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Online Program Book

The AAR's inaugural Online June Sessions of the Annual Meetings were held on June 25, 26, and 27, 2024. For program questions, please reach out to annualmeeting@aarweb.org.

This is the preliminary program for the 2024 in-person Annual Meeting, hosted with the Society for Biblical Literature in San Diego, CA - November 23-26. Pre-conference workshops and many committee meetings will be held November 22. If you have questions about the program, contact annualmeeting@aarweb.org. All times are listed in local/Pacific Time.

A23-230

Theme: "Liberating Spiritualities and The Power of Place: Interdisciplinary Perspectives"

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

This is an author meets critic session on two new books in Latine/x religion- Liberating Spiritualities: Reimagining Faith in the Américas, by Christopher Tirres and, Touched by this Place: Theology, Community, and the Power of Place, by Benjamin Valentin. Both texts are interdisciplinary, Latine and diasporic in focus, and invoke the rich traditions of pragmatism and liberation theology as methodological sources.  In Liberating Spiritualities, Tirres offers an in-depth exploration of spirituality as a catalyst for social transformation, showcasing the insights of six distinguished twentieth-century liberation thinkers from across the Américas. In Touched by this Place, Valentín centers the reality of place, placed-based thinking, and "home" as sources for Christian theology.

  • Liberating Spiritualities: Reimagining Faith in the Américas

    Abstract

    Christopher D. Tirres will be discussing his new book, Liberating Spiritualities, reflecting on the use of spirituality as a catalyst for social transformation and showcasing the profound insights of six distinguished twentieth-century liberation thinkers from across the Américas, including: Marxist philosopher José Carlos Mariátegui, educator and philosopher Paulo Freire, constructive theologian Virgilio Elizondo, cultural and feminist theorist Gloria Anzaldúa, activist mujerista theologian and social ethicist Ada María Isasi-Díaz, and ecofeminist theologian Ivone Gebara.

  • Touched by this Place: Theology, Community, and the Power of Place

    Abstract

    Benjamín Valentín will be discussing his new book, Touched by this Place: Theology, Community, and the Power of Place. Reflecting on his own lived experience in Spanish Harlem, Valentín will discuss how his book calls for a Christian theological return to place,place-based thinking, and "home."

A23-231

Theme: Decolonizing Religion and Peacebuilding: Author Meets Critics

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

This panel brings together a diverse group of scholars to discuss Atalia Omer’s Decolonizing Religion and Peacebuilding (Oxford University Press, 2023). Based on an extensive empirical study of inter and intra-religious peacebuilding practices in the postcolonial contexts of Kenya and the Philippines, Omer identifies two paradoxical findings: first, religious peacebuilding praxes are both empowering and depoliticizing, and second, more doing of religion does not necessarily denote deeper or more religious literacy. The book deploys decolonial and intersectional prisms to illuminate the entrenched colonial dynamics operative in religion and peace and development praxis in the global South. Still, the many stories of transformation and survival emerging from spaces of programmatic interreligious peacebuilding praxis, generate decolonial openings that speak back to decolonial theory. The panelists will reflect on how the book’s findings and theoretical interventions contribute to contemporary conversations in the study of religion, coloniality, and justice-oriented peacebuilding.

A23-232

Theme: Deconversion: Losing My Religion

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Scholars have minutely examined the process of religious conversion from diverse methodological orientations. But in a moment of rapidly declining religious affiliation, it's time to give sustained attention to the complex process of religious de-conversion. This panel examines the deconversion narratives of ex-vangelicals, the experiences of ex-clergy attracted to Spiritual But Not Religious worldviews, and identity formation among ex-vangelicals who form new networks of belonging through podcasts and podcasting. 

  • Deconstruction, Deconversion, and the Rise of the Ex-vangelical

    Abstract

    While in many ways the political power of evangelicals seems stronger than ever, evangelicals are not immune to the trends of decline taking place across American Protestantism. This growing exodus has given rise to a subsection of former evangelicals known by a variety of names: exvangelicals, post-evangelicals, recovering evangelicals, un-fundamentalists, and more. This paper explores the relationship between ex-vangelical deconstruction and religious deconversion. How do former evangelicals understand their process of deconstruction, and how does it relate to deconversion? Does deconstruction itself constitute the process of evangelical deconversion, or is it just one framework to understanding a broader shift in personal identity? By studying former evangelical social media engagement and a set of ethnographic interviews I conducted in 2024, I will consider what ex-vangelical narratives reveal about the relationship between “deconstruction,” deconversion, and the shaping of religious/non-religious identity.

  • Leaving Religion for Podcast Spirituality: A Practical Theological Study of Former Evangelicals in Virtual Conversations

    Abstract

    For the last few decades, generations of young evangelicals have found themselves as the subject of countless books, studies, and discussions as older evangelicals attempt to understand what might dissuade them from leaving the church at such alarming rates. At the same time, though they have been at the center of concern, their own voices and contributions have been sidelined to the fringes. This study enters the ongoing conversations among thousands of individuals who have left evangelicalism. Often labeled as “conscientious objectors,” these individuals have not abandoned evangelicalism to adopt another religion wholesale. They continue to congregate, albeit virtually, in seemingly endless conversations. This study engages these conversations to gain a better understanding of the ordinary theology beyond evangelicalism.

  • Is it Deconversion? Former Clergy Who Identify as Spiritual but not Religious

    Abstract

    When former clergy -- once fully committed but now hesitant to serve or even attend church -- now self-identify as “spiritual but not religious,” does this qualify as an actual deconversion or just ydisillusionment? I have interviewed and done a qualitative analysis of thirty clergy, mostly Mainline Protestant, who have had difficult experiences and have left the ministry. I examine their backgrounds, church experience, and what work they are doing now. I pay special attention to their beliefs since Protestantism emphasizes the cognitive aspect of faith. Such an analysis shows that many former clergy interviewees have migrated over to beliefs very similar to the many non-religious SBNRs I previously interviewed and wrote about. The decline in Mainline Protestantism is clear but it is especially noteworthy when the most dedicated are leaving, changing their beliefs and self-identifying as SBNR. 

