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Online Program Book

In-person sessions begin with an A-prefix (i.e., A20-102), whereas Virtual sessions begin with an AV-prefix (i.e., AV20-102)
All Times are Listed in Central Standard Time (CST)

A20-115

Theme: Reconsidering Christ, Sin, and Atonement

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

Convention Center-302C

Schleiermacher’s theology turns on the central relation to Christ as redeemer, yet he also maintains that understandings of Christ and atonement must continue to develop in light of new questions and challenges. Together with the 2021 AAR Annual Meeting theme of religion, poverty, and inequality, this session features proposals that consider fresh approaches to christology, atonement theory, and sin and redemption, with especial emphasis on systemic poverty, racial and gender inequality, and classism.

  • Abstract

    Martin Luther King Jr. was a systematic theologian, and this aspect of his thought is highlighted when he is put into conversation with other systematic theologians. One such theologian is Friedrich Schleiermacher. More specifically, I argue that Schleiermacher can productively be put into conversation with King in order to better understand King’s theology regarding white supremacy and the Beloved Community. Schleiermacher’s conception of sin and redemption illuminate King’s argument that white supremacy represents social sin that warps the communal mind and his proposed remedy for white supremacy, namely the Beloved Community. I argue that Schleiermacher’s understanding of sin and redemption are fundamentally communal, making his account of sin especially useful when addressing white supremacy and its connection to the Beloved Community. Schleiermacher’s understanding of grace as fundamentally communicating the incarnation of Christ via the church elucidates the redemptive work King sees happening in the Beloved Community, as does Schleiermacher’s insistence that sin can only effectively be addressed at a communal level.

  • Abstract

    This paper places European and American retrievals of the category of the demonic in the 20th-century, with the soteriology, spirituality, and ethics of Latinx liberation theology—particularly the theology of Jon Sobrino. The demonic became a surprising feature of conversation in several theological circles during the 20th century. Coinciding with retrievals of “Christus Victor” approaches to the atonement, a modern Protestant retrieval of the category of the demonic (associated with Paul Tillich, Walter Wink, Delores Williams, and others) purports to offer a theo-political symbolization that relates to the systemic and corporate dimensions of sin. The paper ultimately argues that Sobrino’s ethics and spirituality, as worked out in Political Holiness, has resources that make possible a responsible and effective political praxis that is rooted in a language of spiritual warfare. The paper makes the argument that the category of the demonic (as it has developed in modern Protestant theology as a locus of political action) is largely consistent with, and is improved upon, by Jon Sobrino's notion of political holiness.

  • Abstract

    Friedrich Schleiermacher expressed an atonement theology based on his unique approach to religion, and this paper brings together important themes associated with his atonement doctrine. As part of his reformulation, Schleiermacher reinterpreted the standard themes of his period within the contexts of modernity and the Age of Enlightenment. In particular, his perspective on redemption was shaped by his understanding of German Idealism. He agreed with Immanuel Kant’s assertion that redemption could not be accomplished via a mode based on satisfaction and concurred with J. G. Fichte’s emphasis on the incarnation. His atonement doctrine was associated with his innovative approach to dogmatics, and his positioning of Christ’s redemptive work with incarnation reveals a continuity with the atonement model offered by Irenaeus. There is growing potential for applying Schleiermacher’s ideas on redemption through Christ to current issues of poverty and ecology, one that considers Christology and the incarnation.

  • Abstract

    One of the grounding insights of liberation theology concerns the supra-personal dimension of sin. Indeed, given the manifestly social evils that haunt and disfigure our world, the inadequacy of merely individualistic conceptions of sin could hardly be more apparent. But for all its descriptive power, the view that sin can become embedded in material conditions and social structures also raises questions. Does talk of structural sin imply that impersonal social arrangements are somehow agents, or are they rather environmental features that constrain and enable individuals? If the latter, then are we really dealing with a social conception of sin after all? This paper attempts to clarify the concept of structural sin by reflecting on how social structures affect the inner lives of agents, and in particular, the affective dynamics that frame and orient practical deliberation. Drawing on Schleiermachers notion of the "collective power of the flesh" and recent work on implicit racial bias, it develops a constructive account of structural sin as a supra-personal power that influences and coordinates, but never determines, their conduct in ways that perpetuate social evils like racism.

  • Abstract

    I look at the father of modern liberal theology, Friedrich Schleiermacher, to ask about the use of canonical figures in doing what might be considered emancipatory theological work today – including liberationist, womanist, feminist, or queer. I ask after the perils and possibilities of Schleiermacher’s theology for this kind of theological work. I will first provide a framework to understand how Schleiermacher’s theology has been used in contemporary constructive work. This framework will then serve as the foundation for considering one potential way to use Schleiermacher’s work in feminist theology – through what I will call an agonistic relationship. Agonism within feminist politics recognizes contest and struggle within communities of solidarity. As a way to do theology, I understand agonism to allow the feminist theologian to disagree with and even reject certain aspects of a theological system, while taking or reframing those parts of the system which might be necessary or useful to one’s constructive work. I end by applying this kind of agonistic move to Schleiermacher’s understanding of suffering and redemption.

