PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Women's Caucus
Theme: 1000 Women in Religion: Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
Colleen D. Hartung, Holy Wisdom Monastery, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-1:00 PM
Convention Center-14A (Mezzanine Level)

The 1000 Women in Religion Project – a major initiative of the AAR/SBL Women’s Caucus – works to raise up the underrecognized work of women in the world’s religious and wisdom traditions by adding 1000 women onto Wikipedia. This is a practical effort, situated in the public square, that addresses the problem of systemic gender bias on Wikipedia where only 17% of the biographies are about women. In this workshop participants will sign up as wiki-editors, learn the basics of editing, do hands on editing that improves existing articles and start their first article by outlining the all-important lead paragraph. We will work on submissions pre-selected from our list of 1000 women but if you are passionate about a particular unrecognized woman bring your project along. You do not need to be a technological expert. We will walk you through the Wikipedia editing process one easy step at a time. Join us!

The cost is $25 per person and includes a four hour session, coffee and light snacks. 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.

Unregistered Participant
Rosalind F. Hinton, LAOUTLOUD
Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Elizabeth Ursic, Mesa Community College
Janice Poss, Claremont Graduate University
  • Focus on Employment
  • Preconference Workshop
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
  • Professional Development
Public Scholarship and Practical Impacts Workshop
Theme: Media Training and Work outside the Academy
Cristine Hutchison-Jones, Harvard University, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-27A (Upper Level East)

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 reaching general audiences through various media.

The cost for attending the workshop is $75 which includes the entire day of sessions and morning coffee. Registration is limited to the first 30 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

Reza Aslan, University of California, Riverside
Kelly J. Baker, Women in Higher Education
Andrew Henry, Boston University
Beyond "Religion versus Emancipation": Gender and Sexuality in Women's Conversion to Christianity, Judaism and Islam in Western-European Contexts
Theme: Expert Meeting "Contested Conversions: "Authentic" Stories and Public Reflexes'
Friday - 1:00 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua C (Third Level)


  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Women's Caucus
Theme: Weaving Public Spaces: Extending Scholarship on Gender and Religion
Elizabeth Ursic, Mesa Community College, Presiding
Friday - 2:00 PM-3:45 PM
Convention Center-14A (Mezzanine Level)

Come enjoy the camaraderie of the Women's Caucus and network with other scholars. Learn about the caucus and join in this workshop-style session as we engage the 2019 AAR conference theme, Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces with the Women's Caucus focus on gender and religion. This session is facilitated by the co-chairs of the AAR/SBL Women's Caucus along with the members of the leadership team. Join in this exciting conversation as we reflect on how we responsibly create, redefine, and expand spheres of public discourse. Share your ideas on how we might advance the public engagement of this topic through our research, in our institutions, and beyond.

Unregistered Participant
Feminist Liberation Theologians' Network
Theme: Feminist Liberation Theologians' Network
Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, Presiding
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard University, Presiding
Friday - 4:00 PM-6:00 PM
Convention Center-28A (Upper Level East)

The Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network will bring feminist theological insights to bear on the urgent impact of climate change around the world. What is the role of religion in these human-made problems, and how can feminist resources be put to best use for solutions?

All are welcome.

Anne Elvey, Monash University
Wanda Deifelt, Luther College
  • Films
  • Focus on Chaplaincy
Theme: Loyalty: Film and Panel Response
Zachary Moon, Chicago Theological Seminary, Presiding
Friday - 8:00 PM-10:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 501AB (Fifth Level)

Sponsored by the Moral Injury and Recovery in Religion, Society, and Culture Unit

Loyalty is the first national storytelling project to recount the experiences of American Muslim military service members, past and present. We introduce a diverse group of men and women–immigrants, converts, and American-born Muslims–who gave an oath to protect the United States and uphold its Constitution. Given the rise in Islamophobia since 9/11, the project intentionally shines light on the contradiction that arises when Muslims volunteer to defend a nation that does not always defend them. Through immensely personal stories, the film shows that “loyalty” cannot simply be reduced to one’s love of country but, in fact, takes many forms and is as complicated at the American Muslim experience itself. Themes addressed include the unique work of Muslim military chaplains who are fighting for religious freedom, interfaith cooperation, and acceptance of Islam in the United States Armed Forces.

Amir Hussain, Loyola Marymount University
Unregistered Participant
  • Focus on Chaplaincy
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Bioethics and Religion Unit
Theme: Contextualizing and Theologizing Bioethics in Public Discourse and Private Spaces
Terri Laws, University of Michigan, Dearborn, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-24C (Upper Level East)

Patients, healthcare providers, and political appointees engage a variety of social contexts, methodological approaches, language content, and analytical frames to deliberate and debate questions and issues in the intersection of bioethics, religion, and healthcare. Presenters in this session will examine practices and policies that shape contemporary bioethics and religion in public and private spaces from emergency rooms to urban congregations and federal bioethics commissions.

Joseph Fisher, Columbia University
Theologizing Public Bioethics: Human Enhancement under the President’s Council

Since their inception in the 1970s, federal bioethics committees have eschewed questions concerning the relationship between technological means and ultimate ends/values, lest public bioethics be seen as a theological rather than secular jurisdiction. Under George W. Bush’s conservative bioethics committee, however, there was a substantive shift in the content of public reports, as human enhancement technologies and questions concerning what it does and should mean to be human became legitimate topics of inquiry. How did this discursive shift occur?

Analyzing reports published by the President’s Council on Bioethics (2000-2008), I contend that committee members utilized the ostensibly secular language of “human nature,” “human dignity,” and “moral status” to translate existential and (Christian) theological concerns about techno-science into moral-political ones, blurring the presumed boundaries between secular and religious bioethics. While the Council’s conclusions proved problematic, I suggest that there is still merit in maintaining some substantive theoretical character to public bioethics.

Jaime Wright, Santa Clara University
The Role of Perception and Self-Understanding in the Construction of Moral Arguments at the Intersection of Medicine and Religion in Medical Emergencies

Contemporary studies of medical decision-making involving religion and biomedicine focus on conflicts between religion and medicine, religiously informed ethical decisions, and religion’s influence upon physician and patient interactions. However, what about the cognitive dimension? How do physicians’ (and when involved, chaplains’) perceptions play a role in decision making in medical emergencies and end-of-life decisions when religion is a factor? I will present findings on a study-in-progress wherein physicians and chaplains are interviewed about how they understand their personal, professional, and emotional roles in such situations. This study addresses ethical decision-making from a symbolic interactionist perspective using narrative analysis.

Hajung Lee, University of Puget Sound
The Meaning of a Good Death and Preferences on End-Of-Life Care among Korean Immigrants

This study surveys the experience of a close friend’s or family member’s death, their perception of good death, and preferences on end-of-life care among Korean immigrants in the U.S. This qualitative study uses in-depth interviews with Korean immigrants. This study focuses on three religions (i.e. Christianity, Confucianism, and Shamanism) because these traditions have heavily influenced Korean immigrants’ perception of a good death. Based on collected data from the study, I argue that lived religion is a significant underlying determinant in making end-of-life decisions among Korean immigrants.

