and the history of religion and race in the US. The United States has been an empire since the time of its founding, and this empire is inextricably intertwined with American religion. Religion and US Empire examines the relationship between these dynamic forces throughout the country’s history and into the present. The volume will serve as the most comprehensive and definitive text on the relationship between US empire and American religion. Together, the roundtable hopes to evaluate the state of the current discourse on the complex relationship between religion and empire in the American context and collectively reflect on future directions for the study of religion and US empire.

A19-133

Theme: Health Humanities & Religion: New Initiatives in the U.S.

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

Convention Center-304 (Street Level)

The academic study of religion has been conspicuously absent from most conversations in health humanities. This is especially concerning given the rich body of scholarship produced by AAR members on the intersections of religious communities with many aspects of health, suffering, and healing systems. The entanglement of religious identities with experiences of discrimination is particularly relevant for those addressing health disparities. Health humanities in the U.S. often seeks to go beyond scholarly publications to emphasize the application of research to improve healthcare approaches or public understandings of health. This includes humanities programs that teach future healthcare professionals through undergraduate curriculum or training within medical or nursing schools. This panel brings together a diverse set of Religious Studies scholars to discuss new initiatives that incorporate religion into health humanities and to explore current trends, challenges, and opportunities in this area.

A19-134

Theme: A Panel on Jessica Coblentz's Dust in the Blood (Liturgical Press, 2022)

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

Hyatt Regency-Capitol 2 (Fourth Level)

This panel will feature three engagements with the book Dust in the Blood: A Theology of Life with Depression (Liturgical Press, 2022) by Jessica Coblentz. The author will respond.

A19-135

Theme: Modes of Digital Religion: Research Methods, Christian Traditionalism on Twitter, and Online Worship during Covid-19

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

Convention Center-501 (Street Level)

This panel examines two aspects of digital religion: the use of Twitter by Christian traditionalists and the use of digital modes of worship during the Covid-19 pandemic. Authors utilize a range of research methods, from qualitative digital research and personal interviews to big data and machine learning approaches. The first paper analyzes the discourse of Brazilian radical traditionalist Catholics on Twitter regarding environmental, economic, and theological concerns. The second paper examines how Orthodox Christian Twitter users focus on physiognomy as a tool of visual verification to determine racial and religious identities, a practice that reinvigorates scientific racism through popular discourse. The third paper relies on interviews with Boston-area Catholics to show divergences in lay perceptions of the authenticity of online worship. The fourth paper explores how the Burning Man festival sought to recreate ecstatic moments when it transitioned its rituals and communal experience to a virtual context.   

  • Abstract

    This presentation analyzes the hashtag #RadTrad (specifically, the discussion of radical traditionalist Catholics) on Twitter as an example of the ways in which identities are created in discourse and, moreover, how it is precisely the flexibility, not the rigid orthodoxy, of ideas of “tradition” that render it an influential tool of this algorithmic culture. I focus here on just one topic in the Twitter data, Brazilian traditionalist Catholic discussions of climate change, to demonstrate the variety of purposes for which #RadTrad is mobilized. My data lays bare some of the lesser-discussed social and economic forces that inspire these contemporary debates in Brazil, and I hope it disrupts analyses that continue to view a “religion” as static and determinative of behavior. This talk will be of interest to those curious about computational text analysis, discourse on climate change, religion and social media, or how ideas of technology shape culture. 

  • Abstract

    Drawing on qualitative digital research, in conversation with the histories of American racism and European fascism, this paper explores a renewed focus on physiognomy among religiously conservative white men in the United States who are self-proclaimed radicals and fascists. In doing so, it teases out how these intolerant conceptions of the body and personhood, often formulated and mobilized through technological mobilized digital propaganda, are intimately tied to philosophies of traditionalism, the history of biologically focused racism, and the disciplinary structures of political authority. By looking at how the language of political authority and race are mobilized among Christian online surveillance collectives, we can better understand of how the religious far right is shifting the American political substrata through technological means.

