PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Boston, MA
November 18-21, 2017

2017 Annual Meeting Program (PDF)

Preliminary 2017 Annual Meeting Program (MS Word)

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Online Program Book

  • Preconference Workshop
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Ethnography and Theology Workshop
Theme: The Use of Ethnography for Theological Research
Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, University of Toronto, Presiding
Jonas Ideström, Church of Sweden Research Unit, Uppsala, Sweden, Presiding
Christian A. B. Scharen, Auburn Theological Seminary, Presiding
Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke University, Presiding
Friday - 1:00 PM-5:00 PM
Hynes Convention Center-313 (Third Level)

This workshop is for theologians and ethicists currently using ethnography in their research. At least half of our time will be spent in small groups (maximum four people) to workshop participants’ projects with an experienced group leader. Following each period of small group conversation, participants will generate questions/issues that a panel consisting of a junior and senior scholar in the field will debate in plenary discussion. In the past, our workshops have focused on the intersection of social sciences and theology; this year’s asks questions about the use of ethnography for theology/ethics from a distinctly theological perspective. This particular workshop is open both to people who have attended our workshops before and those who have not.

When you register, please also submit a précis (500 words max.; doc. not pdf.) of your current project to Natalie Wigg-Stevenson and Jonas Ideström ( and by June 15. Your précis should include the question with which you are struggling in your current work, and how you hope to address that question at the workshop. If you are a graduate student, please also note where you are in your program.

Admission is offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Once the workshop is full, we will begin a waitlist. Please contact Natalie or Jonas directly to add your name to this list. Participants who have not submitted their précis by June 15 will lose their spot in the workshop, and will not receive a refund

The cost for attending the workshop is $35, which includes a coffee break and the entire afternoon of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 40 participants. To participate, select this workshop when registering for the Annual Meeting. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you may contact to reserve a space in this workshop.

Angela Cowser, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Tone Stangeland Kaufman, MF Norwegian School of Theology
Karen Kilby, University of Durham
Peter Ward, MF Norwegian School of Theology
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Practical Theology Unit and Transformative Scholarship and Pedagogy Unit
Theme: Theological Education in Spaces of Social Marginality
Christian A. B. Scharen, Auburn Theological Seminary, Presiding
Sunday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hynes Convention Center-310 (Third Level)

This session focuses on theological education among or with the most vulnerable: those on the margins, in the streets, in prison, or other spaces of marginality. Focusing on modes of education and transformation, two papers discuss pedagogy in the context of prison. A third paper discusses education and transformation in contexts of social marginality in Scotland, while a fourth examines the challenges of theological education with first generation immigrant students.
Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario of St. Vincent's School of Theology in Quezon City, Philippines, a leading global liberation theologian, will respond to the panel.

Clare Radford, University of Glasgow
Interpreting Injustice: Narrating Experiences of Marginalisation in Scotland as Constructing Theological Praxis

This paper critically examines sharing narratives of lived experiences of marginalisation in community activist movements in Scotland as alternative forms of theological knowledge production. The first section draws on postcolonial and liberationist theologies that reframe the margins as sites of critical theological praxis, highlighting lived experiences of the margins as of hermeneutical and epistemological value. The second section details community activist practices that encourage sharing and listening to people’s experiences of marginalisation, using examples from research into activist practices around poverty, criminal justice, and youth exclusion in Scotland. This will enable discussion in the third section on questions of what theological knowledge is being produced when people narrate their experiences of the margins. What knowledge of justice and liberation is produced by engagement in practices of sharing experiences of the margins, and is this knowledge received differently in activist and academic contexts?

Sarah Jobe, Duke University
Programs in Prisons: Transforming the Who, Where, How, and What of Theological Education

How is theological education being taught in prisons, and how does this prison teaching affect the wider academy? This paper will present the findings of the “Programs in Prisons Peer Group,” a cohort convened by The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) from 2015-2017. Operating on a peer-learning model, this cohort studied together for two years within the ATS Educational Models and Practices Program. Within a broad overview of theological education in prisons nation-wide, this paper describes two dominant models that emerge. This session will offer practical wisdom about pedagogical methods, funding structures, and metrics for measuring success while at the same time noting the ways that these programs in prison challenge basic assumptions about the where, who, what, and how of theological education. Participants can expect to leave with an imagination for starting or enriching a prison-teaching program in their home institution.