A23-234

Theme: Politics and Black Religions: A History of Engagement

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

2024 marks important anniversaries in Afro-American religious history, including Jessie Jackson’s historic first presidential campaign (40th, 1984), Freedom Summer and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and Malcolm X’s establishment of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. (60th, 1964). These moments reflect important examples of the varied expressions and interactions between Black religions and the political sphere through electioneering, organizing, and critique. The Afro-American Religious History Unit will host a special session that reflects on these various iterations at the institutional, individual, social, and communal levels. Of special concern will be both the expansive and limiting ways that intersections of Black religions and politics have been considered as opening spheres of influence, as generating political critique, and as sites of gendered power and struggle. Featuring an interdisciplinary set of leading, public-facing scholars, this roundtable will engage the historical and contemporary significances of the intersections of religion and politics for African Americans.

A23-235

Theme: Transgressing "Tantra"

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

This round table brings together authors of recent or forthcoming monographs on esoteric or tantric Buddhism broadly conceived and invites them to reflect on how "esoteric" or “tantric” Buddhism formed and transformed both as emic doxographic and as etic scholarly categories, as well as on the ways in which the interplay of these two levels influences their scholarly work. The round table focuses on esoteric or tantric traditions of Buddhism spanning geographically from India via Central and southeast Asia to Japan, and historically from their inception into the early modern period. It thus seeks to contribute to the wider field of tantric studies by moving beyond the emphasis on Indian or Indo-Tibetan forms of tantra and by thereby stimulating debate on the ways in which the "esoteric" or "tantric" has always been a translocally, even globally, entwined and contentious arena for the articulation of religious and scholarly identities.

A23-236

Theme: Author-Meets-Critics: *Vodou En Vogue: Fashioning Black Divinities in Haiti and the United States*

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Author-meets-critics session on Eziaku Nwokocha's *Vodou En Vogue: Fashioning Black Divinities in Haiti and the United States* (UNC Press, 2023)

A23-237

Theme: Methodism before the Wesleys

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

John and Charles Wesley saw the eighteenth-century Wesleyan revival as a restoration of primitive Christianity, as well as ‘true Christianity’ throughout the ages. If Methodism is viewed within the context of such continuity, there is a sense in which the Wesleys are not the sole founders of Wesleyan Methodism. This session includes scholarly analyses of where "Methodism" can be perceived in the history of Christianity before the Wesleys. Where can we see "Methodism" in the global history of the church prior to the eighteenth century, even if no direct genealogical connection can be drawn? This question can be explored in particular movements or churches, the lives, ministries, and writings of Christians, and in devotional practices. The question can be framed as an exercise in ressourcement—a return to the varied sources of Methodism—with the goal of renewal of the tradition today.

This session is linked to our unit’s session on “The Reception History of the Wesleys,” which examines how their ministries and writings have been received in the Wesleyan/Methodist traditions and beyond.

  • The Methodist Origen: The Homily on Psalm 81 as the Heart of Origen’s Theology

    Abstract

    This paper argues that Origen's Homily on Psalm 81, in which he issues a universal summons to the imitation of divine virtue through spiritual vigilance and the practice of justice, reveals a "Methodist Origen." Encountering Origen as a Methodist thinker not only broadens Wesleyan theology's awareness of its own resources in the Christian past, but also suggests a new approach to the study of Origen, one which centers not the controversial and speculative questions that have dominated European study of Origen since early modernity, but the exhortations to virtue and holiness that characterize his preaching.

  • From the Cappadocian Fathers to the Wesleys: Tracing Sanctification, Christian Perfection, and Glorification Throughout the Centuries

    Abstract

    Themes of John Wesley's Sanctification, Christian Perfection, and Glorification theology can be traced back to the fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers. Wesley wrote in his sermons that perfection, or being made perfect in love, is given by grace from God throughout sanctification. The Cappadocian Fathers argue that wholeness is reached through a life of community modeled by the economic Trinity, where people are transformed by meeting the image of God every day. Additionally, the Cappadocian Fathers' harmonious theology between God and creation after death, where a person is made whole, is also reflected in Wesley's theology of sanctification, leading to glorification when a person is completely perfected after meeting the face of God. Both theological communities saw discipleship as a journey of becoming more whole through the incarnation and imagined a moment of complete wholeness after death when they were united with God.

  • Origen’s Pattern: Radical Sexuality from Ancient Eunuchs to Eighteenth Century Methodists

    Abstract

    This paper explores the ways in which ancient Christian eunuchs were a precursor to eighteenth century Methodism. In bringing together the histories of Christian eunuchs and early Methodists, this paper seeks to highlight the sexuality that linked them. This "radical," "excessive" sexuality was readily glimpsed by the torrent of Anti-Methodists who called out such links. This paper thus argues not only for a deeper analysis of the figure of the eunuch from early Christianity to the Methodist revivals of the eighteenth century, but that Anti-Methodists are a prime and necessary source for exploring the ways in which eighteenth century Methodism was connected to the Methodisms of the past. 

  • Preaching Original Sin: Wesley and Augustine on Human Depravity

    Abstract

    This paper will place Augustine in conversation with Wesley on the topic of original sin and human depravity, not through their treatises but through their sermons. The goal of the paper is not only to assess Wesley’s agreement or lack thereof with Augustine, but to examine how these two proponents of original sin presented the doctrine in pastoral contexts: What pastoral concerns motivated their commitment to preaching on original sin? What was their goal in such preaching, beyond the promotion of orthodox belief? And to what extent can Augustine’s vision of the Christian life as represented by his sermons on original sin be seen as consistent with a type of “Wesleyanism before Wesley”?