Anjeanette Allen, Chicago Theological Seminary
Do Not Pass Me By: A Womanist Reprise and Response to Healthcare’s Cultural Dismissal and Erasure of Black Women’s Pain

This paper attempts to address the impact of health care racial bias in pain assessment and management on black women when their expression of pain acuity is misbelieved. As a secondary step, I explore how construction of a “WomanistHealthCare” that advocates for the creation of safe spaces for black women from an interdisciplinary perspective, expanding the work of Emilie Townes and Marsha Foster Boyd, may rectify spiritual maleficence concerning her holistic wellness, specifically in health care settings. I argue that WomanistHealthCare is a critical pedagogy which shapes our understanding of the relations of space, place and power by situating black women’s bodies, and the spaces they inhabit for care, as sites for radical resistance and redemptive healing. I also emphasize that an engaged pedagogical focus on healthcare space is rooted in the dynamic present and becomes revolutionary and prophetically hopeful as illuminated by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

David Craig, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
A New HIP Public? Urban Congregations and the Healthy Indiana Plan

As scholars work in public places, we need to think critically about the meaning of a "public" and choose carefully which publics to engage. John Dewey's concept of a public helps analyze the process and findings of a community participatory research project on the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), a unique consumer-directed Medicaid program built on conservative "public" values of consumer choice and personal responsibility. Congregational partners in two low-income urban neighborhoods and a religious ethicist have conducted a qualitative study of participants' understandings of health and experiences with HIP. Religious values and practices inform distinct cultures of wellness and programs for assisting congregants and neighbors who support their health and access care on the contested ground of Medicaid policy. Navigating racial and ethnic differences, this project contributes toward building a public committed to Medicaid's moral legitimacy and committing institutional resources to appropriate, accessible, and affordable health care and community wellness.

Business Meeting:
Marcella Norling, Orange Coast College
Buddhism Unit and Religion and Disability Studies Unit
Theme: Buddhism and Disability Studies: Critical Analysis and Constructive Thought on Disability and the Disabled Body in Buddhist Traditions
Carol S. Anderson, Kalamazoo College, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-21 (Upper Level East)

This panel brings Buddhist Studies into productive conversation with Disability Studies through a critical analysis of disability in a diverse range of Buddhist traditions. The papers examine how the disabled and the disabled body—such as those with sensory and learning impairments—are constructed and marginalized within ableist ideologies that support Buddhist philosophies and practices of liberation. At the same time, the papers seek to go beyond critical analysis to engage constructively with Buddhist traditions to find alternative and counter-hegemonic spaces in which Buddhism itself provides critical resources to challenge ableism and promote inclusion and social justice.

Alexander Hsu, University of Notre Dame
Why Panthaka Can’t Read: Learning Disability and Liberation in A Grove of Pearls

Buddhism often privileges wisdom above all. But what if a person appears constitutionally unable to develop wisdom? The figure of Panthaka, a primary disciple of the Buddha who cannot memorize a single gāthā, challenges Buddhists to reckon with ableism and live up to the dharma’s universalizing promise. The scholar-monk Daoshi made Panthaka central to his chapter on “Stupidity” (yugang) in his Grove of Pearls from the Garden of Dharma, the landmark Chinese Buddhist anthology of 668. I argue that Daoshi’s collection of extracts on Panthaka produces new reflection on learning disability and its affordances for religious instruction. The karmic explanations for “why Panthaka can’t read” would seem to blame the learning disabled for their own impairments. But Daoshi’s extracts tutor their readers to radically reconfigure the “idiot” (cūḍa) in relation to the hoarding of dharma, the arrogance of an exclusivist sangha, and the foundational idiocies all suffering derives from.

Charles B. Jones, Catholic University of America
No Braille Signage in Sukhāvatī? Pure Land Buddhist Teachings about Sensory Impairments

The famous 48 vows of he Larger Sukhāvatī-vyūha sutra state that beings with defective or incomplete sense-organs shall not attain rebirth in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitābha, a restriction that later Buddhist writers equated with the stricture against women. In this presentation, the author will examine the wording of this vow in the sutra and then trace its reception and interpretation through a variety of traditional Chinese commentaries and treatises as well as by contemporary Pure Land teachers. In this exploration, we will discover why sensory impairment mattered more than other kinds of disabilities, and how the later tradition tried to soften this vow so as not to discourage those with such disabilities from seeking to attain rebirth in Sukhāvatī. It will conclude by seeing what assistance may be had from current Disability Studies theory in interpreting this belief.

Bee Scherer, Canterbury Christ Church University
"Ugly, Unsightly, Deformed…": Scriptural Ableism, Physiomoral Discourses, and Hermeneutical Strategies for Buddhist Dis/ability Advocacy

In this paper, I investigate the possibilities of scriptural exegesis for Buddhist dis/ability advocacy. Buddhist foundational texts and popular homiletic discourses espouse a variety of discourses around physio-social normativities which in contemporary reading appear discriminatory and marginalizing, in terms of, among others, classism, (hetero-)sexism, and ableism. I am using Critical Disability Studies broadly conceived (Goodly 2017). Challenging simplistic and reductionist discourses on karman, I scrutinize ableist stock language and imagery of Buddhist foundational texts and, using the Lotus Sūtra as a test case, gauge the potential of translating and re-contextualizing popular elements of the “physiomoral discourse of the body” (Mrozik 2007, Ch. 4) into more nuanced karma theories and of adducing modifying and overriding soteriological principles. An applied exegesis of Buddhist foundational texts for dis/ability inclusion and social justice can hence emerge in dialogue with Christian Liberation Theology, Feminist, Queer and 'Crip' Theology; on textual, literary, philosophical and dharmological levels.

Justin Fifield, Trinity College
An Ethics of Care? Disability Discourses in South Asian Buddhist Monasticism

This paper examines how disability discourses in Indic Buddhist texts inform and construct ethical subjectivities of monastic praxis and communal ethics of care. Three modes of discourse are examined: hagiography, meditation teaching, and institutional law. Within these, there is a tension between the social formation of the monastic subject as male, able-bodied, and attractive and the experiential realization of the monastic body as sick, foul, and dis-abled. While this latter mode of subjectivity recognizes and, in some sense, embraces the variable body, it does so by objectifying and excluding the disabled body—making it into an object of perception and art—with serious ethical implications for the treatment of actual disabled bodies. This essay attends to this tension and ethical complexity with the goal of understanding the factors that produce and inhibit communal ethics of care. My on-going research specifically concerns care for sick and elderly monastics in Sri Lanka.

Stuart Chandler, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Armless Dharma Joy: An Analysis of the Memoirs of Ōishi Junkyō

On June 21, 1905 Nakagawa Manjirō, the proprietor of a popular geisha house in Osaka, went on a bloody rampage after discovering that his wife was having an affair with his nephew. Within fifteen minutes he had murdered five people. Only a seventeen-year-old apprentice geisha surnamed Ōishi survived, although both of her arms had been severed by her adoptive father’s samurai sword. Over the next six decades, Ōishi would become a vaudeville performer, poet and artist, wife and mother, and eventually a Shingon Buddhist nun. In this paper, I analyze the four versions of her autobiography to provide insight into how she employed Buddhist teachings to interpret the significance of her disability. To do so, I unpack her understanding of karma, mind-mudras, mind-hands, and skillful means. I conclude the paper by noting the symbolic import of Ōishi’s final act: donating her body to Kyoto University’s medical department.

Darla Schumm, Hollins University
Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: Killing the Joy of Reproductive Time
Amanda Nichols, University of Florida, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire L (Fourth Level)

This session takes up the question of how we can kill the joy of reproductive time in several contexts including the world parliament of religions, jesuit institutions, cancer centers, and in the discipline of religious studies itself.

Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Fordham University
Un(der)paid Labor in the Production of Theological Subjects

The reproductive and affective labor of women of color built university systems that produce theological subjects. But the high cost of their labor reveals the exploitative relationality that has underwritten theological work, and the patriarchal whiteness of ecclesial educational settings. In transforming these settings, the production of theological subjects aware of intersectionality, patriarchy and white supremacy has also been made possible by the emotional labor of women and children of color in the struggles of integration. Archival research and historical reconstruction provides critical resources for considering the labor of women of color in the production of theological subjects past and present.

Meredith Minister, Shenandoah University
Fuck the Survivor: Refusing the Future Promised by the Sanctified Cancer Patient

This paper is about the demand for new beginnings. The demand for a new beginning requires cancer survivors to act as harbingers of the future, heralds of a cure, hope for longevity for us all. If cancer is no longer a death sentence, we can live forever! The Survivor, as figured in these expectations, promises immortality. This paper is also about refusing the demand for new beginnings. I extend Edelman’s argument in No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive to the future maintained by the figure of The Survivor, a figure that undermines the experiences of many people with cancer. The concluding section draws on Edelman and Berlant’s Sex, or the Unbearable to develop a form of survival without optimism. Surviving without optimism becomes a means for survivors to resist living for a cure and participate in the optimistic curative time on which they are encouraged to operate.

Wendy Mallette, Yale University
Disciplinary Temporalities, Temporal Drag, and the Lesbian Feminist Killjoy

This paper considers recent work on the temporalities and genealogies of feminist and queer studies alongside Sara Ahmed’s feminist killjoy. In religious studies, these genealogies produce fraught, often progressive, temporal politics. They generate a preoccupation with (anti-)essentialism (where lesbian feminism paradigmatically figures as essentialist) that propels queer work in religion. Moreover, these genealogies repeat in religious studies what Sharon Holland describes as the simultaneous invocation and erasure of black lesbianism performed in queer studies’ disciplinary formation. I use the negativity of the lesbian feminist killjoy to challenge the progressive temporalities and preoccupations of queer work in religion, drawing on Pat Parker and Andrea Dworkin. The lesbian feminist killjoy’s criticisms of sociality and her demands for an otherwise provide strategies for social transformation. Her insistence on an otherwise is not a reconciliation with sociality’s violence—rather, her refusal to reproduce happiness can challenge the progressive temporalities of queer work in religion.

Valeria Vergani, University of Toronto
Temporal Removal, Spiritual Transcendence: Constructing Indigenous Temporalities at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions

This paper takes the Parliament of the World's Religions – the largest interfaith gathering in the world – as a research site for understanding the interface between gender, race and time in the North American interfaith movement. Analyzing ethnographic data from the 2018 edition of the Parliament, I interrogate the role of Indigenous temporalities in the production of this interfaith gathering, and reveal the gendered and racial dimensions at play in this production. Drawing on the framework of “temporal multiplicity” offered by queer studies, I argue that Indigenous temporal orientations rooted in prophecy, circularity and ancestral memory were strategically constructed and mobilized at the Parliament to signify spiritual transcendence. This process rests on the reification of Indigenous identity as inherently timeless, otherworldly and transcendental. Ultimately, the temporal politics of Indigeneity at the Parliament reveal an underlying tension between pluralism as an instrument of coloniality, and pluralism as a strategy of decolonization.

Kathryn Moles, Santa Clara University
Business Meeting:
Tom Berendt, Temple University
Hinduism Unit and Religion and Economy Unit
Theme: Economies of Modern Hinduism: Markets of Discipline and Critique
Deonnie Moodie, University of Oklahoma, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 300A (Third Level)

This panel takes as its starting point the inherent entanglement of the religious and the economic and seeks to understand the ways they co-constitute one another in modern Hindu contexts. Two papers probe the ways that the emergence of industrial capitalism in India produced both religious critiques of that economic form’s planetary ethics; as well as new discourses of religious sincerity that misrecognized their own roots within capitalism’s logic of free trade. Another two papers examine the spiritual and material investments that are made in a pilgrimage site in India and in figures of Hindu gods in the United States, respectively, and the forms of capital those investments produce. Together, these four papers push us to consider how Hindu ideas and practices are implicated in capitalist economic systems while also exceeding their bounds.

Vijaya Nagarajan, University of San Francisco
Hinduism and Climate: Economies of Energy, Equity, and Ethics

Hinduism and climate are closely examined through the economic aspects of three societal values: energy, equity, and ethics, as these apply to a planetary scale (Hawkin 2017). Planetary energy, specifically carbon, which is produced mostly by industrial modes of production, is viewed through values embedded in the Hindu religious texts of the Dharmashastras (Olivelle 1999). Planetary equity, as defined by balancing necessary growth and reducing excessive consumption, is hermeneutically interpreted through the Katha Upanishads (Olivelle 2008: 231-247), a dialogue between a teenage student, Nachikethas and Yama, the god of death. Planetary ethics, as defined by who gets what and how much and when, is analyzed through the ethnographic practice of the kolam, a Tamil Hindu women’s ritual practice of drawing rice-flour patterns, with the explicit intention of “feeding a thousand souls” every single day, through non-reciprocal generosity (Nagarajan 2019).

Cassie Adcock, Washington University, St. Louis
The Sacred Cow of British India: Free Trade and the Politics of Cow Protection

Debate surrounding bovine slaughter in India -- the politics of cow protection -- is organized by an opposition between economy and culture. This is clear in contemporary criticisms of cow protection, which point to the economic burden unwanted cattle place upon Indian farmers, dairy workers, cattle traders, and others when slaughter is prohibited out of deference to Hindu values. It is also internal to the discourse of cow protection itself: cow protectionists insist that Hindu reverence for the sacred cow actively facilitates the functioning of the economy in India by preventing wastage of the country’s most useful animal. The notion that culture and economy are separate, isolable spheres that co-exist in happy or unhappy relation is central to discourses of development. Scholars have given great attention to the colonial politics of religion; this paper details how, in its formative years, cow protection was shaped by the logic of free trade.

Carter Higgins, Cornell University
Saintly Investments: Seva and the Development of Pilgrimage Routes in Contemporary Rajasthan

This presentation will contribute to the discussion of Hinduism and economy by reflecting on an ethnographic study of religio-charitable and governmental partnerships in the infrastructural development of the Gogameri pilgrimage in Rajasthan. Building on the formulations of my interlocutors, I will describe the scene as “seva-development,” which pertains as much to projects of religious change as it does to the infrastructural partnerships. A rural site with Hindu and Muslim ritual specialists, hagiographies, and architectures, Gogameri, has long drawn lower-caste devotees from across “world religions.” The pilgrim trusts, priestly and monastic groups, government agencies, and Hindu Right volunteers who lead the developmental efforts, however, increasingly work to delink the site from these shared genealogies and tie it instead to Hindu configurations of history and belonging. In order to understand seva-development, the paper proposes an analysis elaborated in the notion of “saintly investments.”

Drew Thomases, San Diego State University
The Price Tag of Enlightenment: Murtis as Spiritual Investments on the Margins of Hindu and Hippie

This paper explores how non-Indians in California use and appropriate statues of Hindu deities. In particular, I am interested in spiritual seekers who purchase murtis—sometimes very expensive ones—as an explicit investment toward their own self development. Interestingly, such seekers tend not to think of their statues as manifestations of the divine—that is, not as gods themselves—but instead as symbols that correspond to particular “archetypes.” Archetype-talk comes from Deepak Chopra via Carl Jung, and in this case refers to the idea that deities signify certain qualities, and subsequently encourage self-cultivation of those very qualities. So, what is going on here? Why does the idea of deity-as-archetype have such appeal? And what are the factors that lead a person to become financially indebted for the sake of spiritual wealth?

