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Online Program Book

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


Theme: November Meeting

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:30 AM (In Person)

Hilton Palacio del Rio-Salon del Rey B


Theme: Annual Meeting

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:30 AM (Virtual)



Theme: Buddhist-Christian Reflections on Nationalism

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:30 AM (Virtual)

In the past several years, the international world has witnessed the rise of religio-ethno-nationalism. This has not been a singular event but occurred simultaneously in many countries with the rise of populism and authoritarian nationalist rulers worldwide. What should we make of counter-response movements such as Black Lives Matter? In what ways have Buddhists and Christians resisted as well as been implicated in the rise of nationalism around the globe? What resources are available to Buddhists and Christians in responding to problematic nationalism?

Business Meeting: 11:00 am-11:30 am


Theme: Indigeneity and Colonization in Hindu-Christian Studies

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:30 AM (Virtual)

The diverse legacies of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial powers in India deeply inform the practice of Hindu-Christian Studies as a scholarly discipline. Less commonly explored are themes of colonization, assimilation and the subjugation of Indigenous peoples as they manifest in both European Christianity and Sanskritic Hinduism. This panel attempts a comparative enquiry on these themes, in the contexts of India and North America. Panelists will focus particular case studies of Christian and Hindu colonial and neocolonial programs, along with those decolonial spaces of resistance created by and/or with Indigenous peoples.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation, I will share my experience of working with a Haudenosaunee Clan Mother who sought to retrieve and revitalize her Peoples' Rights of Passage as a way of rebuilding her nation against the historical forces of Christian colonialism. While witnessing Clan Mother’s effort to deploy a discourse of liberation, my interest and curiosity were heightened by her efforts to retrieve traditions in a cultural borderland where multiple world views and modes of knowing coexist. My experience, immersed in this borderland space, reaffirmed for me how this process is at once cosmological, political, and epistemological. This relationship also helped me grasp a deeper understanding of interreligious dialogue in the North American context.

  • Abstract

    Northeast India, referred to by some scholars as the “Mongolian fringe” (Sanjib Baruah), is home to various Indigenous hill tribes who have historically maintained and asserted a strong ethno-religious independent identity that stands in opposition to the larger Hindu-Indian identity. The place of Northeast India in the Hindutva imagination has shifted considerably since BJP’s rise to power in the 2014 general election, and the party has made crucial inroads into the power corridors of a number of Northeastern states in the State Legislative Assembly elections held in 2018. This paper looks at BJP and Hindu nationalists’ engagement with the region particularly on the issues of religion and national integration in which attempts are made to accommodate, assimilate, and include the recalcitrant region within Hindutva’s idea of India. I will then offer a response to this challenge from an Indigenous Christian liberationist perspective. This perspective is informed by the Indigenous ethnic identity of the people of Northeast India with the core commitments and convictions of theologies of liberation.

  • Abstract

    What is a white American Christian to do with the knowledge that their religious inheritance justified the rape, murder, and cultural genocide of Native peoples? One group of non-Indigenous Christians has turned to a 12-step program, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, to support each other as they wrestle with the legacy of Christians’ role in justifying Native dispossession from their homelands. The Adult Children of Manifest Destiny read materials, attend meetings twice a month, and support each other in the process of grieving the idea of a just, benevolent nation. Participants also confront the hard truth of the role of Christianity in forming the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and the dehumanization of Native peoples across the US. This paper uses interviews and written materials to analyze the on-the-ground theological work being done by this group of pastors, ex-pastors, and Christians as they grapple with their faith and their complicity in extending systems of racism.

  • Abstract

    When we extend the scope of Hindu-Christian comparative theology beyond a focus on premodern texts and contexts, we must increasingly grapple with colonial and postcolonial histories, especially as we look to modern South Asia. In staying true to the movements of “going forth to” and “returning from” that are hallmarks of comparative theology, considerations of South Asian coloniality may naturally generate questions regarding coloniality in North America and elsewhere. From a North American standpoint, a Hindu-Christian comparative theology that attends to coloniality encourages our consideration of the Indigenous nations of our respective geographies and the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism. Attending to this dimension of our own context may propel our return to a focus on South Asia with reinforced or newly found curiosity regarding the relationships among Adivasi, Hindu and Christian communities on the subcontinent. As a particular example, I propose drawing upon the critical and literary writings of Michael Madhusudan Datta (1824-1873), a Bengali convert from Hinduism to Christianity, as a springboard for reflecting back (and forth) on (and from) the Northern Paiute context out(side) of which and upon which my presentation has been formulated.


Theme: Kierkegaard and Public Philosophy

Saturday, 9:00 AM-11:30 AM (In Person)

Marriott Riverwalk-Alamo F



Theme: Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality Presidential Address and Annual Meeting

Saturday, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM (In Person)

Hilton Palacio del Rio-Salon del Rey C

9:00 AM–10:15 AM 2021 Presidential Address
10:30 AM–12:00 PM Annual Meeting.