AV20-116

Theme: Middle Eastern Christianity and the Shaping of Communal Identity

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

This panel examines various ways Middle Eastern Christians have shaped and defined communal identity over the long history of Christianity in the region in relationship to other Christian communities, through partnerships across religious lines, and by marking boundaries vis--vis Muslim society

  • Abstract

    Migration and permanent resettlement has shaped the Middle East for centuries and given the region its linguistically and religiously plural character. In response, a socio-legal tradition of local cosmopolitanism has developed, based on the millet system that characterized interreligious relations in the Ottoman Empire and remains embedded in the legal and social traditions of the region to this day. In the country of Jordan, the ethnic, economic, and religious effects of regular migration influxes have been particularly important in forming the nation’s social fabric, both politically and religiously. Since 2012, however, refugees from Syria and Iraq who have migrated to Jordan have met increased resistance to their long-term settlement. Using the framework for local cosmopolitanism elaborated by Dawn Chatty, I demonstrate the ways that a Latin Catholic Arab congregation reasserts pluralism in their welcome to Iraqi refugees against the decline of local cosmopolitanism in Jordanian society since 2012. This paper presents the results of interviews and participant observation research conducted in 2018 and 2019 in Amman, Jordan, to that effect.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines matrimonial law as expressed in the three canon collections of the medieval Coptic Orthodox church - the indigenous Christian church of Egypt - known as nomocanons. I argue that the increased attention these nomocanons accorded to civil canons in general, and marriage-related canons in particular, portray an increasing anxiety about assimilation in the surrounding Muslim society. The matrimonial laws in these nomocanons thus represent a form of communal identity reclamation and boundary marking negotiated through language and legislation. This study thus examines the three Arabic nomocanons of the medieval Coptic community at a point of adaptation, reclamation, and reformulation.

A20-117

Theme: Monsters Transgressing and Defending Religious Order

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

Convention Center-305

This panel of five papers on topics as varied as 20th-century Arab travel writers, 16th-century monstrous birth literature, and contemporary horror media will look at the role of monsters as both transgressors and defenders of the systems of cosmic order created by religious writers and thinkers.

  • Abstract

    This paper surveys three mid-tweneth century travel writers, Jadhibiyya Sidqi, Shafiq Jabri, and Sayyid Qutb, to assess their creaon of, and encounters with, the American 'monster.' This study will examine the traumazed, (post)colonized subject's affecve bale with a centralized, authoritave abominaon that threatens not only its human prey, but civilizaon itself. argue that this monstrous embodiment of western interests can be used to query current trends in monster theory that focus primarily on scapegoang, repression, abjecon, and mimesis, which are craed from a privileged center, rather than the margins. My thesis moves discussions of monstrosity away from an abject 'other' that is pushed to the borders, to a boundless, ubiquitous horror that seizes bodies through their senses and appetes to deconstruct, discipline and subjugate the emoons, values, and sensibilies that form one's identy. In the examples under review, the American monster became an aberrant Gog and Magog (yajuj and majuj), that is, a hosle, corrupt force that is capable of destroying all that is human.

  • Abstract

    The inheritance of the classical monstrous races in Chrisan theology raised quesons of divine order and human nature. For Augusne and Isidore of Seville, theological commitments to creaon and divine omnipotence entailed that monsters, if they existed, existed within divine order. But such commitments magnified the elusiveness of divine order itself, raising quesons of anthropology and soteriology, of whether material forms constuted and disnguished humanity and animality, and, importantly, of the legibility of theological history. Aempted retrenchments of later medieval writers offered ancestral logics, proposing possible progenitors in Ham and Cain and relaying monsters into a broader medieval topos of racism and xenophobia. Yet these re-inscripons of boundaries never fully established the stability they sought. I address this history through the legends of St. Christopher the dog-head, arguing that the congruence of his monstrosity and sainthood illuminate, on the one hand, the unresolved quesons of monstrosity and, on the other, a certain convergence in ineffability and inexplicability of divine presence and monstrosity itself.