A23-238

Theme: How students are engaging in critical public and digital Scholarship efforts on Wikipedia

Saturday, 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM

As digital humanities and social science projects evolve, they must directly address the ever-intensifying crisis of information access and integrity confronting the world. Pedagogical praxis can play a critical role in meeting the challenges of this rapidly changing information landscape. In this workshop, you will hear from faculty at postsecondary institutions who have centered public scholarship work into their courses by implementing assignments that enable students to contribute to Wikipedia.

You’ll hear from faculty representing the fields of Art History and Anthropology as well as Wiki Education staff who support these Wikipedia initiatives. We will explore the power dynamics of collaborative production and dissemination of knowledge; authorship and public voice; Wikipedia’s limitations and biases; and issues related to knowledge equity. We will consider how the process of contributing to Wikipedia can empower students by building their confidence as public intellectuals while providing them with opportunities to present knowledge on topics that have historically been left out of the record. Session attendees will learn how to integrate the Wikipedia assignment into their own curricula while gaining a deeper understanding of the role that open knowledge can play in the field of Religion and related areas.

A23-300

Theme: The Power of Our Archive

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Throughout African Diaspora history there have been archives, inviting deep exploration into the unknown, the obscured, and the known. Sometimes hidden in plain sight, including Obeah oaths in the narrative of Tacky’s Rebellion and Jamaica’s Baptist War; juridical, birth, and death records compared against oral histories, historical art, and illustration of colonial encounters that include but are not limited to narratives of race, ethnicity, gender, class, dis/ability, sexuality/ies under an array of micro and macro violent technologies (fear, shame, physical, psychological and psychosocial abuse); and the Colored Conventions Project (1830) or the Early Caribbean Digital Archives (2011).

This panel seeks to explore the idea, presence, and importance of archives among us when all too often our archives were oral and aural, normatively shaped, vanished, or erased.

  • Ethiopianism as a Trans-Atlantic Christian Religious Movement

    Abstract

    The paper talks about Ethiopianism as the first recognizable religious movement among Protestant Christians of African descent. Significantly, it was a religious movement which emphasize the idea of social ameliration/racial uplift.  The paper will make the case that Ethiopianism originated among free black Christians who were conscious of the ways in which racism among white Christians limited the spread of the ideas and ideals of liberal Christianity among peoples of color.  For these Christians, releasing liberal Christianity, and its social ameliorative properties from the fetters of white racism became an evangelical goal, with the understanding that there was an onus upon them, as Ethiopianists, to pursue this goal among peoples of African descent. The concern of the paper is with how Ethiopianism grew from its 18th century North Atlantic origins to become the impetus behind African initiated Christian reform movements in the 20th century Atlantic world.

  • Trans*Atlantic Archives: Singing the Dead in M. NourbeSe Philip’s Sangoma Poetics

    Abstract

    In her 2008 experimental poetry collection, Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip untells the “story that cannot be told” of the Middle Passage Zong Massacre, in which over one hundred fifty Africans were thrown overboard to ensure insurance compensation for the ship owners. Philip uses the single archival trace of the massacre, the Gregson vs. Gilbert court case, to assault the language and logic that render Black bodies consumable. Murdering words and their false sense, Philip describes herself  as a “sangoma,” or a Zulu physical and spiritual healer. She thus reclaims African diasporic ritual practice, opening to an ancestral voice, Setaey Adamu Boateng, who speaks the stammers of the dead through her onto the page. I connect Philip’s sangoma poetics to what Christina Sharpe calls “Trans*Atlantic” Blackness, a mode of living in the afterlives of slavery in which risk and disruptive possibility inhere in the surplus meanings of Black flesh.

  • Beyond Textual Literacies: Envisioning Religion through Afro-Peruvian Archives

    Abstract

    This paper examines both the writings of Ursula de Jesus, (1604-1666), a Black woman born into slavery who lived in the Santa Clara convent (of the order of the Poor Clares) in Lima with her ama (owner) for 28 years as one of hundreds of slaves, as well as the visual literacies she demonstrates through written accounts. Ursula’s freedom was purchased by a nun in 1645, and Ursula became a free religious servant called a donada. I argue her writings and the visual literacies they draw on reveal how multiple paradigms of blood were actively circulating in relation to colonial Peruvian understandings of religion. Blood was at once redemptive in a Christian understanding and potentially limiting when understood through racialized colonial frameworks that associate one’s ‘character’ with their bodily composition through fluids like blood.

A23-301

Theme: Anglican Studies Seminar: Session 1

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

In Year 3 of this five-year initiative, we engage papers that surface missiological currents within Anglicanism, past and present, that contribute to the development of processes of Anglican identity formation and the ecclesiologies that arise alongside those identities. The complicated and fraught history of missionizing goes far beyond the typical account of how the non-European “peripheries” have been the recipient of colonializing mission work from the imperial “center” in England. This is only a part of a much larger story that extends through Anglican history to the present in a more complicated manner. These complex forces demand nuanced scholarly treatment of the de- and postcolonial dynamics at work in Anglican identity formation and “operative ecclesiologies."

The papers are provided for reading in advance so that our time together can be spent discussing them, both separately and by putting them into conversation.