All are welcome. For more information on the Society and its events, please visit; please send additional questions to Rachel Wheeler, Secretary, at


Theme: Sabbath Morning Service

Saturday, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM (In Person)

Marriott Rivercenter-Grand G

Panel Discussion


Welcome, Prayer & Introduction of Speaker for the Worship Service
Anne Collier-Freed


Message - Professor Jenkins

Closing Thoughts - Erik Carter


Theme: Emerging Voices in the Study of Chinese Religions

Saturday, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM (In Person)

Marriott Rivercenter-Conference 13



Theme: Session 6: On Spiritual Citizenship

Saturday, 11:00 AM-12:45 PM (In Person)

Marriott Riverwalk-Alamo A

For many scholars within the dharmic traditions, scholarship is inseparable from social concern, yet the perception of contemplation and the dharmic worldview as fundamentally world-renouncing remains, particularly within more limited contexts like courses that teach world religions, text specific studies, and even in more popular realms like yoga teacher trainings and meditation retreats. This panel will approach the topic of integrating contemplative, religious, and spiritual practice with social activism from five different angles including 1) theoretical considerations on the integration of contemplative practice and social activism; 2) globalization and cultural appropriation; 3) racial justice and healing; 4) ecospirituality and environmental activism; 5) queerness, gender, and sexuality. As part of a sustained focus on spiritual citizenship, this panel will contribute to the development of practical techniques and to the advancement of a foundational, theoretical shift in the practice and study of contemplative traditions.

  • Abstract

    As our earth warms and changes, one of the more prevailing challenges for activists and young students is environmental grief. Faced with the enormity of climate change, the individual can easily slip into inertia and depression. Contemplative practices offer alternative perspectives for understanding the self as not separate from the environment, as well as practices for grounding in the present moment. This talk will consider the intersection of theory and practice and how this can inform and support the environmental activist.

  • Abstract

    Our spiritual practice should be the machete which clears away the things that keep us distant from ourselves and each other. How does spirituality play a role in dismantling systems of oppression? Does being a spiritual citizen require action? What role do contemplative practices play in challenging racist ideologies and facilitating change? We’ll discuss how our practices should spark an internal dialogue. A skillful practice should be the guidepost which leads us home to ourselves and each other.

  • Abstract

    How do contemplative perspectives and experiences of queerness inform each other? Where do they intersect? Exploring the phenomenon of “queer dharma”, we will inquire into and outline the apparent obstacles between queerness and dharma. We will forge a new conversation between the vicissitudes of queer embodiment and spirituality, and how this conversation challenges and enriches our prevailing understandings of contemplative traditions and practice.

  • Abstract

    Cultural appropriation is inextricably entangled with modern spirituality. How should we understand this relationship in light of its complex histories, different voices, and polarizing politics? How may we employ spirituality reflexively towards undoing appropriation for those who may be complicit with appropriation and those who suffer as victims of appropriation? This talk explores current perspectives and approaches and invites further conversation on how to effectively engage spirituality as healing justice.

  • Abstract

    How does spiritual practice relate to social activism? This talk will look at the common threads that exist between the topics presented and will also consider how these diverse concerns challenge one another. Being a spiritual activist means taking part in creating change with a spirit of compassion, love, and a balance of interdependence and self-determination that involves the heart and head and cultivates a relationship with the divine.


Theme: Academic Labor and Contingent Faculty Committee Working Group Luncheon

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

Convention Center-214A

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


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

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

Convention Center-Stars at Night 1

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


Theme: Women in Buddhist Studies Mentoring Lunch

Saturday, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM (In Person)

Marriott Riverwalk-Alamo E

This professionalization and networking event gathers senior women-identifying scholars in Buddhist Studies to mentor early-career women and non-binary junior scholars on various topics such as publishing, networking, the job market, getting tenure, and alt-ac. Using a round table format, each table will discuss a chosen topic led by an expert scholar or contributor. There will be one opportunity to switch topics / tables during the event, ensuring balanced conversation. Lunch will be provided. Registration for this program is open to all women-identifying and non-binary scholars in the early stages of their academic or alt-academic career (graduate school, non-tenure track, pre-tenure, and early alt-ac). To register, please contact Sangseriama Ujeed (


Theme: Christian Scholarship Foundation Luncheon

Saturday, 11:30 AM-1:00 PM (In Person)

Hilton Palacio del Rio-Hacienda


Theme: Design and Pedagogy with Dr. Lynne Westfield, Wabash Center, Director and Rev. Stephen Lewis, Forum for Theological Exploration, President

Saturday, 11:30 AM-1:00 PM (In Person)

Marriott Rivercenter-Conference 11

The Religious Education Association has partnered with Dr. Lynne Westfield and Rev Stephen Lewis for a workshop on Design and Pedagogy. The in-person workshop will be tailored for religious education professionals interested in advancing their practice of design and pedagogy. REA invites interested teachers, facilitators, and practitioners to join the workshop. The workshop materials and recordings will be made available to Religious Education Association members following the gathering.


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

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

Convention Center-304A

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Grand Hyatt-Presidio B

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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


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

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

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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


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

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

Convention Center-208

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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

  • Abstract

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