  • Abstract

    In the 2013-14 BBC Three television series, In the Flesh, zombies have come to life during an event called “The Rising,” subsequently been cured (or, at least, treated) by the Brish government, and then encouraged to re-assimilate into human society. This process of re-assimilaon involves the maintenance of a false, human, appearance through the applicaon of skin-brightening make-up to disguise their deathly pallor, and eye contacts that cover the zombified transformaon of their irises post-infecon. Throughout the series, writer and creator Dominic Mitchell expressly draws connecons between his zombie characters and marginalized populaons in our own world. Rather than figuring these monster characters as opponents of religion (broadly construed), however, or as expressions of theodicy only, Mitchell examines eschatological belief through the lens of the monsters. That is, Mitchell creates a zombie mythology in which the monsters are the recipients of divine favour, and predict their own "Second Rising" that will usher in a golden age of the zombie. The monster in this case, is the author of prophecy.

  • Abstract

    This paper retrieves ephemeral sources about 'monstrous births' in early modern England as primary texts for theological inquiry. The proliferaon of 'monstrous birth' stories early in the turmoil of the English Reformaon reflects a belief that the human body is a vehicle divine communicaon. These sources interrogate the non-normave body as text and interpret it for readers hungry for deeper understanding of turbulence and misfortune. The bodies of these 'monsters' were canvases onto which authors painted their social and theological angst. In historical theology, works of genius by well-educated men have been studied most oen. These offer an incomplete story, not trying to preserve informaon about the interests of the masses. As a precursor to modern journalism, pamphlets and broadsides reveal addional complexity in the religious imaginaon of the me. Using disability and monster theories, I examine several sources as case studies in which monstrosity reveals, transgresses, or upholds theological and social boundaries in reformaon England.

  • Abstract

    H.P. Lovecraft once wrote, “Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.” For Lovecraft, humanity’s place in the cosmos is of little importance. This theme plays out in his stories as characters are driven to insanity, as they observe a reality not consistent with their own. How can humans conceive of a cosmos where they are not central? Theologians and biblical scholars alike have interpreted Job 38-42 as YHWH’s discourse on theodicy, defending the divine against human questioning. YHWH describes the structure of the cosmos, from the foundations of the sea to the monster, Leviathan, continuously questioning Job’s audacity. Missing from YHWH’s speech is any specific mention of humanity. YHWH describes creation as if humanity is not the central focal point. Job responds in the spirit of a Lovecraftian protagonist. “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me.” (Job 42:3). Job has listened to a description of a cosmos devoid of humanity, a horror reality.

A20-118

Theme: Pentecostals and the Pandemic

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

Grand Hyatt-Travis CD

This panel of papers explores the ways in which Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements have dealt with the Covid-19 Pandemic.

  • Abstract

    The conflicts over restrictions on health orders that resulted from COVID-19 have resulted in the Church is Essential movement. Central to the news stories of this resistance have been two figures, Baton Rouge area pastor Tony Spell, and San Diego area pastor Art Hodges, III. Similar on the surface, both pastor non-trinitarian Pentecostal churches which challenge the heterodox notions of the godhead, and both pastor multi-ethnic congregations. However, their approaches to this level of resistance, the allies made in the process, and their likely future directions seem to point to burgeoning differences in the Oneness Pentecostal movement as well as toward the development of new political alliances.

  • Abstract

    Charismatic churches are built for liquidity. Donations first pay for operating expenses—including ministerial salaries—but excess funds are immediately spent on new works. While short-term finances have been part of denominational decision-making since early Pentecostals weathered the Great Depression, they have become overriding determinants for churches developed through new prosperity practices. COVID-19 has drawn the political consequences of these evangelical economics in stark relief: public health is a secular concern. This paper compares the charismatic discourses and government actions surrounding attempts to continue church services during the pandemic in the United States and Brazil. It argues that a transnational evangelical and alt-right political assemblage has, through its facility with new media forms, transmuted the legal apparatus of religious freedom into an evangelical biopolitics. From this position, it poses the question: what is the future of democratic governance in the twilight of secular biopolitics?

  • Abstract

    Although the World is experiencing frightening times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, religion still plays a significant role in helping people to cope. African Mega-Churches seem to have found a way of ameliorating these fears and anxieties. By claiming a sense of the sacred, African mega-churches employ certain spiritual methodologies in order to help people cope with increased levels of uncertainty. This paper explores how these Mega-Churches utilize religious and spiritual transmutations in order to provide meaning in everyday life, and bring hope to a people living in truculent times. In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mega-Churches underwent three stages of resistance, acceptance and adaptation. This paper points out that the Mega-Churches thrive within the urban context in Africa as urban populations are more prone to higher rates of desperation, fear, anxiety and depression due to the challenging contexts experienced. Using examples from Kenya, this paper analyzes these spiritual transmutations and how Mega-Churches use them to offer solutions and hope amidst anxieties occasioned by pandemics and calamities.