Brian K. Pennington, Elon University
Islam, Gender, Women Unit and Study of Islam Unit
Theme: New Horizons in Islamic Studies: Advanced Graduate Work Showcase
Saadia Yacoob, Williams College, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-4 (Upper Level West)

In this co-sponsored session, advanced graduate students in Islamic studies, broadly defined, present their original research.

Abiya Ahmed, Stanford University
Prejudice, Progressivism, and Power: Politics in the Making of "Islamic" and American Muslims on Campus

Graduate Session Proposal

How do American Muslim college students construct and navigate notions of Islamic normativity? Based on two years of (ongoing) ethnographic work and interviews at a private and secular university on the West Coast, my dissertation explores this question in the lives of American Muslim undergraduates, focusing on six students. Preliminary findings indicate that students grapple with the “Islamic” and being Muslim in three areas, all mediated by politics: religious practice, female leadership, and liberal and conservative activism. Central to this “meaning-making” process (Parks 2000; 2011) are intersections of race, gender, and class with dynamics of power and secularity (Asad 2003; Jackson 2017). My research builds on Peek’s (2005) and Mir’s (2014) work on how students “become Muslim” and negotiate identities, but with more attention to how a theoretical and contested “Islamic” – formed in this historic political moment and a specific sociocultural context – influences their ability to be Muslim on campus.

Muhammad Khan, University of Cambridge
Sociality and the Mystical Theology of ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (1641-1731AD)

In Islam, sociality is positively encouraged in people’s spiritual development and has typically been associated with interactions with one’s contemporaries. Little attention has been paid to the influence of other forms of interaction, for instance, through seclusion (in Nābulusī’s case, writing books for his hypothetical reader), via dreams and visions of the dead as well as by grave-visitation. Seldom in research on sufis do we consider how significant these other areas are in the subject’s development, thought and quotidian interactions. My research brings these underrepresented areas together in Nābulusī, a prolific writer with autobiographic material that permits aetiological exploration of his perspective towards sociality. Through shedding light on the significance of these other types of interactions to a mystic like Nābulusī, I hope to show their impact on his mystical theology and why they were often accorded greater weight than mundane socialization with the living who surrounded him.

Emma Thompson, Princeton University
Teleologies of Becoming: Muhammad Iqbal's Taqdir (Destiny) as a Model for Rethinking Trans Temporalities

Muhammad Iqbal, known as the “Spiritual Father of Pakistan,” outlined a Muslim temporality that serves as a response to modern serial time. Current approaches to trans and queer temporalities disrupt the serial march of modern time, which Elizabeth Freeman terms chrononormativity, by interpolating the past and future into the present through concepts like José Muñoz’s utopian longing and Jack Halberstam’s anachronism but Iqbal’s ‘pure time’ suggests a less fleeting alternative to chrononormativity.
Iqbal drew on the Islamic idea of taqdir (destiny), centered on constant creative becoming, to break down the barriers between past, present, and future and conceive of time as an organic whole. In ‘pure time,’ change is a realization of infinite possibility instead of movement from one state to another. I argue that “pure time” provides a strategy for reconceptualizing transgender temporalities that combines a permanence of self with constant creative change.

Ryan Brizendine, Yale University
Ibn ʿArabī and Qūnawī between Naẓar and Kashf: a Conjoint Critique of Rational Inquiry and Defense of Inspired Knowledge

In the thirteenth-century eastern Mediterranean cities of Damascus and Konya the interdependent and mutually informative works of the Andalusian ‘greatest master’ of Sufism Ibn ʿArabī (d. 1240) and his foremost disciple Ṣadr al‑Dīn Qūnawī (d. 1274)—‘philosophical mystic’ and ‘mystical philosopher’, respectively—synthesize the methods and conclusions of rational reflection with those of mystical ‘unveiling’ or inspired knowledge to effect an epistemic shift within Islamic intellectual history of profound significance and continuing relevance to this day, as offering subtle and sophisticated solutions to perennial philosophical-theological questions that unite the three Abrahamic faiths. While Ibn ʿArabī’s works are a font of inspired discourse, however, they are frequently “elliptical and ambiguous,” stubbornly resistant to linear analysis; Qūnawī performs the essential function of systematization and co-ordination, drawing directly upon Avicennian philosophical principles to establish the philosophical Sufism inherited from Ibn ʿArabī as an independent system of knowledge, the “divine science" (al‑ʿilm al‑ilāhī).

Sana Patel, University of Ottawa
Understanding Muslim Millennials in the Social Media Age

With the advancement of new digital technologies and the ubiquity of online information, social media plays a large role in forming and shaping religious identities. My doctoral research focuses on the religious behaviours of North American Muslim Millennials. It involves studying their religious beliefs and practices in the digital and physical worlds. Currently conducting fieldwork, I am interviewing young Muslims who attended Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Conference in December 2018, which is held annually in Toronto. I examine this conference as an event where offline and online religions intersect. Using lived religion as a guiding theoretical approach, I aim to answer research questions such as what roles social media platforms play in the religious lives of young North American Muslims, how they navigate religious identity in online and offline spaces, what this means for religious authority and how RIS fits as a hybrid media space.

Sawyer French, University of Chicago
The Rise of Gender Studies in Indonesian Islamic Universities: Indigenous and Imperial Genealogies

In the 1990s, gender studies centers began to emerge at Islamic universities throughout Indonesia, and “gender” has since become an established framework within the world of Islamic scholarship, resulting most notably in the Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama in 2017. These developments present an opportunity to examine how transnational discourses of feminism and liberal Islamic reform have been translated into local contexts. In this session, I will briefly survey the genealogies of this field, highlighting two major factors in its development: (1) the life histories and intellectual trajectories of the scholars and students who participate in and shape the field, and (2) the transnational networks of private and state power and funding that propelled the emergence of these departments and influenced their research agendas. I conclude by revisiting the category of “colonial feminism” and inviting reflection on the concept within a global context of the proliferated ubiquity of imperial power.

Rahim Samnani, McMaster University
Rethinking the Historical Muhammad: A New Quest

Graduate Session
Biographies on Muhammad (d. 632) continue to be written by academics and theologians alike. With the latest biography published in 2018, the relevance of who Muhammad was has not lost any significance. Unfortunately, there continues to be a lack of sound, coherent methodology and criteria of authenticity. My current research demonstrates how we can reconstruct the life of the “historical Muhammad” by developing a sound method based on criteria to identify larger patterns across the primary sources available pertinent to his life, including the Quran, hadith, biographies (sira) and non-Muslim sources. My dissertation has been inspired by Dale Allison’s recent scholarship on the historical Jesus. By using his method on memory, imagination, and history, which will be contextualized for seventh-century Arabia, I offer an approach to better understand the life of Muhammad through larger generalizations, as well as certain themes and motifs that recur again and again throughout primary sources.

