PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Online Program Book

  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Public Scholarship and Practical Impacts Workshop
Theme: Media Training and Work outside the Academy
Cristine Hutchison-Jones, Harvard University, Presiding
Andrew Henry, Boston University, Presiding
Hussein Rashid, Islamicate, LLC, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-4:00 PM
Convention Center-105 (Street Level)

The Applied Religious Studies Committee is hosting a one-day workshop focusing on putting knowledge of religion into the public sphere. The first part of the day will be an introduction to working with the media with Auburn Media. Using a tested methodology that has put several AAR members into media conversations, we want to assist more individuals increase the public understanding of religion. The second part of the day will be a panel conversation exploring actual work that scholars of Religion are engaged with outside of the academy, and the social impact they have created. The workshop is designed for individuals who would like basic, professional training in TV and radio interviews.

The cost for attending the workshop is $100, which includes the entire day of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 20 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.

The Applied Religious Studies Committee is eager to support scholars exploring or working in careers outside of the traditional tenure track. Additional support may be available to those for whom the cost of registration might be a barrier. For more information, please contact

Kelly J. Baker, Women in Higher Education
Diane L. Moore, Harvard University
Simran Jeet Singh, New York University
Andrew Aghapour, National Museum of American History
Practical Theology Unit
Theme: The Future of Practical Theology: Emerging Scholars and Themes
Tone Stangeland Kaufman, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-603 (Street Level)

Over the last decades the academic field of practical theology has expanded dramatically. What Where is practical theology headed? What are critical issues, significant methodological approaches, and helpful theoretical lenses in the field? How should practical theology balance between an emphasis on theological education for Christian ministry and the wider interdisciplinary investigation of religious practice? What is cutting-edge research in practical theology? In this panel emerging scholars from various contexts and backgrounds give a brief presentation on what they see as possibilities, challenges, and a way forward in the field of practical theology for the next 5-10 years, and how their work relates to or responds to these.

Unregistered Participant
Sarah Dunlop, University of Cambridge
Christopher James, University of Dubuque
Kirstine Helboe Johansen, Aarhus University
Sabrina Müller, University of Zurich
Patrick Reyes, Forum For Theological Education
Christine Hong, Columbia Theological Seminary
Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Vanderbilt University
Heather Walton, University of Glasgow
Business Meeting:
Christian A. B. Scharen, Auburn Theological Seminary
  • Books under Discussion
Practical Theology Unit
Theme: Experiencing and Engaging Gregory Ellison II's Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice (Westminster John Knox, 2017)
Christian A. B. Scharen, Auburn Theological Seminary, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 3A (Lower Level)

The Practical Theology Unit focuses on a recent book in the field each year for one of its sessions. This year, we will focus on Candler School of Theology professor Gregory Ellison, II's recent book Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice (Westminster/John Knox, 2017). Joined by his colleague, Rev. Georgette Ledgister, a doctoral candidate at Emory, they will lead an experiential engagement with attendees to experience and then engage something of the dialogue methodology the book reports on. Among other elements at stake for the discussion to follow are questions about practical theology's public role in dealing with the biggest challenges facing our society today.

Gregory Ellison, Emory University
Georgette Ledgister, Emory University
Sociology of Religion Unit
Theme: Hello from the Other Side: Sociology of Religious Minorities in the US and England
David Feltmate, Auburn University, Montgomery, Presiding
Sunday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Mineral A (Third Level)

Recent works in the Sociology of Religion have noted that otherness and the notion of being other are increasingly fluid trajectories marked by differentiation, convergence, and hybridity. This panel takes up the question of how otherness is simultaneously assigned and self-generated along both traditional lines of religion, race, and politics and in novel entanglements of the body politic, Aristotelian ethics, and non-binary religious identities. Focusing on instances of fragmentation and dislocation, the panel’s specific case studies—confluent secularity among Palestinian immigrants in Chicago, inter-generational conflict in Korean-American churches, recent rhetoric about Islam in congressional speeches, and the racial marginalization of Sikhs in the US and England—address the multilayered positions and perspectives from which otherness ensues.

Loren Lybarger, Ohio University
Secular-Religious Confluences in the Formation of Palestinian Immigrant Identities in Chicago

This paper examines secular-religious confluences in Palestinian immigrant identities in Chicago. The paper derives from my current book project on the effects of religious revitalization on Palestinian nationalism in diaspora contexts since the 1980s. The data draw from five years of fieldwork and include more than 80 life-story interviews from across the political and religious spectrums. The paper analyzes two types of "confluent secularity": religious secularity and secular religiosity. The differences between the two have to do with their respective origins within contrasting religious and secular milieus. I map these orientational trajectories, illustrating their intersecting movements with fieldwork examples. This fluid in-between that Chicago’s Palestinians negotiate reflects a wider lived reality that is characteristic of contemporary experiences of prolonged, forced dislocation and dispersal. The concept of confluent secularity captures this wider reality and the specific forms it takes for Palestinian immigrants in Chicago and beyond.

Isaac Kim, Princeton Theological Seminary
Sociologists of Religion in Dialogue with Aristotle: Korean-American Christianity as a Test Case

Danielle Allen uses conceptual tools drawn from Aristotle to both analyze racial injustices in America, and also provide constructive steps forward. This paper will argue that something similar can happen between Aristotle and sociologists of religion, with Korean-American Christianity as a test case. Both groups stand to benefit from mutual dialogue.