  • "White Flight" Missiology and Its Result: Racially Segregated Ecclesiology in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey

    Abstract

    A mid-twentieth century burst of church planting missionary activity in the Diocese of New Jersey aimed at catering to the massive suburban growth in the state. During his period of “white flight,” white families fled urban areas and settled in racially restricted suburban developments in order to avoid proximity to Black neighbors. The Diocese of New Jersey fully cooperated with this pattern of development, funding and building new churches in suburban areas with racially restrictive covenants. The result today is a functionally segregated diocese, with most Black churches located in areas of systemic neglect, and most White churches located in areas that have been comparatively prosperous and fully supported with infrastructure and services. Long diocesan cooperation with the prevailing systemic racism that produced the current, functionally segregated state of New Jersey, has produced ecclesiological segregation and perennial underfunded Black churches and ministries.

  • Church Uniforms and the Mothers’ Union of South Africa: A Neo-indigenous and Post-colonial Expression of African Anglican Women’s Christianity

    Abstract

    In this paper I will reiterate earlier work where I showed that African women members of the Mothers’ Union (MU) in South Africa forged a neo-indigenous expression of Christianity during the first half of the 20th century. The paper will show that these women had to resist the restrictions placed on them by women missionaries and church leadership from England with respect to their church uniforms that had been adapted from manyano groups (women's prayer groups) of other church denominations. In the modern post-colonial post-apartheid church context, the church uniform carries with it certain ambiguities and these will be explored through interviews with African women clergy, professional middle-class lay women, and the leadership of the MU. This case study will show that African Anglican women in South Africa have forged a particular expression of Anglican identity that, despite being shaped by post-colonial modernity and globalization, is unique.

  • Young People and Liturgical Renewal in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto: Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Mission from the Pews

    Abstract

    It is crucial to consider the perspectives of people in the pews—active lay Anglicans—to understand the operative ecclesiologies and lived missiologies present in the Anglican Communion today. Analysis of focus groups conducted with over four hundred lay people in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto reveals a dominant operative ecclesiology focused on the survival of individual local parishes in familiar forms, and a transactional conception of mission that emphasizes liturgical change to attract younger people. In addition to being theologically problematic, these ecclesiologies and missiologies are disconnected from the contextual realities of the Canadian religious landscape. However, openness to change and a desire for more emotionally energetic liturgy that is relevant to everyday life also have the potential to empower people in the pews to connect their liturgical lives with the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion and Transformational Aspirations of the Anglican Church of Canada.

A23-302

Theme: Diverse Careers in Writing

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Join a conversation with religious and theological studies scholars about career diversity in writing. Panelists include poet Chloe Martinez, memoirist and writing consultant Sarah Sentilles, and journalist Sam Kestenbaum. They'll discuss their career pathways and how their training in the study of religions and/or theology plays into their work as writers.

A23-303

Theme: Augustine, Slavery, and Race

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Slavery was ubiquitous in late Antique Rome, and the concept of slavery profoundly shaped Augustine’s theological, ethical, philosophical, and political thought. Recent work in Augustine studies has begun to explore these topics critically analyzing Augustine’s account of slavery and its role in his broader ethics and politics, exploring slavery’s central but often disavowed role in the Augustinian tradition of political thought, while also pressing toward constructive alternatives in conversation with the resources of Black Studies. Given Augustine’s importance to the history of slavery and the role of the Augustinian tradition in the development of modern logics of racialization, there is ample opportunity for further work on Augustine, slavery, and race. This panel brings together three papers with different approaches to the topic.

  • A Comparison of Slavery, Institutions of Violence, and the Categorization of Christian Identity in Augustine and Lactantius.

    Abstract

    Augustine argues that the good Christian should make use of violence in the correction of the disobedient slave and in the case of Donatism violent religious coercion. However, Lactantius writing less than a century earlier in his work the Divine Institutes argues not only that religious coercion and slavery are unethical, but that these institutions of violence should not be part of Christianity specifically. I argue that the source of the disagreement lies not only in these authors’ different historical circumstances, although this certainly plays a significant role, but in how they categorize Christian identity. Lactantius depicts Christianity as a unity of philosophy and religion that existed independently of the institutions of the Roman empire, and thus as a means of which they could be corrected. However, Augustine depicts as a guiding institution of the Roman Empire which must make use of its institutions of violence such as slavery.

  • Pilgrim Alterity and 'Forma Servi' Christology: Assessing Augustine’s Slave Christology in relation to the Pereginatio Motif

    Abstract

    In Conf. 7.9, Augustine describes how Platonism gave him the ‘forma dei’ but not the ‘forma servi’, or ‘the form of the slave’. Recent commentators such as Matthew Ella (2020) have explored the way in which the ‘form-of-a-slave’ rule from Phil 2:5–11 deeply shaped Augustine’s Christology. This paper will explore  the connection between the pilgrimage motif and Augustine's use of the forma servi or slave imagery in order to undo or problematise any ultimate affirmation of slavery due to its subversive connection to the ideal pilgrim who humbly follows the order of God's love in the form of Jesus Christ.

  • Two Confessions: Scripture and Moral Agency in Augustine’s and Nat Turner’s Confessions

    Abstract

    Almost 1500 years after Augustine’s *Confessions*, Nat Turner, leader of the 1831 Southampton slave rebellion, dictated his own. These two texts represent vastly different forms of confession: a classic spiritual autobiography and an account of the rebellion haunted by the editorial presence of a white lawyer. Yet each confession found language in Scripture that made sense of their world and offered them a role to play in it. While increasing attention has been paid to Augustine’s writing on slavery, attention to how Scriptural narratives shape his sense of moral agency can contribute a further dimension to the discussion. Comparing his sense of Scripturally-narrated agency with that presented in Nat Turner’s *Confessions* highlights their accounts of moral agency and their divergent choices of biblical texts, language, and symbols. This paper will compare these two *Confessions* to discover how Scripture has been used to narrate human moral agency—its possibilities and limitations.