Kristian Petersen, Old Dominion University
Business Meeting:
Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst, University of Vermont
Elliott Bazzano, Le Moyne College
Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society Unit and North American Religions Unit and Religions in the Latina/o Americas Unit
Theme: Remembering and Moving with the Work of Luís D. León: A Commemorative Conversation
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-3 (Upper Level West)

In this session we gather to celebrate Luís León as friend, scholar, and mentor to a generation of students of Latinaox religions. Our purpose is to reflect on how León’s scholarship shaped the fields of Latinaox religion and border and borderlands studies over the last two decades, and to imagine together how it will continue to set a course for those and other fields in the future, through the scholars and scholarship that León helped to form.

Daisy Vargas, University of California, Riverside
La Llorona's Children at the US-Mexico Border: Luis D. Leon's Decolonial Scholarship in Confronting State Violence

This paper presents Luis D. Leon’s use of La Llorona (and her children) as an invitation and a position of commitment to activist-scholarship. I reflect on the state of the field of Latinaox religion and U.S.-Mexico border studies in the 15 years since its initial publication and to position La Llorona within a larger framework of emergent scholarship to attend to the continuity and legacy of colonial violence that manifest in everyday forms of statecraft that police and surveil geographies of race and gender.

Roger Green, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Employing Luis León's Religious Poetics in the Ayahuasca Diaspora

This paper highlights an ongoing tension between Luis León's concept of "religious poetics" and indigenous ethics of what Gerald Vizenor (Chippewa/White Earth) has termed "survivance." Both León and Vizenor draw on and critically react to continental European thought. While keeping that tension present, the paper argues that León's notion of religious poetics is the best available method for understanding ayahuasca diaspora in both its avowedly religious iterations coming out of Brazil as well as its liberal, "New Age" healing and biopolitically therapeutic forms. What León gives us is an analytic for understanding the dynamics of the global commodification of ayahuasca, particularly in North American legal contexts. While León's work dealt with Aztecan contexts, Incan notions of Pachamama or "earth-mother" are often invoked by ayahuasca enthusiasts in ways that mask the emergence of ayahuasca as a commodity-fetish.

Adriana Nieto, Metropolitan State University of Denver
A Post-Humous Thank You Letter to Luis Leon

This paper will reflect on the influence of Luis Leon’s work on not only my research (Leon was my dissertation chair in 2007-2009), but also on my teaching Chicanx Studies.
Leon’s articulation of ‘religious poetics’ in much of his work prior to, but especially in La Llorona’s Children, served as a point of departure for my research on United Methodist Women, also known as Mujeres Metodistas Unidas (MMU) in what was the Rio Grande Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. I would also like to reflect briefly on the importance of Luis Leon’s mentorship to me as a Chicana blindly navigating a doctoral program, dissertation, defense, and academic job market. I have since earned tenure in a Chicana/o/x Studies department and will have begun serving as chair of the department in August 2019, and really have much thanks to give Luis Leon.

Harold Morales, Morgan State University
La Llorona’s Beloved Children: An Engagement with the Specters of Luís León, Toni Morrison, and Jacques Derrida

This paper seeks to put the work of Luís León, Toni Morrison, and Jacques Derrida on spectrality in conversation with one another. I conjure these specific specters both because of their ability to open up new ways for engaging borderlands, memory, trauma, and justice and because of their significance to my work on murals in the city of Baltimore. I argue that the former are troubled by issues regarding being, agency, and liberation and that ‘hauntings’ invite critical reflection on the limits of our key categories while also expanding and deepening our relationships with others.

Miguel De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology
Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Lesbian-Feminisms and Religion Unit
Theme: Audre Lorde: Lesbian-Feminist, Theo-Poetics
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411B (Fourth Level)

Audre Lorde (1934-1992), born of Caribbean immigrant parents and raised in New York City, was a lesbian-feminist activist and poet, essayist in the late twentieth century. Before her untimely death from a fourteen-year long battle with breast and liver cancers, Lorde had become well-known not only for the depth of her poetic vision, but also for her importance to the burgeoning Black feminist communities and for her unwavering clarity with regard to the inherent racism of the white feminist movements in the United States. Lorde asserted that creative differences, emerging from the inexorably different identities that we find in the “deep places” (Sister Outsider) within ourselves, could catalyze positive change in our communities and in the world as a whole. In academic contexts, she is especially known for recognizing the erotic as a source of knowledge and for her powerful speech “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” What does Lorde’s lesbian-feminist, activist poetry, speeches, and essays offer to the study of religion? What changes occur in evaluating, ‘knowing,’ or ‘doing’ religion when we turn to Lorde? How might she open our imaginations beyond the master’s house, so to speak, within religious studies?

Rachel A. Heath, Vanderbilt University
Audre Lorde: The Place of Difference in the Poetics of a Life

This presentation will trace the biographical journey of Audre Lorde through close readings of Lorde’s own Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) and the critically acclaimed Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (2004) by Alexis De Veaux. Through her relationships with women in the places she lives and travels, Lorde traces her being and becoming as a lesbian poet, feminist, writer, and activist. We will show how place is significant to envisioning the “house of difference” that has become one of the Lorde’s enduring legacies. The presentation will conclude by drawing connections between Alexis De Veaux’s notion of Lorde’s journey toward a “spiritual home” in the Carribbean to Lorde’s own lesbian-inflected epistemological vision that is, arguably, formed and grounded in the places where she lived and traveled.

Oluwatomisin Oredein, Brite Divinity School
God-Talk and Lorde-Speak: Audre Lorde and Inappropriate Theopoetics

Theopoetics as a creatively reflective discipline explores theological themes and matters from oft-unexplored angles and avenues. Its reputation of categorical impossibility precedes it. Its refusal to be captured within one form invokes an “inappropriate” hermeneutic. A poetic approach to exploring God-talk and God-thought acquaints the reader with new territory; God-talk and God-thought exceed the bounds historically assigned them. If the fullness of God-knowledge has yet to be tapped into let alone known lest it play with words, reconfigure imagery, and entangle embodied experience in its wake, then the limits of theology become quite apparent. The paradoxical entanglement of limitlessness with limit is quite apparent.

I argue that in Sister Outsider Audre Lorde embodies this paradox, this usefulness of the “inappropriate.” Through centering the thought-life of black women Lorde invokes critical reflection of deeply-rooted theological precepts and invites constructive possibility towards theology uninhibited and liberative—an innovative form of theopoetic theorem.

Courtney Rabada, Northwestern University
The Transformation of Religious Studies through the Confounded Identities of Audre Lorde

In this paper, I argue the ways in which Audre Lorde’s poetry, essays, speeches, journals, and interviews cannot be divorced from her blackness, her lesbian sexuality, her activism, and her life are the personification of the transformation of religious studies that Aisha Beliso-De Jesús calls for in “Confounded Identities.” Lorde writes her embodied self into her texts, a practice that is considered anathema to the field of religious studies, and one which bridges the “scholar-practitioner” divide. However, it is not enough to simply read her words and use her ideas as tools. This would only reconstitute the split and turn Lorde’s multifaceted identity into a commodity of recognition that continues to center whiteness. Rather we must emulate Lorde’s own profound commitment to multiple identities, all of which together allow us to do the work of transformation that bridges the differences that were so often the topic of Lorde’s thoughts.