  • Abstract

    COVID-19 measures required many Catholics to watch mass digitally and scholars are studying how Catholics experienced this. Thus, I utilized grounded theory to conduct unstructured and semi-structured interviews with Catholics to understand their experiences and if virtual mass is authentic. I stratified analysis by an inductive theme: what participants said was the most important part of the mass. Participants who placed emphasis on the Liturgy of the Eucharist felt that digital mass was not fully authentic and longed to return to in-person mass. Participants who placed emphasis on the Liturgy of the Word felt like digital mass was authentic and saw it as an attractive option for attending mass, even after COVID-19 measures end. This qualitative research adds to discussions of digital religion among Catholics and can help sociologists of religion contextualize and understand Catholic mass attendance, particularly when service attendance is a prominent variable in quantitative studies.

  • Abstract

    Since its inception in 1986, Burning Man has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the Nevada desert for a psychedelic bacchanal. Many attendees consider their participation in the ritual gathering as a spiritual pilgrimage for an experience of communal creative ecstasy. With the onset of COVID-19, however, Burning Man organizers faced the problem of moving a fundamentally in-person communal experience to a virtual environment. This paper explores how in 2020 and 2021, the Burning Man project transitioned its rituals and worship experience to recreate ecstatic moments in a virtual context. Drawing from literature in affect studies, new religious movements, entheogenic esotericism, and the burgeoning area of psychedelic studies, we explore how Burners sought to inhabit the extreme conditions of the hot and dust-stormy desert remotely, to experience psychedelic sacraments in VR, and to generate the collective ecstatic religious affects of a “transformational festival” through a digital-virtual network.

A19-136

Theme: Sikhi & Yoga

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

Convention Center-301 (Street Level)

The role of Yoga in Sikh practice and the influence of Sikhi in Yoga has been subject to debate and the topic of recent scholarly publications and interdisciplinary research questioning: Is there a Sikh Yoga? How might the study of Sikhi and Yoga offer new approaches and insights? This roundtable panel will engage key scholars in the field using a variety of disciplinary approaches from religion, theology, philosophy, anthropology, ethnomusicology and literature. They will investigate the nature of encounter between Sikhī and Yoga traditions by looking at near-contemporaneous texts associated with the Nāth Yogis, reorienting Yogic thought within the writings and music of Sikh Gurus. Additionally, they will address influences of Sikh-adjacent groups (Udasi, Radhasoami, Nirmala, Kabir Panth, etc.) and the role of scholarship, innovation, interpretation, commodification, and cultural appropriation within the history of modern yoga and Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga.

A19-137

Theme: Ecologies of Ritual and Trauma

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

Hyatt Regency-Mineral G (Third Level)

This session explores ecologies of ritual and trauma through a number of different frameworks, methodologies, and case studies. Through the lens of a Buddhist Urban Village in the People's Republic of China, an early twentieth century British millenarian group, a minority Muslim community in Europe, a Western Buddhist practitioner on the Indian subcontinent, and coal and oil "sacrifice zones" in the United States, the authors here examine both displacement and place-based strategies for meaning-making and transformation. Together, these papers highlight creative and destructive forces, the ways sacred and the secular are entangled, and the symbolic and ritual meaning in the built environment and natural landscape. Additionally, the authors examine religious actors and communities in their struggles for justice, recognition, and visibility in response to capitalism's destructive tendencies as well as a range of responses and forms of resilience and resistance to the forces of climate change and the power of the state to determine religious and ecological futures.

  • Abstract

    The Anthropocene timeline begins not with our species but with the advent of modern capitalism (Tsing 2015); within it, urbanization is a major player. The People's Republic of China (PRC) accelerated in recent decades with various ramifications on local cultures, including religious traditions.

    By focusing on the phenomenon of Urban Villages, this paper illuminates some of the particularities of urbanization and its ramifications on Buddhism. Fieldwork conducted in 2019 presents a contemporary ethnographic landscape of Buddhist modalities existing in Wutong village, Shenzhen metropolis area. The paper explores Buddhist lay practice groups and the Hongfa temple worship and practice. The study traces the capitalist trajectory of urban villages and how it affects an emerging, evolving Buddhist landscape. It argues that cultural and artistic forms of Buddhist religiosity are favored and encouraged by shaping state Soft Power in an evolving urban space.