A23-304

Theme: New Methodological and Theoretical Ideas in Baha’i Studies

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

What are the characteristic ways that Baha’is study religion – their own and others? How have Baha’is integrated Baha’i theological perspectives into their work, and how (and to what extent) have academic perspectives informed Baha’i belief, practice and community life? This panel takes up some of those questions, reflecting on key Baha'i ideas and how they shape new approaches to the study of religion. The first panelist examines how Baha'i ways of defining religion (as a system of knowledge and practice) might lead to new ways of studying religious people and communities.  The second panelist examines how bringing together new insights in disability studies and Baha'i studies could generate new ways of thinking about the medical model of disability and how disability relates to Baha'i ideas of religious and scientific progress. The third panelist examines what Baha’is involved in Religious Studies have said about possibilities for developing distinctive Baha’i-inspired perspectives on religious studies methods and theories.

  • Reframing the Religious Studies/Religious Practice Binary in the Academic Study of Religion: Insights from Baha'i Thought and Practice

    Abstract

    The purpose of this paper is to examine religious studies’ constitutive theoretical dichotomy between social scientific study and religious practice from a Baha’i perspective and propose possible paths towards its reframing. Specifically, I argue that the prevailing preoccupation with the boundary between religious studies and practice stems from a contingent conception of religion inherited from the epistemic categories of modern secularism. The questions we ask of an object of study and the approaches we employ to answer them are rooted in what we think that object is. This paper offers an analysis then of the theoretical and methodological implications of a Baha’i conception of religion. In particular, I discuss how the Baha’i concept of religion as a system of knowledge and practice, analogous in some ways with science, invites distinct questions about religious actors and phenomena, as well as distinct methodological approaches to answering them.

  • Medicine in Baha'i Perspectives on Disability

    Abstract

    The governing bodies of the Baha’i Faith have written relatively little about disability. A major exception to this is a 2000 statement “A Bahá’í Perspective of Disability” by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom. The statement is unique in that it implicitly seeks to articulate the potential benefits of the Baha’i vision of civilizational progress for disabled people. Its main points are that Baha’is believe both government and charity are responsible for providing for those unable to work due to disability, and that Baha’is encourage the development of cures for previously incurable conditions. This reveals an essentially medical understanding of the origins and proper response to disability, generally reflecting the medical model of disability. The medical model is by no means unique to Baha’is, but is illustrative of the high regard given to medicine as a source of knowledge by Baha’i authorities and Baha’i writings.

  • “Believing History”: Prospects for Baha’i-Inspired Perspectives in Religious Studies

    Abstract

    During the last century, religious communities in America have engaged in conversations about the tensions and benefits of studying religion from academic perspectives. In this presentation I try to understand better what Baha’is involved in Religious Studies have said about the ways they have tried to integrate Baha’i theological or ethical perspectives into their work. I also will comment on the possibilities for developing distinctive Baha’i-inspired perspectives on religious studies methods and theories.  Though not much work has been done at the intersection of the Baha’i community and the academic study of religion, there are many possibilities for mutually beneficial discussion.

A23-305

Theme: Buddhism in Australia

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

This roundtable presents recent and ongoing research on Buddhism in the land that is now known as Australia. It will consider: historical and contemporary complexities of racial and religious diversity; cultural norms regarding religion and spirituality in Australia; the multicultural governance of diversity in Australia; the impact of Australia’s geographical positioning; and transnational flows of religion and culture in shaping Buddhism in Australia. The presentations examine 1) preliminary findings from the first nationwide study of Buddhism in Australia; 2) the use of digital media by Buddhist youth to negotiate religious belonging, visibility and identity; 3) triangulated flows of religion and culture among Indigenous, White-Australian and Asian immigrants in the Far North of Australia; and 4) the influence of Buddhism on deathcare practices in Australia. In doing so, we identify emerging insights about Buddhism in this overlooked region, and bring these into conversation with scholarship on Buddhism in the West.

A23-306

Theme: Examining nonviolence, exploring positionality, and engaging in contemplation in Buddhist Studies classrooms

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

This roundtable session brings together instructors from a variety of institutions to explore different examples of Buddhist pedagogy in practice. The presentations discuss Buddhist Studies courses that examine instances of Buddhist violence and nonviolence, that explore issues of identity and positionality influencing study abroad instruction, and the results of engaging contemplative practices within a graduate curriculum. The demographic makeup of their students and their institutional contexts differ: they include a private university operated by a Buddhist organization in Thailand, a Catholic research university, a private liberal arts college, and a Buddhist graduate school.

  • Teaching Compassionate Listening in a Religious Conflict Course at a Buddhism-affiliated University in Taiwan

    Abstract

    Buddhists have been particularly successful in portraying the Buddhist Dharma as a nonviolent religion. As a result, some high profile scholars attempt to debunk the popular nonviolent image of Buddhism. While scholarship aiming to correct biases in the academic literature is important, in the classroom, scholarship that seeks to identify the violence tendencies of Buddhism, “New Religions,” cults, or other teachings also serves to invoke stereotypes of religion as violent, irrational, or superstitious. This paper presents the teaching methods of a class on Religious Conflict at a comprehensive private university operated by a Buddhist organization in Taiwan. The course curriculum both introduces the scholarship on religious violence in general, and Buddhist violence in particular, but also employs active learning pedagogy in the form of the Compassionate Listening Project curriculum to provide both examples of Buddhist nonviolence and opportunities for preemptive conflict resolution.

  • Peace and War with Thich Nhat Hanh

    Abstract

    The topic of peace and nonviolence lends itself easily to a presentation of basic Buddhist teachings. Thanks to the writings and witness of Thich Nhat Hanh, such a presentation can utilize a combination of stories, poetry, discussion, and theoretical exposition, yielding a rich classroom experience with the potential to transform students’ understanding.