Rachelle Green, Emory University
Pedagogical Justice: Toward a Theologically Responsible Pedagogy for Teaching Religion to Women in Prison

In this paper, I put forth a notion of “pedagogical justice” for the incarcerated as an act of social justice that responds to the complicated social conditions of the criminal justice system. I provide a new framework for educators to engage the prison classroom using the goals of a critical spiritual pedagogy. First, I state a case for “pedagogical justice” using Iris Marion Young’s “Social Connection Model” and Hannah Arendt’s expanded notion of the political. Second, I introduce “pedagogical justice” as a “critical spiritual pedagogy” — a practice by which educators engage in just-action through the practice of morally, politically, and theologically responsible teaching. By taking seriously personal, moral agency and social, systemic culpability, I acknowledge the complicated reality of injustice for which we are all responsible. By expanding notions of responsibility and politics, I substantiate how educational access for inmates becomes a form of social justice and Christian responsibility.

Richard Burgess, University of Roehampton
The Pedagogical Challenges of Teaching Theology to First-generation Students from Non-traditional Churches

This paper is based upon research with first-generation university students studying theology in the UK. In recent decades in the UK, there has been a proliferation of churches outside the historic denominations (referred to here as non-traditional community churches, NTCCs). Leaders of NTCCs are typically appointed on the basis of criteria other than formal professional education. Recently, however, encouraged by UK government policy of widening access to higher education, there has been considerable interest among leaders of NTCCs in receiving such education. Some universities (and other institutions with university-accredited courses) offering theological education now have a significant enrolment of students from NTCCs. They are predominantly older first-generation students and often come from cultural backgrounds underrepresented in the wider student population. They thus present particular pedagogical challenges. In particular, they struggle with subjecting deeply-held convictions to critical theological reflection. The paper examines student learning strategies and suggests pedagogical approaches that could be used to enhance learning.

Daniel Franklin Pilario, Adamson University
Business Meeting:
Christian A. B. Scharen, Auburn Theological Seminary
Tone Stangeland Kaufman, MF Norwegian School of Theology
Darby Ray, Bates College
Sociology of Religion Unit and Critical Research on Religion
Theme: Multiple Religious Belongings within and against Identities, Affiliations, and Conflict
Rebekka King, Middle Tennessee State University, Presiding
Sunday - 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Sheraton Boston-Hampton (Third Level)

This panel focuses on religious innovations, cultural hybridities, and instances in which traditionally perceived categories of religious affiliation or belonging are reversed, expanded, or challenged. Its papers offer insight into the ways that sociologists of religion might attend to the multiple and at times contradictory means through which religious adherents piece together religious identities. Drawing from different methodological (ethnographic, discourse analysis, and survey research) and theoretical approaches (lived religion, critical race theory, Durkheimian analyses, field dynamics, and social capital), these papers focus on sites of religious and culture conflict to move beyond debates about categorization. They show how religious adherents negotiate and organize their own competing commitments, religious boundaries, and social identities both within and against their own religious group as well as other ones.

Joantine Berghuijs, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Drawing from Many Sources: Conceptualizing and Measuring Religious Flexibility

Lived religion, both inside and outside churches and other religious institutions, rarely resembles the consistent, theologically correct 'standard package' of established religions. Although in the wider history of religion, religious hybridity may have been the rule rather than the exception, measures of religiosity are often solely based on the extent to which people regard themselves committed to a single religious tradition. This paper presents an interdisciplinary approach to explore hybrid religiosity and flexibility, conceptualizing it through the lens of ‘multiple religious belonging’, with a special eye for methodological aspects in mapping the phenomenon. As the method has already been tested in practice, I will alterate conceptual and methodological explanation with reflection on the results obtained, and I am eager to discuss advantages, drawbacks, and suggestions for improvement of the method.

Unregistered Participant
The Field of American Evangelicalism: Struggles with Islam and the Competition for Religious Authority

Relations between communities present powerful spaces for inquiry. They are a window onto communities’ cultivation of identity and ideology through interaction with competitors and allies encountered in their social worlds. This paper approaches religious community dynamics to reveal mechanisms that shape internal uniformity and diversity within communities and in their relations with moral others. We treat these relations as field dynamics—as struggles over competing forms of religious capital. Our empirical lens is an analysis of American evangelical struggles over Islam—first, via an analysis of published evangelical literature on Islam pre- and post-9/11, and second, through a mixed-methods analysis of controversies among evangelicals surrounding the participation of evangelical elites in a high-profile 2008 Muslim-Christian dialogue initiative. We argue that attention to views on Islam reveals much about competitions over influence and authority within evangelicalism. We also argue broadly for a relational approach to social scientific analysis of religious fields.