  • Abstract

    At the height of the first Southern California COVID-19 surge, a collection of loosely affiliated churches and outreach organizations made headlines by holding a series of crowded revival meetings in Orange County. The revival, named Saturate OC, drew thousands of worshippers throughout the early summer. Eventually taking on a distinctly political character, Saturate OC used the COVID-19 pandemic to condemn perceived government intrusion on religious liberties. Local animosity against the wearing of masks was skillfully leveraged by organizers who likened mask wearing to the “veiled glory of the old covenant” and the “greater glory of the new” from 2 Corinthians chapter three.This paper examines the relationship between pandemic-driven backlash, nostalgia for an imagined Orange County, and the belief that OC is in desperate need of revival. The activation of the powerful political symbolism of the mask, in the heart of California conservative activism, must be looked at as a reclamation of cultural space that has come under threat from the pandemic related policies of the State of California.

AV20-119

Theme: Beyond Man: Race, Coloniality, and Philosophy of Religion (Duke University Press, 2021)

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

This roundtable discusses the problem of race and coloniality in philosophy of religion, taking as a starting point for conversation the recently published volume, Beyond Man: Race, Coloniality, and Philosophy of Religion (Duke University Press, 2021). Beyond Man reimagines the meaning and potential of a philosophy of religion that better attends to the inextricable links among religion, racism, and colonialism. The contributors reckon with the implications of the field's colonialist Christian history by staging a conversation with Black, Indigenous, and decolonial studies. In presenting these discourses as already participating in philosophy of religion, they bring issues of context, history, and power to the fore. Panelists will reflect on this volume’s methodological contributions and unresolved questions. We will collectively ask What comes next? for pursuing the lines of thought undertaken in Beyond Man. With what other discourses ought this work to be in sustained conversation, and what strands of this work are most urgent for our own subjective and collective contexts?

AV20-120

Theme: The Life of the Qur'an

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

This panel includes presentations that explore the use, translation, publishing, and interpretation of the Qur'an from diverse perspectives.

  • Abstract

    This essay traces the social life of verse 5:32 of the Qur’an in order to understand the meaning that has been attributed to it in the contemporary context and to acknowledge some of the faultlines that exist in the public discourse on Islam. The citation of this verse is significant as it represents a collective response by Muslims to publicly defend Islam amid a political climate that saw a rise in anti-Muslim racism. It has also been the subject of internal debate and attempts to render a singular, true, normative Islam. Moreover, 5:32 was not only dispatched by Muslims to counter negative portrayals of Islam, but it was also repeated by non-Muslims to affirm the centrality of peace and non-violence in Islam. Yet, a close reading of the social life of 5:32 suggests that there is more to its citation than a liberal apologetic. Through readings of Muslim-run and non-denominational discussion forums, Christian polemics, and exchanges between Muslims on Twitter who claim to speak authoritatively on Islam, this paper argues that reading 5:32 demonstrates a clear sense of what is at stake in contemporary public debates on Islam: the desire to find or represent a single true Islam.

  • Abstract

    In Q. 2:185 it is clearly stated that ‘God desires ease for you, not hardship’. Exegetes and jurists saw evidence of God’s ease in the concessions (rukha, pl. rukha) given in the Qur’an relating to the relaxing of the performance of certain rituals. However, concessions are also given in relation to the payment of lower penalties or fines. These concessions grant individuals permission to omit, postpone or replace certain ritual actions and penalties, with ones that are easier to fulfil. Using the tafsīr of the Shīʿī exegete Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067), this paper will explore the idea of God granting ‘ease’ and concessions. This paper seeks to understand the broader theology of God granting ‘ease’ and concessions in these very different areas of law. Bringing together research on disability in Islam, with research on poverty in Islam, this paper will argue that both of these areas of law demonstrate a Qurʾānic theology of care, mercy and justice. Using al-Ṭūsī’s exegesis as a guide, this paper will seek to answer these questions and hope to deepen our understanding of the theological meaning of God granting ‘ease’ to humanity.

  • Abstract

    Scholarly discourse on the Persianate tends to focus on the influence of Persian in Iran and further East and often occludes the way in which the Persian language is inflected and present in the Arabic cosmopolis further west (Ricci 2011; Musawi 2015). Similarly, the formation of the ‘Islamic classics’ and scholarly genres including exegesis tend to ignore the role of Persian works (and of texts produced in a Persianate context) (contra el-Shamsy 2020). Through a case study of Qurʾanic exegesis in Persian and their reception to the west of Iran, we demonstrate how Persian is inscribed into the Arabic cosmopolis such that the development of post-classical exegesis ought to place these works alongside the major Arabic classics of al-Ṭabarī, al-Thaʿlabī and al-Wāḥidī (Saleh 2004 and 2006); in effect, we contend that the study of Qurʾanic exegesis cannot ignore the study of Persian exegesis. Through examining rare manuscripts, we will show how scholars read, copied and promoted Persian tafsīr in Arabophone contexts.