    This paper presents the outline of a lesson with three segments, each of them escalating the level of challenge posed to the students. The first segment tells stories from Nhat Hanh’s own experience during the Indochina War and the Vietnam War. The second segment presents his reflection on the US military response to the September 11 attack of 2001. The final segment concludes with Nhat Hanh’s provocative poem, “Please Call Me by My True Names.”

  • Student Identity, Positionality, and Privilege in the Buddhist Classroom Abroad

    Abstract

    How do student (and instructor) identity and positionality influence how we teach about Buddhism abroad? Likewise, what can this tell us about how we might make Buddhism courses taught in North America more accessible to students, especially at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)? In this paper, I discuss the challenges and successes associated with recruiting and then guiding a group of historically under-resourced college students on a four-week Study Abroad intensive course in Ladakh, India. From initial recruitment to final project presentations, there are pedagogical, cultural, and religious aspects that must be considered (and reconsidered) when teaching Buddhism in a classroom of students who are BIPOC, come from low-income homes, and are the first in their families to attend college. While this paper focuses on the Study Abroad context – that is, experiential learning where students are invited to engage with the tradition _in situ_, and intensively over a short period of time – my experience working with this cohort abroad also has implications for how we approach teaching Buddhism in the North American classroom.

  • Still Gazing: The Evolution of Contemplative Pedagogy in Teaching Buddhism (A Follow Up to 2019's "Now I Can See the Moon")

    Abstract

    In 2019 this author demonstrated a model of Buddhist pedagogy that dovetailed with the mainstream academic movement contemplative pedagogy, offering promise in expanding American educational pedagogies with ideas of new epistemologies, dynamics, and languaging around why, how, and whom we educate. In 2019, this author proposed a young Buddhist graduate school, Maitripa College, as a nexus of investigation for such application, and the teaching of Buddhist Studies in its traditional and applied forms as a basis of understanding whether and how such pedagogy is effective. Four years later, this paper will summarize a critical analysis of this application thus far: through student evaluations of Maitripa College students, interviews with key college founders and friends from both inside and outside of traditional academia, and artifacts of student work, this paper will ask, and answer, the question: is contemplative pedagogy an effective medium through which to teach Buddhism in higher education?

A23-307

Theme: Afro-Atlantic Catholics: America's First Black Christians by Jeroen Dewulf

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

A set of esteemed critics engage the award-winning Afro-Atlantic Catholics: America's First Black Christians (Notre Dame 2022), by Jeroen Dewulf (Berkeley: Dept. of German, the Folklore Program, and the Center for Portuguese Studies). This book's bold and consequential argument explores the pre-tridentine Luso-African Catholic origins of a variety of Black Christian forms in the United States and beyond. Dewulf will be on hand to respond and then conversation will open to the audience. 

A23-308

Theme: Exchanges and Hybridities in Chinese Christianities: Diaspora, Transnationalism, and Interreligious Dialogue

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

In this session, the Chinese Christianities Unit features papers that explore exchanges and hybridities in Chinese Christianities. The papers in this session each explore the way that various Chinese Christian organizations, institutions, urban sites, political leaders, and writers have articulated their sense of 'Chinese Christianities' through the processes of dialogue and migration. In this way, they each also describe Chinese Christianities as a hybrid term that goes beyond a sense of blending 'Chinesenesss' with 'Christianities' toward other possible exchanges that have gone into the making of the term. Our paper topics include the transnationalism of the Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelization, hybridity in a Jakarta Chinatown, the Christian roots of Kao Chun-ming's practices of democratization in Taiwan, and the Buddhist Master Taixu's engagements with Christianity.

  • Transnational Religious Exchange of Chinese Protestant Christians and Its Socio-Cultural Impacts: The Case of The Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism, 1974-2021

    Abstract

    The present research aims at investigating the characteristics of transnational exchanges of Chinese Christians and their socio-cultural impacts through the history of The Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism (CCCOWE). CCCOWE is arguably the first transnational and interdenominational Chinese indigenized Protestant Christian organization. It has 75 district committees all over the world and is the most developed transnational Chinese Protestant Christian network. CCCOWE makes impacts on cultural-religious life of overseas Chinese Christian communities. CCCOWE as a religious movement alleviates theological and ancestral local divisions of overseas Chinese Christian communities. It also initiates Christian social participation in moral and environmental issues that many Chinese churches would like to avoid. With its activities and ministries, it becomes another religious power centre that exerts influence other than the traditional denominations and local church councils. The ministries of CCCOWE articulates and contributes additional complexity to the concept of Chinese identity.

  • Chinatown as a Hybridized Socio-Religious Space for Chinese-Christian Diaspora: An Indonesian Case

    Abstract

    As Chineseness keeps evolving beyond geographical boundaries, the face of Chinese Christianity has become more hybridized and ambivalent as it keeps being renegotiated in its socio-cultural context. Thus, there lies the need to understand the Chinese Christian diaspora experience that goes beyond resinicization or assimilation. In this paper, I propose looking at Chinatown as a socio-religious space that encapsulates this hybrid experience. Chinatown has become the space that symbolizes marginalization and exclusion as well as survival and resistance. After conceptually exploring the making of Chinatown, I will make a study case from Glodok Chinatown located in Jakarta, Indonesia. I identify three meanings that Glodok Chinatown signifies: migration, remembrance, and embrace. I then conclude by drawing theological implications from the Chinese-Indonesian Christian perspective, focusing on the ecclesiological identity as migrant, the church as the site of remembrance, and the call to embrace others.