Marat Shterin, King's College, London
Conceptualising Religion in Political Conflict: The "Sacred" in the Russian-Ukrainian Crisis

The paper contributes to the debates on the role of religion in contemporary political conflicts by focusing on the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis. It suggests that we need more inclusive and sophisticated conceptualisations of religion beyond its institutional expressions to capture a variety of ways in which its multifaceted manifestations can be significant factors in these conflicts. It also calls for returning to Durkheim’s legacy of conceptualising the 'sacred' that, considering the current changes in religion, can no longer be seen as embodied in religious institutions.

My data suggest that in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, the significant political fault lines were incongruent with those between religious denominations or institutions; rather, those from the same Orthodox Christian tradition were sharply divided by their political loyalties; Russian and Ukrainian Protestants fiercely argued over their political and national commitments; and Russian Pagans fought on both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian sides. On the other hand, those belonging to different religions fought for shared 'sacred causes'.

Roger Baumann, Yale University
Constructing and Contesting the “Holy Land”: Christian Pilgrimage as a Multifaceted Social Phenomenon

What is the purpose of contemporary Christian travel to Israel and Palestine and why do African American Christians, in particular, visit “the Holy Land”? This paper argues that contemporary pilgrimage is best understood as a multifaceted social phenomenon at the confluence of spiritual pilgrimage, tourism, political activism, and Christian mission—all of which involve material, symbolic, and embodied aspects that are shaped by market forces of consumption and production. Through a qualitative case study of African American Christian travel to Israel and Palestine, this paper contributes to broad analyses of pilgrimage as a social phenomenon where religion, politics, economy, and cultural production converge. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data, this study calls specific attention to racialized aspects of Christian Holy Land travel by focusing on the role of racial histories, identities, solidarities, and collective memories particular to African Americans.

David Feltmate, Auburn University, Montgomery
  • Books under Discussion
Religious Education Association
Theme: Teaching In and For Multifaith Contexts: Concepts and Practices
Sunday - 6:45 PM-8:15 PM
Marriott Copley Place-Boston University (Third Level)

How shall we educate our faith communities so that they can practice hospitality in the world of many faiths? How are we to prepare religious leaders who are capable of leading congregations and communities in the practice of hospitality in a multifaith context? How are we to equip religious leaders in the practice of ministry in interfaith settings? What curriculum design, educational programs, and pedagogies shall we pursue to lead and minister effectively in a multifaith setting? These are the larger questions that framed a new shared book project, Teaching for a Multifaith World (ed. Eleazar S. Fernandez, Wipf and Stock 2017). This session will be an interactive engagement with several of the authors from the book, focused on sharing both conceptual frames and pragmatic practices for doing this work.

This session is an opportunity to connect with the Religious Education Association, a related scholarly organization of the AAR. We value interdisciplinary and intercultural research at the intersections of religion and education (see

Justus Baird, Auburn Theological Seminary
Ruben L. F. Habito, Southern Methodist University
Mary E. Hess, Luther Seminary
Lucinda Mosher, Hartford Seminary
Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont Graduate University
Jennifer Howe Peace, Andover Newton Theological School
Daniel Schipani, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
  • Exploratory Sessions
Exploratory Sessions
Theme: Religion and War
Joshua Jeffery, University of Tennessee, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hynes Convention Center-203 (Second Level)

The subject of “Religion and War” has become an increasingly studied area in recent years, especially in the subfields of religious history, ethics, and theology. The substantial increase in the output of monographs and articles on this topic, coupled with the ever-increasing risk of localized, regional, and even global war and the role religion plays in these conflicts, warrants the creation of a permanent unit that studies the relationship between religion and war. This exploratory panel announces our intention to create a new “Religion and War Unit” in the AAR, by focusing on the relationship between these two human phenomena in the context of World War I, in this year which commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the United States entering the conflict. Papers will interrogate how religion supported, challenged, sustained, and disrupted war between state and non-state polities in the context of the Great War and its aftermath, 1916-1921.