Sociologists have reported a high density of intra and inter-generational conflicts within Korean-American churches between first and second generation Korean-American immigrants. Interviewees and sociologists alike believe these conflicts arise from cultural differences. While certainly correct, Aristotle’s threefold account of friendships can add a crucial dimension of analysis: Korean-American church conflicts proceed from defective friendships along Aristotelian lines that play out in the sociological data. Aristotle’s understanding of friendship helps avoid what I call “cultural fatalism.” Aristotelians likewise stand to benefit from sociologists, who provide material content to what otherwise appears to be empty speculation.

Simranjit Khalsa, Rice University
Being an "Other": Experiences of Marginalization among Sikhs in the US and England

Religious symbols are an essential component of religious identity but they can also be the basis of discrimination. I draw on 73 interviews with Indian Sikhs and members of Sikh Dharma (a community of predominantly white Sikhs) in the US and England to examine whether they perceive religious symbols and race are tied to experiences of marginalization. I find that most Sikhs experience marginalization, however, it is more common in the US than in England. When Sikhs in England do experience marginalization, both Indian Sikhs and members of Sikh Dharma describe experiences that highlight racial identity but are linked to their religious symbols, where White respondents are treated as racial minorities. In the US, members of both Sikh communities describe being associated with the middle east and terrorism. Thus, the meanings attached to Sikh symbols are distinct by national context but are nonetheless linked to race, regardless of the race of practitioners.

Allison Ralph, Durham, NC
Purity and Danger: Islam, the Body Politic, and Public Policy

The rhetoric of the body politic invokes what Mary Douglas called a natural symbol for society, evoking with it all the visceral understandings of disease and bodily boundaries that are inherent with our embodied cognition. However, as scholars like Dale Martin have shown in detail, there may be many concepts of body and many disease etiologies. Those different concepts of social body drive different policies in community as individuals disagree over community boundaries and contaminants. This paper investigates the framing of Islam and Muslims as social disease in the rhetoric of congresspeople as recorded in floor speeches in the Congressional Record from 2007-2017, and shows whether this language is correlated with votes for specific types of policies that concern Islam and Muslims.

Religion and Popular Culture Unit
Theme: Fictional Religion and Fan Fiction in Science Fiction and Fantasy
David Feltmate, Auburn University, Montgomery, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Capitol 7 (Fourth Level)

Fictional “in-world” religions are important components of many science-fiction and fantasy universes, and fan fictions grow out and invert those same universes. This panel presents three takes on fictional religions and/or fan fictions, each using a different theoretical lens. Papers examine how fan fiction and apocrypha can be understood in light of Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque, interrogate Octavia Butler’s construction of the fictional religion Earthseed in her Parables series novels offers a salient theory of religion in literary form, and explore what it means for fans to suggest (or deny) that Doctor Who and its fandom are somehow religious.

Signe Cohen, University of Missouri
Fan Fiction, Apocrypha, and the Bakhtinian Carnivalesque

Fan fiction, like religious apocrypha, is a literary genre that only exists in dialogue with other texts. Like biblical apocrypha, fan fiction usurps the characters and plot threads of well-known stories and twists them until they form entirely new pictures. Fan fiction, like apocrypha, constantly interrogates and upends a canon; it weaves tales that derive their ironic and subversive undertones from the readers' knowledge that this is not how the story was supposed to go: Harry Potter was not supposed to marry Voldemort, and Judas was not supposed to be the hero of the passion narrative.
I propose that both fan fiction and apocrypha can be understood in light of Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque, with its radical reversals of social, gendered, and sexual norms, crowning and de-crowning of heroes, and an emphasis on ambiguity, disguises, and masks.

Mark DeYoung, Rice University
Butler's Parables: Religion in/as Fiction

This paper argues that Octavia Butler’s construction of the fictional religion Earthseed in her Parables series novels offers a salient theory of religion in literary form. I discuss Butler’s contrast between Earthseed and Christianity within the series. I demonstrate how Butler’s narrative is suggestive of a rich theory of the nature, function, and possible future of religions. For her, religion is a feedback loop in which the particular ways we narrativize our modes of being in the world become constitutive of those very modes of being. Religion can neither be escaped nor perfected, only improvised, rethought, and experimented with. Butler’s ambivalent stance toward religion is pragmatically helpful; she suggests that the future holds open a wide range of possibility for human being, yet cautions that for every alternative possibility, problems will remain.

Joanna Caroline Toy, Ohio State University
“Faith in the Legend, Even If It’s Fiction”: Emergences of Religiosity in Doctor Who Fan Commentary

Fan cultures have attracted serious academic interest for the past three decades. However, little work has explored the potential parallels between subjective fan experiences of pop culture texts and fan communities and religious experiences, particularly when such experiences are not associated with a fiction-based religious movement like Jediism. Further attention to fans’ own commentary—known as “meta” in fan culture—may bridge this gap. This paper examines commentary from two self-identified Doctor Who fans who produce meta professionally and fan responses to their work. By doing so, it explores what it means for fans to suggest (or deny) that Doctor Who and its fandom are somehow religious. I argue that such commentaries demonstrate a need to take seriously the possibility that fans develop spiritual frameworks from, and have real religious experiences through, popular texts like Doctor Who. This demands a theoretical reconsideration of the relationship between religious life and fan culture.