  • Taiwanese Christian identity and political activism during the democratization of Taiwan after the 1970s – A case study of Rev. Dr. Kao Chun-Ming

    Abstract

    Rev. Dr. Kao Chun-Ming (1929-2019) served as the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) from 1970 to 1989 and actively participated in the democratization of Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC), from the 1970s to 1990s. This paper aims to analyze two aspects of Kao’s public identity, Taiwanese and Christian, through Kao’s The Prison Letters and his two memoirs. This paper argues that Kao chose to emphasize the Christian aspect of his identity during the authoritarian regime and underscore the Taiwanese aspect in the democratic period, although the two aspects of his public identity existed concurrently throughout his lifetime. This deliberate choice of highlighting different aspects of his public identity reflects his strategical political activism when he faced different political regimes and serves as a mirror to reflect the democratic transformation of Taiwan from the 1970s to the 2000s.

  • Chinese Christianities through the Eyes of Master Taixu, a Corpus Analysis

    Abstract

    Responding to the call to focus on boundary crossings, the present paper aims to analyze how Chinese Christianities crossed over into the discussions of Buddhist Master Taixu, and how the topics he discussed, words he used, and persons he met can inform our understanding of contemporaneous Chinese Christianities. It introduces a novel method into the field by utilizing corpus analysis to conduct inquiries in the entirety of Taixu’s voluminous Classical Chinese language Collected Works. The research is conducted jointly with data scientist Ádám Radványi PhD, and the questions asked include the following. What were the main topics Taixu discussed concerning Christianity? What names did he use to refer to the religion? Who were his main dialogue partners from the Christian side? Did he differentiate between various branches of the religion? Answering these questions, the paper aims to uncover new aspects of Taixu’s views and trends within Chinese Christianities.

A23-309

Theme: Intersections of Ecology, Activism, and Social Transformation: Alternative Paradigms and Movements

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

This panel offers alternative ecological paradigms and social movements that intersect with environmental activism across cultural and religious landscapes. The first paper introduces the concept of maroon ecologies, highlighting their resistance against property-driven conceptions of freedom and relevance for alternative socialities in neoliberal capitalism. The second paper examines the interplay between labor, faith, and land reform in El Salvador, emphasizing the role of liberative Christian visions to foster solidarity and cooperative engagement with the environment. The third paper focuses on Kallen Pokkudan, the 'mangrove man' of Kerala, analyzing his ecological activism through new materialist theory and addressing the challenges faced by the Dalit Pulaya community. The editors of "Liberating People, Planet, and Religion '' connect the discussion to Christianity's ability to challenge exploitative capitalism and promote ecological and economic justice for the flourishing of all beings. Together, these papers offer critical insights into environmental activism, faith-based solidarity, Dalit identity, and religion’s potential for social transformation.

  • "I ran from it and was still in it": Maroon Ecology in a Neoliberal World

    Abstract

    This paper examines the burgeoning field of maroon ecologies: environmental thinking about and with those people who escaped from slavery and built alternative societies apart from the plantation regime. Rather than representing yet another back-to-the-land approach to ecology, marronage is a useful paradigm for resisting conceptions of freedom grounded in property. This paper first considers how Lockean understandings of the relationship between property and labor result in a conception of freedom as self-ownership—which also transform humanity’s relationship to the other-than-human world. The second section then considers how marronage’s relationship to land—especially the provision grounds and wild landscapes—interact to form an alternative sociality to that imposed by capitalism’s property regime. Finally, the paper considers the challenge of thinking marronage in the context of neoliberalism. How can maroon ecology—an imaginary shaped by the act of escape—help us in a moment in which neoliberal capitalism seems virtually omnipresent?

  • Christ in the Plantationocene: Land, Labor, and People’s Movements in El Salvador

    Abstract

    This paper explores the intersection of labor and the environment in the geography of the plantation and cooperative efforts that have sought to resist and transform it. Specifically, it considers the constructive role that liberative visions of Christ have played in people’s movements for land reform in El Salvador, especially in the late 20th century. These efforts are rooted in forms of solidarity between workers, faith communities, and the land. Further, I propose that the witness of these traditions can serve to cultivate deep solidarity with professional class communities in North America, as it provides systemic understanding of issues of migration and farm labor, and articulates alternative constructive visions of cooperatively working and dwelling with the land.

  • Emplaced Subjectivity and Arboreal Activism: A Study of Kallen Pokkudan's Oiko-Autobiography

    Abstract

    This proposal aims to explore the intersection of environmental activism, Dalit identity, and ecological philosophy through an analysis of Kallen Pokkudan's autobiography, "Kandalkaadukalkidayil Ente Jeevitham." Pokkudan, renowned as the 'mangrove man' of Kerala, offers a unique perspective on the reestablishment of mangrove forests and the challenges faced by the Dalit Pulaya community in Kerala's Kannur district. Through his narrative, Pokkudan not only recounts his life story but also reflects on the historical dehumanization of Dalits within India's caste system and the potential for societal transformation.

    This study will employ new materialist theory, particularly object-oriented ontology (O-O-O), to analyze Pokkudan's ecological activism as a form of "arboreal activism" and "dark ecology." By emphasizing emplaced subjectivity and distributed agency, Pokkudan challenges caste-based discrimination and anthropocentric supremacies, advocating for a relational way of being rooted in deep solidarity and egalitarianism.

    Keywords: Kallen Pokkudan, Dalit identity, mangrove forests, ecological activism, object-oriented ontology, casteism


           
  • Liberating People, Planet, and Religion: Intersections of Ecology, Economics, and Christianity

    Abstract

    Too often, religious engagements with economy and ecology have placed emphasis on individual morality, action, and agency at the level of consumption patterns or have suggested mere modifications within existing economic paradigms. Contributors to a new volume — Liberating People, Planet, and Religion: Intersections of Ecology, Economics, and Christianity, which will be published in July 2024 (Roman and Littlefield) — call into question the adequacy of this approach in light of the urgency of climate change which is always ever entwined with ongoing patterns of exploitation, oppression, and colonialism in current economic systems. The basic intuition driving this volume is that while Christianity has by and large become the handmaiden of exploitative capitalism and empire, it might also reclaim latent theologies and religious practices that call into question the fundamental valuation of labor without recognition or rest, of extractive exploitation, and a “winner take all” praxis. The volume's editors, Joerg Rieger and Terra Schwerin Rowe, will discuss the conceptual framework of the volume and some of the key insights it gathers.