Joshua Canzona, Georgetown University
Mysticism at the Front: The Significance of Wartime Service in the Thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (1881-1955) was called up for service by the French Army in December 1914, just a few months after trenches were dug in the Battle of the Marne. Teilhard asked to serve on the front and was assigned as a stretcher-bearer to the 8th regiment of Moroccan light infantry, which became the 4th Mixed Regiment of Zouaves and Tirailleurs comprised of Tunisians, Moroccans, and European settlers in North Africa during the following year. Rejecting attempts to promote him away from his men, Teilhard served with distinction as a corporal until the end of the war. He produced a considerable amount of scholarship during his wartime service and many of his later ideas were inchoate in short essays written within or around trenches and sent off to Études for potential publication. Here he developed his distinctive mystical vision informed by evolutionary science and his experiences as a soldier. Against all odds, Teilhard saw the energy of troop movements and battle as a hopeful phenomenon and described his service as “an almost mystical experience.” This presentation will both assess Teilhard’s descriptions of this battlefield mysticism and explore connections between his service and the later development of his thought. Drawing on published works and unpublished archival materials, it will be demonstrated that Teilhard’s theology was as shaped by World War I as any other experience in his life. From this, we arrive at two conclusions: (1) Parts of Teilhard’s work can and ought to be read as a particularly insightful example of theological reflection on religious experience in a time of war and (2) the relationship between wartime service and theology deserves sustained scholarly attention.

John Chappo, Pennsylvania College of Technology
From The Shade of the Trees to "No Man’s Land": Alfred Joyce Kilmer as Poet, Lecturer, and Soldier

“The Great War” has rightfully been remembered for the wreckage it wrought, as well as the hope that emerged in its wake. Over the past 100 years, historians, political scientists, poets, and painters have helped shape present understanding of the war and its impact. A search for “World War I History” within reveals 23,554 books. The titles reflect the focus of researchers many aspects of the war: cultural, economic, military, political, or social. Yet despite all of the innovation and erudition, there remains a relative dearth of information on the impact of religion on causes or combatants of World War One. Given the importance of religion, especially in relation to global and international history, it makes such continued neglect untenable. This paper will help fill this gap in the historiography by focusing on the role religion played during World War One both on and beyond the battlefield.

John Laaman, Auburn University
All That Is Unfit to Print: Churches of Christ Editors in the Great War

When the twentieth century began, the Churches of Christ already had a long tradition of pacifism. This continued into the years of the Great War. However, once the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the church experienced more conflict over pacifism than ever before. Ultimately, church leaders abandoned pacifism, first by dropping advocacy for pacifism, and later by overtly supporting the war effort. Although this transition appeared abrupt, the roots of these actions can be traced back to the nineteenth century. From this perspective, the church’s actions mirrored a shift already occurring throughout the South, which finally manifested itself during the war. This paper evaluates two periodicals that were influential at the time: the Gospel Advocate and Word and Work, and focuses on changes in editorial policy and the topics covered throughout the war years. By following these developments, larger shifts in the denomination’s view on war can be seen.

Unregistered Participant
The Internal Front and "Religious War"

Following establishment of the Portuguese republic in 1910, revolutionaries in power persecuted the Catholic Church, holding it responsible for the cultural backwardness of the country. In 1911, the Law of Separation of the Church and the State was published, which proclaimed: "The Republic recognizes and guarantees full freedom of conscience." In practice, this resulted in an expulsion of religious from government, and nationalization of Church assets. As far as the Army was concerned, chaplains were expelled, and when the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was sent to France to fight against Germany, there was no Religious Service in the CEP. It was at great cost that the Catholic Church obtained the necessary authorization to send chaplains. At the end of the war the chaplains received numerous praises and medals. This recognition of their actions, as Catholic chaplains serving the state, contributed to an improvement in relations between the Church and the State. 

William E. Kooi, Oklahoma Christian University
  • Presidential Theme: Religion and the Most Vulnerable
Theme: Linda Sarsour
Eddie S. Glaude, Princeton University, Presiding
Monday - 11:45 AM-12:45 PM
Sheraton Boston-Grand & Independence (Second Level)

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, racial justice and civil rights activist, and mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!” She is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPOWER Change. Linda has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns including calling for an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities and ending police policies like stop and frisk. In wake of the police murder of Mike Brown, she co-founded Muslims for Ferguson to build solidarity amongst American Muslim communities and encourage work against police brutality. She is a member of the Justice League NYC, a leading NYC force of activists, formerly incarcerated individuals, and artists working to reform the New York Police Department and the criminal justice system.