Timothy Dwight Davis, Vanderbilt University
Warrior Poetry and Wicked Words: Audre Lorde as a Foundation for Feminist Theopoetics

This paper examines the poetry of Audre Lorde with an eye towards developing a feminist theopoetic. It argues that poetry offers a way of “boundary thinking,” one that exists beyond the rigorous confines of white patriarchal insistence on logical analysis. Poetry as theological method uses wordplay and imagination to foster alternative ways of thinking and expression. Through imagination, wit, and wordplay, poetry as theological method offers a possibility of doing theology and religious studies creatively, offering a distinctively feminist theopoetic method. Lorde, although not religious herself, offers an impassioned and beautiful interpretation of poetry, and left us with a beautiful repository of poetry. Through a close engagement with her poetry and theory, this paper will seek to sketch a brief suggestion of poetic theology. In doing so, the hope is, to echo Lorde, to free theology from constancy and thereby not allow the house of patriarchal theology to stand forever.

Business Meeting:
Michelle Wolff, Augustana College
Religion in Southeast Asia Unit
Theme: Challenging Religious Establishments: Scandal, Transgression, and Sousveillance in Contemporary Southeast Asia
Bahar Davary, University of San Diego, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 303 (Third Level)

This panel explores religious bodies as sites for disciplinary performance within Buddhist, Islamic, and Hindu communities in contemporary Southeast Asia. These contested bodies challenge religious establishments in ways both celebrated and condemned. Paper topics include media coverage of Thai monastic body shapes and gender performance, the feminist and Islamic competing narratives of gender equality in Indonesia, and challenges to Hindu priestly authority in Bali, Indonesia. These three ethnographic case studies raises questions regarding how religious communities in contemporary Southeast Asia relate to powerful institutions. Furthermore, this panel asks: how should scholars of religion best approach issues of embodiment, gender performance, and ritual display?

Brooke Schedneck, Rhodes College
Everyday Scandals: Regulating the Buddhist Monastic Body in Thai Media

The regulation of monastic behavior is an abundant topic in Thai media. Although major monastic scandals involving sex, drugs, and money make the biggest impact within Thai society, ‘everyday scandals’ of misbehaving monks appear regularly in Thai media outlets. Many of these scandals involve an inappropriate display of the monastic body, followed by discussion of whether monks are too fat or if they are behaving in overly masculine or feminine ways. This presentation is an analysis of Thai Buddhist society’s regulating impulse of the monastic body. Through a selection of English and Thai language articles from the years 2013-2018, I investigate these ‘everyday scandals’ involving Buddhist monks’ bodily performance. Although not as sensational as senior monastic arrests or monks involved in multi-million baht financial scandals, these ‘everyday scandals’ contribute to the feeling of a crisis in Thai Buddhism.

June McDaniel, College of Charleston
Authority and Performance in Bali: Pedandas vs the New Age

In Bali, Indonesia, the major traditional religious authorities are the Hindu pedandas or high priests, who guide their communities on issues of both public and private concern. They must go through initiation and years of training, and learn the ritual of suryasevana, in which they mystically unite each morning with the god Siva. This ritual performance allows them to create the holy water which is required for all Hindu rituals in Bali.
However, over the past few decades they have been challenged by Hindu teachers and gurus from outside of Bali. These figures bring alternative types of Hinduism, with vegetarianism (Balinese Hindus eat meat), emotional exuberance (Balinese Hinduism emphasizes discipline rather than passion), and wealthy Western disciples of modern Indian gurus who claim to have the ‘true’ Hinduism. Can Balinese tradition stand against this challenge for the next generation?

Etin Anwar, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Debating Equalities: Islamic and Feminist Contestations in Indonesia

I will discuss how the New Order’s state, women’s movements, and feminist activism produce and reclaim what each consider as the sphere of gender equality. I situate the competing spheres of gender equality within the contexts of the intellectual responses to the imposition of Pancasila as the state ideology. I show how this intersection leads to the integrative process of both Islam and feminism as an ethical paradigm to promote women’s emancipation in Indonesia. In the 1980s, the state solidified the political and social order by reinforcing Pancasila as the sole foundation (azas tunggal) in Indonesia’s socio-political life and the 1985 Election Law. The state imposition of Pancasila restructured Muslims and their relationship to the state in the public sphere and bolstered the debates on Islam and politics. The variations in Muslim intellectual responses toward the relationship between Islam and state intersected with the way Muslim women’s movements and feminist activism responded toward the state’s imposition of gender order. Although Muslim women’s movements emphasized on the importance of enacting a paternalistic model of Islam and the state's gender order, they recognized the spiritual equality between men and women. This recognition allows for a dialogue with feminism as both Islam and feminism converge on perceiving men and women as ethical agents.

Thomas Patton, City University of Hong Kong
Business Meeting:
Alexandra Kaloyanides, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Religion, Attire, and Adornment in North America Seminar
Theme: Religious Dress: Presentation, Display, and Spectacle
Nora L. Rubel, University of Rochester, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410A (Fourth Level)

Papers in this session are united through their exploration of themes of display, presentation, and spectacle in religious dress. Examples from both the nineteenth and twentieth century, and a range of religious traditions, will be presented.

Adrienne Ambrose, University of the Incarnate Word
Sartorial Spectacle and the Representation of Catholicism in America

In 1926, Chicagoans gathered for daily parades of Catholic leaders in ecclesiastical regalia; they frequented elaborate displays of clerical fashion and attended public liturgies at the city’s most celebrated venues. The first American Eucharistic Congress was the inspiration for this display of sartorial splendor. Chicago’s Catholics saw the occasion as a golden opportunity to publicly express their faith. As Catholic immigration stabilized in the 1920s, newcomers crafted their American identity. Meanwhile, members of the shrinking Protestant majority redefined the place of religion in the public sphere. What neither group explicitly recognized was how the rising Hollywood film industry inadvertently contributed to these collective projects. I argue that the enthusiastic reception of the Congress was a manifestation of intertexutality between public Catholicism and “show business.” The Heavenly Bodies exhibit suggests that this intertexual exchange remains powerful even today.

Kayla Renée Wheeler, Grand Valley State University
“Clothes of Righteousness”: The MGT Uniform as a Tool of Nation Building

Using qualitative discourse analysis of Muhammad Speaks editorials written by women in the Nation of Islam between 1961 and 1975, this presentation highlights how the MGT uniform allowed Black Muslim women to create alternative representations of Blackness. The uniform transformed Black women into Mothers of Civilization, disrupting dominant narratives of Black women as hypersexual, ugly, and unfeminine. Further, I argue that the uniform functioned as a form of affective dress, changing the moods and behaviors of the wearers and their observers. These new images and disciplining behaviors, I argue, played an important role in building the Nation of Islam. This presentation will add to the renewed scholarly attention to Black women’s experiences within the Nation of Islam by focusing on the ways in which modest clothing contributed to both individual and collective self-making.

Melisa Ortiz Berry, Northwest Christian University
Subversive Evangelism: The Textile Theology of Henrietta Mears

In the exploration of religious dress and meaning making, Henrietta Mears provides us with an opportunity to see the subversive use of clothing through the textual reinterpretation of scripture by a female evangelical leader. Subversive for her style, subversive for her hermeneutic, subversive for teaching both men and women—Henrietta Mears was an example of subversive evangelism (and evangelicalism) through her unique textile theology.

Alexander Rocklin, College of Idaho
The Queer Hat of King Solomon: Religion and the Role of Headgear in Racial Passing

By taking on “Hindoo” identities, people of color in the twentieth century US could circumvent the black/white racial binary. This paper examines the racial religious passing of King Solomon, an earlier twentieth century mystic who donned a stovepipe hat and claimed to be “a full-blooded Hindoo” but who was unsuccessful in his chosen racial/religious strategy. Solomon and his hat were repeatedly unable to convince audiences on the West Coast of his “Hindooness.” He was instead accused of being a black man from the Caribbean. In order to make sense of Solomon’s failures I do not want to wade into the politics of authenticity. Rather, I will examine the ways in which his religious, sexual, and national positioning queered Tiger Mahama’s racial potentialities. And I further situate Solomon in a broader context of the role of headgear in racial religious passing in the US.