A23-310

Theme: Hearing Sacred Screams: Documenting and Resisting Religious Violence towards Sexual and Gendered Minorities

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

This panel features papers that interrogate the place of gender and sexuality at the margins of political violence. In particular, its speakers address the (dis)location of genders and sexualities within traditional cultural, geographic, and religious narratives. The scholars participating in this panel ask questions like: How are different expressions of gender and sexuality rendered peripheral to advocacy for, and resistance to, "religious violence"? How do patriarchal religious traditions influence actors or movements who commit / support / oppose violence? How are gender and sexuality leveraged as subjects of religious concern, and what role do these presumed entanglements play in the advocacy for, and resistance to, violence? Why?

  • Displaced Persons, Sexualized Violence and Agency

    Abstract

    Displaced persons, refugees and migrants frequently endure sexualized violence on their journeys. Nationalist ideologies exploit women's vulnerability to fortify national identity, fuelling debates charged with racism and sexism amid a global rightward shift. Concerns arise over the treatment of LGBTIQ+ individuals fleeing persecution and the recognition of sexualized violence for asylum. Many discussions on flight and migration reveal a lack of understanding of gender-based violence complexities.

    This analysis examines epistemological presuppositions, concepts and theories, Russia's war in Ukraine, flight and migration from Ukraine, sexualized violence in the Hamas-Israel conflict, and offers an outlook on agency and human flourishing in postmigrant societies. Questions of belonging, exclusion, and integration polarize societies. Postmigrant ideologies prompt a re-evaluation of norms, privileges, and migrants' rights. "Post" in post-migrant is not just temporal; it signifies a critical review of migration narratives.

  • Migration, Flight, and Exile – Modes of (Un-)Seeing Epistemic and Sexualized Violence

    Abstract

    In the context of migration, flight, and exile, various forms of epistemic, physical, and psychological violence emerge and are often expressed through images. Particularly, reproduced and circulated representations of (sexualized) violence in the media confront viewers with epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic challenges. This paper aims to examine selected theories at the intersection of Image Studies, Gender Studies, and Religious Studies to critically analyze the notion of the (in)representability of (sexualized) violence in images. Key questions addressed include the epistemic limits of what can be visually (re-)presented, the ethics of seeing, visual standardizations of (sexualized) violence, as well as the structural violence inherent in the ‘Western’, Christian, Eurocentric system of (re-)presentation and orders of images. The primary focus lies on theoretical approaches that facilitate the transcendence of the re-inscription of violence in the image, moving beyond the affective passivity of viewers perceiving media coverage on the themes of migration, flight, and exile.

  • Chögyam Trungpa’s Tantric Sex Cult: Secrecy, Surveillance, and Sexual Misconduct in Nova Scotia’s Esoteric Buddhism

    Abstract

    In 2021, a new resident at Gampo Abbey Buddhist monastery discovered a spy camera in the men’s washroom. The monastery’s head monk recorded 382 videos, 69 of which included “footage of males in various states of dressing and undressing to shower or bathe” according to an agreed upon statement of facts archived in the case fles of Nova Scotia’s Provincial Court. This act of voyeurism resulted in two lawsuits: a criminal case in which the head monk received a sixty-day prison sentence, and an ongoing civil case against the Shambhala Canada Society and Gampo Abbey’s operators. In this paper, I provide context for the ongoing civil case, based on case fles and courtroom audio from the now concluded, criminal case. I demonstrate that the handling of the civil
    lawsuit is set to become another example of the attempted silencing and punishing of survivors of sexual violence in Shambhala Buddhism.

  • Transgressing Gender Boundaries: Motherhood and Transgendered Buddhist Nuns in Northern Thailand.

    Abstract

    This paper seeks to understand the practice of celibacy and femininity of transgendered (m-to-f) nuns in Northern Thailand. It will also examine their monastic role as a mother, nurturing not only sasana, but also disciples, devotees, as well as lay community. Buddhist renunciation provides limited space for non-male gendered persons. Those who are male transgendered to female (m-to-f), if they are interested to renounce the world, they must conform to the conventional binaries of either male or female monastic rules. Often these rules are not compatible with their trans-embodied identities. Such transgendered Buddhist renouncers are perceived negatively and face different forms of social refusal, including violence. Consequently, those trans-renouncers must find and establish an alternative context of practice and monastic rules (Vinaya) which are suitable to their gendered identity. Therefore, this paper, as an ethnographic study, highlights the lived dilemma of the individual renunciant and the monastic rules pertaining among a particular group of transgendered nuns in Northern Thailand. It argues that motherhood, although is seen as incompatible with renunciation, is a key element in an alternative third-way monasticism and in the construction of a meaningful alternative monastic renunciant lifestyle.

A23-311

Theme: Theologies of Catastrophe and Crisis

Saturday, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

As the “Constructive Muslim Thought and Engaged Scholarship” seminar enters its fourth year, we continue to share the diverse nature of our collective scholarship in this capacious and developing field. For this session, the participants have been invited to join a roundtable conversation about the task of doing ethics, theology, and critical scholarship in the midst of ongoing catastrophe. What does it mean to do constructive work in moments of crisis? How are their respective projects envisioned? What work do they see their scholarship doing and with whom are they engaged? How is this work done in light of continually unfolding current events? All seminar attendees are encouraged to join the conversation after the invited participants have shared their opening remarks.