     

  • Abstract

    Based on the self-understanding of an English millenarian group active in the 1920s and 1930s, this paper evaluates the complex of interacting processes implicated in their creation of a sacred garden from a multidisciplinary perspective. The group drew on Southcottian prophecy, mainstream Christianity, and newer spiritual practices such as spiritualism and theosophy in the formation of a dynamic community religiosity. When they believed they were under attack from Satan, they began to collapse the distinction between their mundane garden and the biblical Garden of Eden. With a particular interest in the framework of understanding suggested in studies of the personal and social benefits of community gardens, this paper draws out the way in which the garden became a complex religious artefact for the members of the Society, how their mundane physical space became transcendent, and how sociological and psychological approaches can help us understand the religious significance of place.

  • Abstract

    The Aga Khan Award for Architecture marks an illuminating site at the intersection of religion, politics, and architecture. It was established in 1977 by the leader of the Ismailis—a minority Muslim group scattered from Tibet to Texas. Beyond recognizing architectural excellence, the Award highlights the struggles of displaced communities as they seek to integrate into secular life. Two ethical dilemmas are integral to the Award. First, what does it mean to “serve” through architecture? For example, while the awarded projects “empower emerging Muslim communities” in stigmatized neighborhoods in Europe, they also facilitate gentrifications of these spaces. Second, why does the Aga Khan, purportedly a religious leader, concern himself with architectural patronage? Through these dilemmas, this paper examines how the Aga Khan—a graduate of Harvard and a royal based in France—draws on the symbolic power of architecture to expand the sphere of recognition for his transnational community.

  • Abstract

    It has been 20 years since the Mahabodhi Temple Complex – the place of Buddha’s enlightenment – was formally declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. These efforts to formalize a heritage landscape and safeguard a site of “outstanding universal value” has come into direct conflict with the pilgrimage activities and restoration practices by Buddhist communities themselves, whereby, the renovation of a living sacred site is seen as an integral part of ritual merit-making and forms of devotion. Drawing on the experience and life story of one prominent Western Buddhist at the Mahabodhi Temple, this paper explores some of the tensions around heritage place-making and the embodiment of dharma in the making of a World Buddhist Centre in north India, especially the tensions between permanence and Buddhist conceptions of impermanence (annica) in relation to sacred space and the materiality of the built environment.

  • Abstract

    This paper draws on fieldwork among and textual analysis of environmental justice (EJ) activists to theorize the work of EJ as transforming “sacrifice zones” into “sacred zones.” According to EJ activists and scholars, “sacrifice zones” are places where toxins and ecological devastation are concentrated in order to sustain the socio-ecological health of other places. This paper examines the meaning some religious groups make of sacrifice zones as not only sites of injustice but also as privileged sites of action intended to make sacred that which has been made expendable. Developing the notion of sacrifice as “making sacred”—from the Latin sacra (sacred) and facere (to make)—it seeks to reframe climate change and climate action. If climate change frameworks tend to foreground abstract concepts and elite and international institutions, the framework developed here foregrounds place-based knowledges and forms of meaning-making that can inform creative and pluralistic responses to environmental injustices.

A19-138

Theme: Scholars, Practitioners, and Scholar-Practitioners: Negotiating Method, Relationship, and Secrecy in Tantric Studies

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

Convention Center-302 (Street Level)

This panel represents a robust exploration of a persistent, ethically-fraught question that remains largely un-theorized in the field of Tantric Studies: the complex dynamics among scholars, practitioners, and scholar-practitioners. With a variety of historical and contemporary perspectives, our five panelists offer a comprehensive investigation of the status of the field and explore a variety of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and transpersonal approaches to scholarly praxis. These include issues in engaging meditation as a pedagogical tool, theorizing Tantric concepts as research models, negotiating complex identities and relationships in the field, and the impact of scholarship on living Tantric communities. Panelists draw on historical scholarship, personal experiences in the field and the classroom, and Indigenous and decolonial scholarship to identify novel and emerging strategies for researchers in Tantric Studies. Taken together, these papers contribute to a much-needed discussion of politics and praxis, and suggest vital ethical and methodological strategies for research.