  • Abstract

    The question I ask is: what can these discussions on the variant reading of Qur’an 4:24 by pre-modern and modern scholars tell us today about the conceptualization of epistemological certainty and transmission issues. I argue that the pre-modern deliberate and intentional discussion of the variant reading speaks to both their self-confidence about the intellectual space they inhibit, and, more importantly, their lack of self-consciousness about the dangers of a text not codified which is in direct contrast to the unconditional significance that later Muslims endowed codification with.

  • Abstract

    Efforts by Muslim scholars to compare the verses of the Qurʾān with new scientific discoveries led to the establishment of a new method of interpretation of the Qurʾān known as “scientific interpretation.” Various definitions of scientific interpretation of the Qurʾān and different perspectives on applying this interpretational method have been proposed by Muslim scholars, but most of them are flawed one way or another. More importantly, many previous scientific interpretations of the Qurʾān not only disregard specific boundaries, limitations, requirements, and conditions but also impose the unsteady findings of empirical science on the Qurʾān.

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    p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify; text-indent: .5in; line-height: 200%">This paper reviews the definitions offered by scholars for scientific interpretation of the Qurʾān in detail and analyzes their weaknesses and strengths. Applying a historical-diachronic method, it also analyzes the arguments offered by both the opponents and advocates of scientific interpretation of the Qurʾān then makes a critique of different approaches to this interpretational method. Furthermore, it discusses the required conditions for correctly applying this interpretational method of the Qurʾān.

  • Abstract

    Scholarship on the Quran and early Islam are almost silent on Muhammad’s career as a merchant. Traditional scholarship references just a small handful of trips the Prophet is alleged to have taken; Historical-critical scholarship does not fair much better, save the intriguing suggestion by Patricia Crone and others that the Prophet appears to have been to sea. If we can use the Qur’an as a biographical source on Muhammad, the text does seem to have a surprising number of often colorful discussions of the sea, ships, sailing, navigation, and mercantile work. This paper discusses the possibility of the Prophet as a merchant at sea based on Qur’anic evidence, concluding with a hypothetical trip that he may have taken to the Gulf of Aden (or beyond?) in the early Meccan period.

A20-121

Theme: Playing Cowboys and Indians: Rewriting the Mythology of the West

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

Convention Center-304A

Recognizing the Texas setting of the 2021 Annual Meeting, this panel asks how the Western genre (as expressed in films, TV, sports, and festivals) serves to naturalize and celebrate the white settlement of the Western states/provinces. We begin with an ethnography of the Calgary Stampede that shows how costuming as a cowboy facilitates an embrace of western values and how these values articulate a good life entangled with the extraction of oil and settler colonial Christian ideas of land use. Next, a netnography of three TV series, drawing from fan studies and cultural analysis, shows how the image of the contemporary cowboy as embattled conservationist has contributed to the real-world consequences of the Western land rush. Third, a consideration of Chloe Zhao’s revisionist Western movies uses film and myth theory to show how Zhao deconstructs and re-enchants mythic visions of the American West. Finally, an analysis of Western iconography in sports including pioneers, cowboys, mustangs, broncos but particularly Native American sports mascots connects sports iconography to western expansion and expresses colonial discourses on civilization and savagery.

  • Abstract

    Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao crafts beautifully elegiac cinematic parables which reshape modern understandings of the American mythos. Zhao has made three feature-length films set in the vast landscapes of the North American continent, each of which blends fictional and formalist storytelling with non-fiction documentary realism. In this paper, I analyze the aesthetics of two of Zhao's neo-western films—The Rider (2017) and the award-winning Nomadland (2020)—by drawing upon the religiously-laden views of French film theorist André Bazin as well as John Dominic Crossan’s conceptions of "myth" and "parable" in order to demonstrate how Zhao’s cinema simultaneously deconstructs and re-enchants mythic visions of the American West. Through their distinctive audio-visual aesthetics fusing social realism with mythopoetic expressionism, Zhao's films disrupt the myth of the frontier by way of one of America’s most formative modern means of mythmaking: the western film genre. Through the cinematic apparatus, The Rider and Nomadland somehow render visible the invisible, making us more cognizant of both destructive American ideologies and transcendent realities.

  • Abstract

    This multimedia presentation complicates contemporary portrayals of the conservationist cowboy in mediated popular culture, zooming in on the Netflix series Longmire, in conversation with Paramount’s Yellowstone and INSP’s reality series The Cowboy Way. Utilizing netnographic methodology and drawing from fan studies, visual, and narrative cultural analysis, this presentation argues that romanticized representations of “the West” as safety valve and sanctum, combined with the rebranding of the contemporary cowboy as embattled “conservationist,” has contributed to the real-world consequences of the Western “land rush” during the Covid pandemic and, subsequently, to the concomitant stresses placed upon indigenous populations and sensitive wildlife.