Unregistered Participant
Dressed for Glory: African-American Protestant Church Women, White Uniforms, and Visual Political Theology

White uniforms are a power visual aesthetic element in African-American churches, from ushers to Women's Day to the Mother Board. A tradition with ties to the Diaspora as a whole, this aesthetic mechanism signals memory and the prophetic simultaneously. This paper will examine early political implications and intentions of African-American Protestant church women wearing all-white uniforms, and explores how such an action continues to carry impact in the age of mass incarceration and health care inequity. Understanding the uniform as the creation and signaling of a visual-political theology, this paper bears witness to the prophetic unction, manifested aesthetically, of Black women "dressed for glory."

Business Meeting:
Martha L Finch, Missouri State University
Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace Unit
Theme: Maternal Activism in Contexts of Violence
Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon, University of Pardubice, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202B (Second Level)

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace. Today, Ruddick’s text represents a significant moment in the development of feminist philosophy, but it is rarely employed as a theoretical resource for analysis. Valid charges of ethnocentrism and gender essentialism render suspect white maternal scholarship like this. As Maria Lugones argued in 2003, Ruddick acknowledged the criticism of ethnocentrism, but did not actually engage the work of her critics and their experiences. Her engagement with scholars of color was not “interactive.” This panel views this anniversary as an opportunity to think afresh about diverse forms of maternal activism in contexts of violence and the theoretical resources employed for analysis. In an effort to model an interactive conversation, these presenters explore diverse forms of maternal activism in four different contexts of violence.

Ellen Ott Marshall, Emory University
Maternal Thinking and Gun Reform in the Contemporary U.S.

In 1985, white feminist philosopher Sara Ruddick published an essay that she developed into a book titled Maternal Thinking published in 1989. Considered a classic in feminist philosophy, it was and remains a contentious text. And yet, it has also been used to theorize anti-violence activism by mothers. This paper retrieves Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking as a resource for analyzing contemporary activism by moms advocating for gun reform. Through this retrieval and analysis, the paper advances two arguments. First, Ruddick’s work should remain a part of the theoretical repertoire because a maternal identity does inform the thoughts and actions of these moral agents. Second, Ruddick’s work should never stand alone because maternal identity is always embedded in other dimensions of identity and social location.

Wonchul Shin, Columbia Theological Seminary
Salimi in Action: South Korean Mothers’ Transformative Protest against Political and Cultural Violence, 1970-1986

This paper aims to provide a case study for examining the role of “mothers” as transformers of violence in the context of political oppression. For this purpose, this paper focuses on a case of political resistance, practiced by a group of South Korean mothers and wives of political victims under the totalitarian regimes of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan in the 1970-80s. In this paper, I critically analyze the two regimes’ totalitarian ideology—moralization of total/excessive sacrifices of citizens for the sake of the “glory” of the nation—as cultural violence that normalizes multiple forms of violence against South Korean citizens. I argue for the South Korean mothers’ transformative role in embodying an alternative moral discourse of salim, a Korean cultural term that literally means “giving things life” or “keeping things alive,” through their practices of political resistance. The embodied moral discourse of salim served as a powerful moral language to challenge the normalized totalitarian ideology and to envision holistic flourishing affirming each individual’s dignity and striving for social/cultural transformation as well.

Cara Curtis, Emory University
Caring as Counter-Logic: Everyday, Implicit Practices of Maternal Non-Violence among Incarcerated Theological Students in a U.S. Women’s Prison

Scholarship on maternal practices of non-violence has often focused on explicit peace activism; it has also struggled with the problem of essentialism. Practices of mothering and care among students in a majority-Christian theological studies program inside a U.S. women’s prison ask us to approach these dimensions of scholarship with fresh eyes. This paper draws on ethnographic research to argue that maternal practices of non-violence in this context, which are largely subtle and implicit, and which both channel and resist multiple forms of violence, can help expand our understanding of what it means to be a “mom working for peace.” To be such a mother is not to be essentially or totally peaceful, their example shows; nor is it necessarily to see oneself as an activist. Rather, these fragmentary yet impactful experiments in faith-informed care lift up the importance of ad-hoc, everyday practices of peace in contexts of violence and control.

Unregistered Participant
Mourning and Black Motherhood: How Tears Birth Social Movements

Sociologist James M. Jasper writes: “Emotions pervade all social life, social movements included.” In the last twenty-five to thirty years, social movement scholars have rediscovered the emotions of protest, politics, and social movements, adding to the rapid expansion of theory and research in the field. I propose to offer a paper at the intersection of the sociology of social movements and the emotions of protest that will address the subjects of mourning and black motherhood. This paper will begin to explore the roles of religion and of emotions (specifically grief) in catapulting black mothers into political activism and into doing the democratic work of social movements.

Annie Hardison-Moody, North Carolina State University
Business Meeting:
Atalia Omer, University of Notre Dame
  • Books under Discussion
Theology and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: Grave Attending: A Political Theology for the Unredeemed
Brandy Daniels, University of Virginia, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-17A (Mezzanine Level)

A roundtable discussion of Karen Bray’s Grave Attending: A Political Theology for the Unredeemed (Fordham University Press, 2019). Panelists will engage Bray’s injunction to remain willfully unredeemed and discuss what affect theory, crip theory, and black studies have to offer political theology.

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Wesleyan University
Maia Kotrosits, Denison University
Unregistered Participant
Kent Brintnall, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Anne Joh, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Karen Bray, Wesleyan College
Business Meeting:
Rakesh Peter-Dass, Hope College
Linn Tonstad, Yale University
  • Focus on Sustainability
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Women's Caucus
Theme: Creating and Expanding Public Spheres and Climate Change
Elaine Nogueira-Godsey, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-14A (Mezzanine Level)

The AAR/ SBL Women’s Caucus, in collaboration with the Feminist Liberation Theologian’s
Network (FLTN), will discuss their role as feminist theologians and scholars of religion and their responsibilities as educators in public spaces during times of anthropogenic climate change. In light of AAR/SBL 2019’s theme, presenters will discuss their roles in creating and expanding public discussions and in communicating and bridging people’s denial and/or unawareness of anthropogenic climate change. Presenters will engage with questions related to how and why public spheres should be expanded to include the religious, gendered and racial experiences of minoritized and/or marginalized people around the globe (e.g. refugees, migrants, etc.). Moreover, presenters will propose steps towards inclusivity in our own public spaces. Additionally, panelists will give their responses and reflections regarding FLTN’s Friday session. Then, Mary Hunt of FLTN will provide a summary of what was discussed at FLTN’s Friday session as well as her insights and feedback about the papers presented.

Jennifer Owens-Jofré, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Abby Mohaupt, Drew University
Theological Education in the Mobile Classroom: Working toward Justice for Migrants and Climate Justice along the Border

Climate change and immigration are difficult topics, made more volatile when put in conversation with religion. However, two feminist scholars have created a mobile classroom for students to learn from people who have migrated to the US and people experiencing the effects of climate change. The classroom centers lived experience and solidarity, inviting students to learn in the public sphere as we move from a Texas seminary to the US/Mexico border. We go to the border because we have been invited. We listen to stories of people and meet the land itself. We walk with students as they discern how they will respond. We invite students to become aware not only of the teachings of the religious and secular traditions to which they belong, but also to introduce them to contexts that can acquaint them with right orientation of the heart and right action on immigration and climate change.