  • Abstract

    If an instructor integrates experiential practice into a Religious Studies course, how do students respond? What pedagogy is required? What institution support is required to assist students embarking on a journey of deep exploration, especially if the exploration brings forth issues around mental health when the probability of ambivalent experiences arising is high? Is it appropriate for non-initiates to practice esoteric lore?

    This paper reports experiences from an instructor and students in a graduate-level, Harvard course, offered Fall 2021, titled "Arousing Cosmic Energy in the Subtle Body: The Scholar-Practitioner Model." The class met twice per week: one session dedicated to readings on the subtle body in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra traditions, the second session a meditation workshop, experimenting with mantras and visualization. For a keystone, students built and cultivated a practice of their own.  

    In the end, I explore ambivalent institutional support and challenges to pedagogy arising during the course.

  • Abstract

    Specialists in the disciplines of religious studies and anthropology usually agree on the importance of ethnographic methods, wherever applicable, and this also holds true for the academic study of Tantra. This paper adds a new approach to these discourses on method by highlighting the concept of sādhanā, derived from a Sanskrit term meaning “practice” or “effort,” and showing how this concept has the potential to mediate and inform scholarly debates over subjectivity and objectivity. The first part of the paper introduces the semantic range of the term sādhanā and analyzes contemporary scholarly participation in lived contexts where the term is salient. The second part of the paper shows how adopting this concept as a primary method has helped the author navigate Tamil contexts of “Tantric yoga” as well as this yoga’s relation to the esotericism of the Theosophical Society and other movements in the colonial and contemporary periods.  

  • Abstract

    This paper investigates the current, post-Orientalist Tantric Studies research landscape both in the field and in the academy. Using extensive fieldwork among Tantric communities and practitioners in Northeast India, discussions and interviews with scholars in the field of Tantric Studies, and inspired by collaborative approaches in Indigenous and decolonial scholarship, it represents part of a larger, broadly reflexive study which aims to illuminate and deconstruct the politics and historical impacts of conducting research with practitioners in esoteric traditions, with a focus on post-colonial South Asian contexts. This includes problematizing insider-outsider dichotomies in research praxis; exploring the historical relationship of scholarship with practice traditions; investigating the secrecy and distrust between and among scholars, practitioners, and scholar-practitioners in the field and the academy; and evaluating methods and potential models for decolonizing research praxis in practitioner communities as well as within the field of Tantric Studies.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines the complex life and writings of Agehānanda Bhāratī (born Leopold Fischer, 1923-1991), with special attention to his multiple roles as a scholar of Tantra, a transmitter of Tantra to the U.S., and a critic of Americanized versions of Tantra. Best known for works such as The Ochre Robe and The Tantric Tradition, Fischer/ Bhāratī underwent numerous changes of identity, donning many different “robes,” from his youthful involvement in the Nazi Indian Legion in Austria, to his initiation into the Daśanāmi monastic order, to his more secret initiation into Tantra in Assam, to his academic life in the United States. Fischer/ Bhāratī’s complex relationship to Tantra can be seen both in his Tantric initiation—which he revealed only belatedly and partially in his published work—and in his relationship to American Tantra—upon which he was a seminal influence but of which he was also very critical.

A19-141

Theme: Theological Education Committee Meeting

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

Convention Center-204 (Street Level)

The annual planning meeting of the AAR's Theological Education Committee.

A19-139

Theme: Womanist Cultural Aesthetics, Womanist Embodied Love

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

Convention Center-111 (Street Level)

“Womanist Cultural Aesthetics, Womanist Embodied Love” offers a womanist public witness of artistic, digital dexterity, expansive readings on queer readings, and chaplaincy that embrace the private and public intersections of loving all the people, notably as we engage the expanse of ecology and environment. As we move into the fourth decade, womanist thought and activism embrace a broad spectrum of religious, rigorous rhetoric. A womanist public witness is critical given the uptick of trauma through violence, disparities, and injustice diminishing black bodies. 

