PAPERS Resources

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

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  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Religious Studies in Public
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Religion and Media Workshop
Theme: Theorizing the Public in Public Scholarship
Friday - 11:00 AM-6:00 PM
Convention Center-607 (Street Level)

The Religion and Media Workshop is a day-long seminar designed to foster collaborative conversation at the cutting edge of the study of religion, media, and culture. This year’s workshop will explore various dynamics of public scholarship:

• How are the intellectual, civic, and ethical obligations of the scholar to her public(s) mapped differently in various world regions and among varied religious groups?

• How are scholars called upon, or perceive themselves obligated to, comment, critique, or contribute to cultural debates and policy decisions in our interconnected lives, from the local to the international?

• How does the perceived collapsing of public/private boundaries in an era of new media challenge or otherwise modify our understandings of what it means to do public scholarship?

• How can theorizing the public/private (and its attendant categories of the individual, communal, etc.) help us better historicize what it means to do public scholarship? In what ways is any of this new? How has new media changed (if it has changed) the relationship between the scholar and the public?

The workshop will not be structured as traditional paper sessions, but rather as a workshop exploring public scholarship. Three to five readings will be circulated to participants before the event. Because of the nature of this year's workshop, it is essential that all participants commit to doing the readings ahead of time and prepare to participate in a seminar-style conversation.

The cost for attending the workshop is $70, which includes lunch and the entire day of sessions. Registration is limited to the first 75 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.

Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania
Nabil Echchaibi, University of Colorado
Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado
Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, University of Iowa
Elizabeth Bucar, Northeastern University
Class, Religion, and Theology Unit
Theme: Labor, Worker Cooperatives, and Religon
Rosetta E. Ross, Spelman College, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hyatt Regency-Centennial C (Third Level)

While the matters of class and labor are linked, the role of labor is being reclaimed and developed in different ways in relation to class. Worker coops, worker self-directed enterprises, and the FIRE (financial independence and early retirement) movement propose different approaches, each with different connections to and implications for religious and theological reflection. What happens when these developments are examined in light of the complexities of class and religion?

Anthony Mansueto, University of the District of Columbia
For a Return to Labor

This paper argues that for the Left to re-engage the working class it must return to the problem of transcending the commodification of labor power. The paper shows that this was, for Marx, the fundamental aim of the communist project for whom it takes a on a significance which can only be called religious in character. But historic socialism, emerging at a time when the material conditions for decommodification were not yet mature, gradually became a vehicle for other aims --aims which ultimately left the working class behind and the Left divided between technocratic modernizers and identarian romantics. The growing redundancy of human labor, however, as a result of technological progress, has put the question back on the political agenda. The paper goes on to explore the complex issues around decommodification, including just what it would mean to transcend scarcity and whether or not this is actually possible, the problem of reinstating slavery in the form of artificial intelligent robot labor, and the question of how we cultivate the spiritual as well as the material conditions for communism.

Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado
Social Worship: How Catholic Social Thought Helped Build the Modern Cooperative Movement

Pope Francis has frequently made passing reference to cooperative economics—when speaking of a more human relationship with technology, for instance, and in relation to sustainable energy production. It is evident that “cooperative,” for him, is no vague nicety; rather, he is referring to a robust tradition of economic thought grounded in distributed ownership of the means of production and the precedence of persons over capital. This paper reviews the contours of the tradition that the pope is referring to, beginning with the foundations in biblical narratives of the early church and early canon law, to economic practices in monastic movements, to Catholic leadership in the emergence of modern cooperation in the United States and around the world. Here, Catholics didn’t merely choose sides in a secular debate about resource distribution but drew on theological currents to pioneer a distinct and practical alternative.

Zachary Settle, Vanderbilt University
Organizing the End: An Eschatological Analysis of Worker Self-Directed Enterprises

This essay analyzes the theological, eschatological possibilities of Worker Self-Directed Enterprises (Richard Wolff's take on co-operative enterprises). WSDE's have a unique capability to sustain themselves within capitalism due to the ways in which laborers determine the use of surplus they produce rather than an owner, executive, or board. My analysis positions the WSDE as a heterotopia-an actually existing site that functions according to a different logic of time and labor from within capitalist space. This particular analysis, I argue, helps to reveal the eschatological, utopic futurity made real in WSDE's, even within broader capitalist systems. The most basic thesis of the paper, then, is that alternative labor practices and models feature a small vision of the eschatological end of Christian theology being made present, and the WSDE thereby offers theologians a few key principles for the work of organizing around issues of labor.

Christina McRorie, Creighton University
The Quasi-Religious Cult of “FIRE”: An Analysis of One Attempt to Transcend Work and Class

The past ten years have seen the emergence of the “FIRE movement,” an online community that is focused on achieving financial independence and retiring early (“FIRE”) through frugality, aggressive saving, and investing in low-cost index funds. This paper describes and analyzes the rhetoric, values, and aims of this movement, and proposes that it can be read as a kind of religion that helps individuals cope with the precarity of our current socio-economic moment. Underneath FIRE’s obvious promise to deliver followers from the necessity of work, this paper suggests that its appeal as a system of moral guidance also lies in its implicit attempt to reject class as form of social power, and as a factor determining happiness and the ability to exercise agency over one’s life. The concerns and aspirations of this movement thus provide one window onto the tensions and pressures of class felt by many in contemporary American capitalism.

  • Focus on Employment
  • Professional Practices and Institutional Location
Applied Religious Studies Committee
Theme: Preparing Scholars of Religion for Non-Academic Careers: What’s a Faculty Member to Do?
Cristine Hutchison-Jones, Harvard University, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-703 (Street Level)

In recent years as the job market for tenure-track academic positions has tightened and the use of contingent faculty has exploded, increasing numbers of graduate degree seekers are intending to pursue nonacademic careers. While some areas of study present obvious nonacademic options, for scholars in the humanities, nonacademic career opportunities and the best preparation for them may not be obvious and religious studies faculty are exploring how graduate programs can — and should — prepare all alumni for multiple employment outcomes. This panel brings together faculty members from a variety of institutions to discuss some of the problems confronting their students and their programs as more people turn — by necessity and by choice — to nonacademic career paths.

Paul W. Harvey, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Patrick Mason, Claremont Graduate University
Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado
Annette Stott, University of Denver