Linda co-chaired the March2Justice, a 250-mile journey on foot to deliver a justice package to end racial profiling, demilitarize police and demand the government invest in young people and communities. Linda Sarsour was instrumental in the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays to push New York City to incorporate 2 Muslim high holy holidays in to the NYC Public school calendar. This year, New York City will be the largest school system in the country to officially recognize these holidays. This year, Linda joined leading social justice faith leaders as a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary.

She has received numerous awards and honors including “Champion of Change” by the White House, YWCA USA’s Women of Distinction Award for Advocacy and Civic Engagement and the Hala Maksoud Leadership Award from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Sarsour was named among 500 of the most influential Muslims in the world. Most recently, Linda was profiled on the front page of the New York Times Metro Section and dubbed “Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab” and introduced Linda to their readership as “Mixing street smarts, activism and her Muslim identity, Linda Sarsour has become a political force”. She has written for and has been featured in local, national, and international media discussing impact of domestic policies that target Arab and Muslim American communities, criminal justice issues and Middle East affairs. Linda is well respected amongst diverse communities in both in New York City and nationally. She is most known for her intersectional coalition work and building bridges across issues, racial, ethnic and faith communities.

Linda Sarsour, MPower Change
  • Receptions/Breakfasts/Luncheons
Auburn Theological Seminary
Theme: Reception
Monday - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Westin Copley Place-St. George A-B (Third Level)

Everyone is welcome as we celebrate the work of scholar-activists who, like long-time Auburn faculty member Walter Wink, are troubling the waters and healing the world. Auburn will award the Third Annual Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award. Former awardees are Dr. Simran Jeet Singh (2016) and Dr. Traci West (2015). The award will be given by Auburn President Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson during the reception, with a brief talk by the awardee to follow. Come enjoy the hospitality and network with fellow troublemaking friends, old and new.

Religion and the Social Sciences Unit
Theme: Religion and Social Activism in a Trump Era
Kristy Nabhan-Warren, University of Iowa, Presiding
Tuesday - 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Hilton Boston Back Bay-Belvidere A (Second Level)

The two papers in this session explore some concrete and symbolic ways that women and men have been challenging President Trump and his agenda. The session's first presenter investigates the Pussyhat Project, an effort to send thousands of handmade hats to DC for the marchers to wear. Organizers of the project chose the simple-to-make “cat-ear” design in defiance of Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” video. The pussyhat subsequently became a symbol of women’s resistance to the Trump regime, appearing in editorial cartoons and on the cover of Time magazine.
The session's second and third presenters share their collaborative social scientific research with Protestant family pastors in a mid-sized southern city and illustrate how their changing concerns about threats facing families coalesces with the larger issues that brought Trump to power. These scholars argue that the ways that changes in economic and media systems are perceived as threatening family life have altered the social scripts used to explain social life for the last three decades. All three presenters turn our attention to the ways that scholars of religion and society can help us better understand what is happening in the churches, but also how religion can help us to understand changes in national life and discourse in the contemporary United States.

Donna Bowman, University of Central Arkansas
Religious Convictions Among Pussyhat Makers

In the weeks leading up to Women's March on Washington, knitters organized the Pussyhat Project, an effort to send thousands of handmade hats to DC for the marchers to wear. Organizers of the project chose the simple-to-make “cat-ear” design in defiance of Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” video. The pussyhat became a symbol of women’s resistance to the Trump regime, appearing in editorial cartoons and on the cover of Time magazine. This presentation disseminates preliminary results from a survey of over 800 people who made pussyhats for the women’s marches on January 21 and thereafter. Qualitative interviews with respondent volunteers allow deeper exploration of the values and commitments of pussyhat makers. Using this qualitative material in conjunction with the survey data enables juxtapositions of these commitments with pussyhat makers’ self-reported religious affiliations and activities.

David Feltmate, Auburn University, Montgomery
Kimberly P. Brackett, Auburn University, Montgomery
The Threats to Families Today: Pastoral Rhetoric and the Changing Religio-political Landscape in the United States

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, people around the globe asked “How did this happen?” Meanwhile, in the economically devastated areas that Trump won, voices are responding: “How could you not?” This paper draws from interviews with Protestant family pastors in a mid-sized southern city to illustrate how their changing concerns about threats facing families coalesces with the larger issues that brought Trump to power. We argue that the ways that changes in economic and media systems are perceived as threatening family life have altered the social scripts used to explain social life for the last three decades. By reconsidering and realigning the analytical scripts scholars of religion and society use we not only understand what is happening in the churches, but also how religion can help us to understand changes in national life and discourse in the contemporary United States.