  • Abstract

    In this paper, I introduce cyberwomanism and digital womanism as different yet mutually informing womanist approaches to technology politics and digital praxis. I argue that in using the dual cultural lens of a cyberwomanist/digital womanist (CWDW) research model to guide the research process, scholars, activists, and practitioners can consider the ethical and societal implications of information communication technologies and digital technologies over the long term, providing a framework that addresses the life affirming and demonic aspects of technology design, use, and social impacts. Drawing from the work of Emilie Townes, Dolores Williams, and Anna Everett, this paper calls attention to how the digital is currently being taken up to collaborate and mobilize for womanist concerns and identifies social justice challenges involving digital technologies in the near future.    

  • Abstract

    In his essay, “‘Quare’ Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother,”[1] E. Patrick Johnson offers a definition of “quare” that builds on Alice Walker’s definition of “womanist.”  In this paper, I argue that “quare” is not just a black way of being queer, but also a womanist way of being queer.  First, I show the ways quare expands the horizons of studies in both womanism and queer studies of religion.  I then demonstrate the ways that quare approaches to religion can inform new theories of justice.  Finally, I show the ways that quare readings open scholars to fresh insights and approaches to public discourse and social transformation.  I argue that the future of the studies of Black religion is a quare future.

     

    [1] Johnson, “‘Quare’ Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother.”

  • Abstract

    Engaging Lorraine Hansberry’s, Raisin in the Sun and To Be Young, Gifted and Black in conversation with Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Source of Self-Regard, this paper emphasizes ways that Black women have served as chaplains within their environments as well as their familial and romantic relationships despite the pressures of American society that strains said relationships. It highlights Black literary examples of the ability to love one another in ways that transform their navigation of life in the face of racism, classism and sexism as catastrophic forces that constrain liberatory existence. This paper offers a redefinition of chaplaincy that speaks to Black women as caregivers supported by my own empirical epistemology to describe the role of embodiment in generative sources that facilitate transformation through love in spite of efforts of strangulation by American society. 

  • Abstract

    This paper centers the sonic aesthetics of twentieth century, proto-womanist female musicians by tracing the intersections of their experimentalism and spiritual activism through sound. It contends that womanist trends of self-authorship and (anti-)politics, can be located at the metaphysical intersection of sound, space, and consciousness. As a survey of twentieth century womanist sound, four artists will be highlighted: Bessie Smith, Alice Coltrane, Nina Simone and Betty Davis. Their creative aesthetics— whether overtly sensual or spiritual, oppositional or communal, utopian, dystopian, or hybridized—blur boundaries and effectively dismantle the (false) dichotomy of the sacred and secular. Bringing together a womanist integrative approach and a theomusicological analytical framework, this paper aims to (re)cover traces of political spirituality within black female sound in the twentieth century. In doing so, it ultimately seeks to underscore womanist theomusicological research as a generative paradigm for amplifying the socio-political and spiritual function of womanist sonic aesthetics throughout time.

A19-142

Theme: Book Roundtable—Valuing Lives, Healing Earth (Peeters Publishing, 2021): Feminist Liberation Theologians in Honor of Rosemary Radford Ruether

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

Convention Center-112 (Street Level)

As the AAR/SBL Women’s Caucus celebrates fifty years in the academy, this session highlights the 2021 publication of Valuing Lives, Healing Earth: Religion, Gender, and Life on Earth, which honors pioneering feminist theologian and ecofeminist Rosemary Radford Ruether, whose scholarship gives voice to marginalized women’s experiences and histories on a global level. Valuing Lives, Healing Earth brings together feminist scholars in the Global North and South, demonstrating global feminist dialogue, transdisciplinarity, and mutual solidarity. In this roundtable discussion, we will reflect on the trajectory of feminist scholars intersecting religion and ecology since the publication of Ruether’s foundational book, Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion, in 1996. From different perspectives, editors, and authors will consider the contributions this body of work brings to methods of research and teaching strategies that engage decolonialism, ecofeminism, anti-racism, spirituality, the arts, food justice, liberation theology, and sexuality.