  • Abstract

    For ten days every July, the Calgary Stampede exhibition and rodeo transforms the city of Calgary into a “wild west inspired playground,” halting regular municipal activities, turning citizens and visitors into cowboys, and earning the city its nickname: Cowtown. The Stampede is also an essential occasion if you work in the city’s oil industry, a time when you are encouraged to network and host clients at Stampede events while dressed as a cowboy. Through analysis of three elements of the Stampede --the Stampede Parade, community pancake breakfasts, and the Stampede fairgrounds themselves--this paper investigates how costuming as a cowboy facilitates an embrace of ‘western values.’ And in turn, how these western values articulate a Calgarian good life entangled with the extraction of oil and settler colonial Christian ideas of land use. This paper offers the Stampede as an event with critical insights to offer at the intersection of the study of North American religion, secular formations, and oil culture.

  • Abstract

    The prevalence of Native American team names and iconography is well known in U.S. sports contexts. This paper traces the use of Native American sports mascotting to colonial discourses on civilization and savagery. European settlers in North America perceived Native populations as barbaric and inferior. This was largely due to European understandings of Christian universal superiority. Mascotting relies on the vestiges of this understanding, continuing a narrative of Native American savagery and dehumanization. European colonial affiliations of Christianity with whiteness excluded Native Americans from emerging narratives about American nationhood and identity. Western iconography in sports is not limited to Native Americans, but also include pioneers, cowboys, rangers, blazers, mavericks, mustangs, broncos, and buffalo/bison. The prevalence of these monikers connects sports iconography to western expansion, premised on the ideology of colonial missionary Christianity and its understanding of whiteness. This paper brings religious history to bear on the ongoing debates over Native American depictions in U.S. sports.

A20-122

Theme: Author Meets Critics: Negotiating Religious Identity Within Late Modern Contexts

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

Convention Center-301A

This author-meets-critics panel places in conversation five new monographs offering social scientific analyses of religious communities negotiating their identities within the conditions of late modernity. Nabhan-Warren's work with Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim meatpacking workers in the American Midwest, Guhin’s ethnography of Evangelical and Muslim religious schools in New York City, Morellos work on lived religion in Latin America, Calvillo’s research with Catholic and Evangelical Mexican immigrants, and Ecklund’s research with scientists and members of faith communities each reveal surprising convergences and divergences of strategies, practices, and values as communities grapple with their place within modernity’s Master Narratives. These accounts reveal the limits of public discourse on religion as they challenge popular assumptions, such as the adversarial relationship between science and faith, the incompatible logics of Islam and Evangelicalism, or the common experience of Mexican migrants. Each author will respond to a co-panelist's book, followed by an open discussion among the authors and the audience.

AV20-123

Theme: New Directions in South Asian Religions

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

The languages of bhakti are as plural as the religions of South Asia. From regional-language epics to musical performance, from tech support to domestic shrines, bhakti appears in different guises across traditions, regions, and generations. The papers on this panel represent new directions in the study of South Asian traditions of expressive devotion. Sohini Pillai studies the role of Vaiṣṇava bhakti in both a Hindi and Tamil retelling of the Mahābhārata in premodern South Asia. Manpreet Kaur looks at rehearsal and training in the performance traditions of Sikh and Dadupanthi communities in 17th C. northern India. Andrew Kunze and Aarti Patel take an ethnographic approach to the devotional practices of the Swaminarayan community in the U.S. The former explores the use of technology, and the latter provides insight into domestic religion and household shrines. Professor Amy Allocco will serve as the respondent for the panel.

  • Abstract

    This presentation explores Hindu devotional work (seva) in digital tech as a site of spiritual authority and material instability. Swaminarayan Aksharpith, the publishing house of BAPS (Bochasanwasi Akshar-Purushottam Sanstha), employs a number of tech workers—programmers, engineers, and graphic designers—at their Shahibaug temple-complex in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Within Swaminarayan Aksharpith, one team of workers called the Multimedia Cell (MMC) is composed of both full-time volunteers and salaried employees who are charged by the guru to explore and implement the latest tech for BAPS. This presentation compares the experiences of two MMC workers who aim to please the guru through their techno-scientific experiments. One MMC employee sees the work as a taxing and unsustainiable career, and one lifetime volunteer feels called to inculcate an ascetic relationship with worldly technology. Placing their experiences in conversation with ethnographic studies of other Indian IT workers, the presentation recasts experimental Hinduism as rooted in anxieties about the unknown future of tech and the unending need for theologization of new technological power.

  • Abstract

    This paper examines domestic religiosity surrounding home shrines of practitioners of Swaminarayan Hinduism, a Hindu devotional tradition founded by Swaminarayan (1781-1830) in the early 19th century. This paper applies theoretical framework of Edward Soja's 'ThirdSpace,' to examine how devotional practices contribute to an understanding of the self as a devotee. I argue that domestic religiosity is an essential yet often-overlooked, component of Hindu practice in the diaspora. In this paper, I explore the ways that Hindus in North America utilize the home as a space to construct and maintain their religious identities and to strengthen their connection with God through bhakti (devotional) practices.

  • Abstract

    In the prologues to each of their regional retellings of the Mahābhārata, the fifteenth-century Tamil poet Villiputtūr and the seventeenth-century Bhasha (Old Hindi) poet Sabalsingh Cauhān both describe their compositions as the carita or “biography” of Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu. A closer look at the Pāratam and the Mahābhārat reveals that the narratives of these regional Mahābhāratas do indeed revolve around Kṛṣṇa. Yet just because a poem focuses on a form of Viṣṇu, does that automatically mean that the poem is a Vaiṣṇava text? In this paper, I will argue that both Mahābhāratas are works of Vaiṣṇava devotion because they each anticipate specific audiences of local Vaiṣṇava devotees. I will first demonstrate how Villi creates a Mahābhārata that is immensely familiar to members of the Śrīvaiṣṇava religious community. I will then reveal how Cauhān composes a Mahābhārata that resonates with audiences of Rāma devotees and connoisseurs of Tulsīdās’ Bhasha Rāmcaritmānas. I will conclude by discussing how my analysis of these two regional Mahābhāratas challenges the current systematic separating of religious literature and courtly literature in the study of premodern South Asian texts.

  • Abstract

    This paper takes the utopic principle of “training” to understand the student-devotee (i.e. śiṣya/ sikha-bhakta/bhagata) figure in the vernacular devotional anthologies of early modern north-west India (the Punjab and Rajasthan regions, broadly), and place it in conversation with the processes of anthologizing that were undertaken by the student-devotees among the early Sikh and Nirgun Bhakti communities (mostly Dadupanthis of Rajasthan) in 17th century CE. By this juxtaposition, I aim to show the interconnected nature of the written and performance lives of the songs in the devotional anthologies, and their emerging vade mecum status as dependent on the collaborative performance practices around them.

A20-124

Theme: The United States as a Settler State

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

Convention Center-212

This panel brings a diverse set of analytical perspectives to the topic of the United States as a settler state. Over the past decade, discourse on U.S. empire has shifted from focusing primarily on overseas imperialism to including consideration of the U.S. as a state created via settler colonialism. This panel aims to spotlight the significance of the recognition of the U.S. as a settler state for religious studies. Composed of a mix of faculty and students, the panel includes a leading scholar of religion and settler colonialism as well as new voices in the field. The panelists bring a variety of disciplines into conversation with settler colonial studies and religious studies, including history, ethics, political theory, Black studies, Asian American studies, popular culture studies, and gender and sexuality studies.

  • Abstract

    Waco, Texas, once a pitstop college town, quadrupled its annual visitor count from 2014 to 2018. This increase is attributable to Chip and Joanna Gaines and their wildly successful HGTV show, Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper provides mythically resonant, aesthetically pleasing, easily consumed materials that promise salvation from the failures, disappointments, and horrors of America's past. Settler violence resurfaces in Waco's built environment but, via Fixer Upper, the Gaines demolish, sand down, repaint and, thereby, work to redeem frontier history. Waco and home, as expressed on the show, illustrate the ways Americans remember and preserve in order to forget.

  • Abstract

    Isaac McCoy (1784-1846), a Baptist missionary in Indiana, Michigan, and Kansas, was a leading advocate for the removal of Native Americans to the “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi. McCoy sought out government employment, first as a teacher and then as a surveyor mapping out tribal lands, and viewed these roles as an extension of his mission. His long career, I argue, helps us see how Christianity enabled settler colonialism and also how settler colonialism shaped American religion. I suggest that the fraught partnership between missionaries and government indelibly stamped the culture and politics of Christianity and, more broadly, the contours of religion in the United States. In conclusion, I bring settler colonial studies into conversation with critical secularism studies to identify a “settler secularism” that valorized the law as a dispassionate arbiter, obscured the structural privileges it gave to Christianity, and designated the cleanup tasks of benevolence to (good) religion.

  • Abstract

    This paper argues that the hopeful romance of American democracy articulated by its early theorists enfolded justifications for settler colonialism and Chinese exclusion into its vision of democracy as it obscured that violence. The nineteenth century American Romantics—Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, among others—imagined that American democracy would transcend a mere form of government and become the basis for a new kind of community. But an uncanny desire for “Nature” and the “Native” underwrote the American Romantic imagination: one that erased the Indigenous inhabitants of the land, and—in spite of the white reliance on Chinese labor in the settlement of the West—provided the foundation for the justification for Chinese exclusion. By placing settler colonial studies in conversation with democratic theory and Asian American studies, I show that far from being an elegant but unrealized dream, the American Romantic ideals of democracy were entangled with settler colonial violence and Chinese exclusion.

  • Abstract

    This paper aims to bring together emergent conversations in Black Studies and Indigenous Studies into the study of American Religions to think about the complicated relationship between antiblackness and settler colonialism in the United States. Specifically, I am interested in the Age of Revolutions, (the long 19th century) when numerous enslaved communities revolted—from Haiti to Brazil, to West Africa, to the United States—and new horizons of Black freedom emerged within and beyond the Black Atlantic. Drawing on scholars like Tiffany Lethabo King, Jodi Byrd, Jared Sexton, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Rinaldo Walcott, Eileen Moreton-Robinson, and Sylvester Johnson, I want to consider the ever-complex relationship between antiblackness and settler colonialism by examining the complicated case of the Black Christian settler colony of Liberia.

A20-125

Theme: Technologies of Body and Self: Media Influencers, Techno-Utopias, and Surveillance

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

Grand Hyatt-Bonham B

This session engages bodies as sites of power and resistance, from YouTube religious influencers and changing notions of authority, to the ableist assumptions of techs-utopias, to biohacking and class privilege, to Protestant churches' uses of Google ads as a form of surveillance capitalism. The papers employ both critical and constructive perspectives to show how the operations of media and technology act to discipline and produce particular kinds of bodies and selves.

  • Abstract

    New digital technologies and media have had a global impact on the perception, practice and understandings of religion. The ubiquity of social media and online information has meant that Muslims, for example, can easily access information about religion on their phones, tablets and laptops rather than through traditional religious leaders and institutions. This paper will discuss two interrelated aspects of digital Islam: 1) how young Muslims negotiate religious authority in online spaces and 2) how emerging Muslim leaders claim an authority, which comes from effective engagement with the style of social media influencer spaces. As part of the analysis, 30 interviews were conducted with North American Muslims aged between 18-40. They illustrate that because these Muslims have a personal and non-institutional approach to religious authority, their positive perception of online authority is distinct from traditional religious communities that see Imams in offline spaces as the default for authority. Online Muslim figures like Omar Suleiman and Dina Torkia develop connections to followers by blending genuine and relatable approaches with appeals to Islamic values and aesthetic styles.

  • Abstract

    Churches have productively adapted their message to various media types through history and are increasingly under pressure to do so in a digital age and as religious affiliation declines. But this digital age also intersects with a new economic order: surveillance capitalism. By engaging with Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, this presentation aims to introduce the theological and ethical questions inherent in the church’s participation in techniques built upon this technology and marketplace by examining the use of Google Ads. After examining the underlying logic of surveillance capitalism, the analysis will focus on and provide an initial response to one theological question: What forms are knowing are appropriate the church? While engaging the question from a Christian perspective, the analysis of Zuboff will open up possible responses from other traditions and therefore aims to equip religious communities to understand the technology they may otherwise take for granted and generate theological reflection and robust discernment.

  • Abstract

    Noted biohacker and former Facebook president Sean Parker has gleefully stated that “Because I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have access to better healthcare so…I’m going to be, like, 160 and I’m going to be part of this class of immortal overlords.” This paper explores the logics of biohacking, grounded in individualism, data analysis, and optimization, and how performances of biohacking trends contribute to the continual reconstitution of American secularism at the site of the body. In particular, this case study considers how the biohacking movement mobilizes and capitalizes on the particular logics of “optimization” and how life hacking gurus like Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey function as bridges between biohacking CEOs like Parker and average consumers who aspire to their seemingly luxurious, optimized lifestyles. Analyzing the rhetorics and practices of biohacking in the twenty-first century reveals the bedrock of inequality upon which the movement is built–with its reliance on gendered, racial, and economic privilege–as well as how it perpetuates Protestant privilege in the United States by reinforcing commitments to Protestant values and ideologies.

A20-126

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

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

Grand Hyatt-Lonestar E

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

A20-127

Theme: Negotiations of Religious Space: Focus on Economics

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

Convention Center-005

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

AV20-102

Theme: Fieldnotes from 2020

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

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

AV20-128

Theme: Discursive Transgression: Tantra and Ritual Language

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

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

AV20-103

Theme: Disabling Theological Education

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

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

A20-129

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

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

Grand Hyatt-Bonham D

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

AV20-132

Theme: New Books on Gender and Religion

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

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

A20-130

Theme: Migration and World Christianity

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

Grand Hyatt-Lonestar F

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

A20-131

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

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

Convention Center-008A

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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