Rosalind F. Hinton, Tulane University
The Women of Cancer Alley, at the Center of the Public Sphere

Cancer Alley is a 90-mile stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
This area is home to 200-plus petrochemical plants and is responsible for 19% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. An organization called RISE Louisiana founded by an African American school teacher, Sharon Lavigne, has entered the public square to stop the siting of dirty industries in African American communities, to question promises and practices of greed-driven multinational corporations, and to put a stop to the disproportionate economic and health burdens placed on African Americans who live along the fence lines of polluting industries. The women of Rise Louisiana are at the center of my concerns as I think about the public sphere. They are the first to die and the first to confront policy-makers and multinational corporations. What can I do as a feminist theologian and scholar so that they do not stand alone?

Unregistered Participant
Human Flourishing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Human Flourishing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Julia Enxing, University of Dresden
Ecological Literacy Should Be the Foundation for Religious Education: Re-Visioning Teaching Systematic Theology

In many theology/religious departments, ecotheology is still perceived as an exotic orchid in the botanic garden of academic theology. After all, why should theologians care about “the world outside”? Natural sciences are the ones exploring nature, investigating the atmosphere, developing yet more profiled methods in order to control and manage what we call “our” planet. At this point, the paper argues that theology can and should raise its voice – in the public sphere as well as amongst its own discipline. Climate change and the corrupt treatment of our biosphere are not secondary to creation or salvation theologies, but are the very ground, theology should start its reflection upon. “Ecological literacy should be the foundation of religious education,” Heather Eaton proclaims. But what does it mean to become ecological literate and what are the consequences for (systematic) theology? How can ecological literacy be taught in a systematic theology class? In this context, the paper explores the chances, risks and limits of studying the biosphere on its glocal level; facing systematic theological “certainties“ and “believes“ from there on. In concrete, this paper will reflect on the experience of cooperating with environmental activists on campus in a course on creation theology and ecotheology. It thereby challenges academic theology and its tendency to hide in the ivory tower. Theological wisdom does not start and stop at the classroom door, it is brought into the classroom from the public sphere. After all, the biosphere has always been: public.

Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual
Anthropology of Religion Unit
Theme: Rethinking Spirits: New Discussions on Human-Spirit Interactions
Aftab Jassal, University of California, San Diego, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-15B (Mezzanine Level)

In the field of anthropology, much has been written on topics such as spirit possession, mediumship, and other forms of human-spirit interactions. From medicalized frameworks to psychosocial analyses, the tendency has usually been in keeping humans as the central agents of the narrative, while placing spirits as an external ontological problem. However, contemporary publications on the Anthropocene, such as ethnographic accounts on human-animal and human-environment relations, have rekindled discussions on the posthuman framework. Consequently, we suggest that this beyond-human approach may provide a new point of re-entry for the anthropological analysis of such human-spirit connections. Through discussions on Zar rituals of spirit possession in Southern Iran, Mormon transhumanist hopes of a technologically-assisted resurrection, and the symbiotic relationship between humans, once-human, and never-human entities within Brazilian Umbanda, this session seeks to stimulate a lively discussion on the current place of human-spirit research within anthropology.

Taciana Pontes, University of California, San Diego
Unregistered Participant
Jon Bialecki, University of California, San Diego
Business Meeting:
James Bielo, Miami University
Jennifer A. Selby, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Body and Religion Unit and Religion and Food Unit
Theme: Religion, Food, and Bodily Practices
Yudit K. Greenberg, Rollins College, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

This panel explores specific case studies related to the ways food and food practices interact with the cultivating of particular embodied religious experiences. The case studies include an ethnographic analysis of participants in an International Ladies Association of Buddhism in Kamakura, Japan whose food practices shape understandings of Buddhist truths caught between assumptions related to Japanese culture and transnational forms of Buddhism. A second ethnographic study offers insights into rituals performed at Kamakhya Temple in Assam, India that focus on feeding young girls who embody the goddess. Two other papers revisit primary sources to provide nuanced readings of the theological role of digestion in “table-talks” given in the Oneida Community in the 1800s and the underexamined aspect of diet on Muslim bodies in medieval Islamic adab literature.

Gwendolyn Gillson, Oberlin College
Consuming Buddhism: Women and Transnational Buddhist (Dis)Connections through Food and Body

Food is often a marker of religious belonging (and exclusion), including in Buddhism. The International Ladies Association of Buddhism is a women’s group dedicated to learning about Buddhism and Japanese culture. Their practice involves learning Buddhist doctrine and the cultivation of bodies that express the effortless beauty of Buddhism. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, this paper illustrates the ways that women form their bodies into expressions of Buddhist truth through particular practices that include and often depend on food. These practices by-and-large bring women’s bodies together physically and emotionally, creating connections through shared embodied practices of food preparation and consumption. At the same time, food can also propel women’s bodies away from one another due to different understandings of Buddhism based in international, i.e. non-Japanese, expressions of Buddhism. These narratives of convergence and divergence help illustrate the complicated nature of food and embodiment, especially when crossing cultures and traditions.

Christa Shusko, York College of Pennsylvania
Divine Digestion: The Oneida Community’s Theology of Eating

Though the Oneida Community is most notorious for its sexual practices of male continence and complex marriage, the Community’s perspectives on food, eating, and digestion offer important insights into both its theological views and its socio-sexual reforms. Starting in September 1851, John Humphrey Noyes began delivering a series of “Table-Talks” during communal meals. Unlike Luther’s Table Talks, the majority of Noyes’s talks centered on the objects, processes, and physiology of eating as they related to the Community’s ultimate religious goal of perfection. Noyes wrote, “The power of Christ in us is prepared to deal with evil successfully, as Christ himself dealt with death. He digested death, entered into it, and overcame it perfectly.” In re-conceptualizing true Christianity as a kind of digestion, Noyes envisioned a Communal table which would—like the Community’s other reforms—reconcile spirit and matter.

Joseph Vignone, Harvard University
"Plain Nonsense!" Diet, Medicine, and Scholarly Memory

The place of medical knowledge and food culture in the history of medieval Islamic scholarly ethics remains an understudied topic. This paper will argue that the interpenetration of these traditions with educational practice in Islamic societies from 900 through 1400 is evident in ādāb literature of students and scholars. Proceeding from medical conceptualizations of the human body and mechanics of thought, dietary therapies aimed at maximizing important scholarly capacities like memory and understanding can be found in ādāb as early as the tenth century. Authors of subsequent manuals addressed this topic with increasing medical specificity; it is strongly evidenced in writings ranging from those of al-Baghdādī to Ibn Jamā‘ah. Although the dietary content of these texts are often overlooked for their 'folkloric' content, studying it can only shed further light on how medieval Islamic scholars conceived of the mind, the body and the effects of food and medicine on both.

E. Sundari Johansen Hurwitt, California Institute of Integral Studies
Voracious Virgin, Desirous Devi: Feeding the Kumārī as an Inversion of the Kaula Sex Ritual

The kumārī pūjā, ritual worship of a pre-menarche virgin girl as a temporary embodiment of the all-powerful goddess, is a popularly celebrated across India during the annual festival of Durgā, the great Hindu mother goddess. Feeding the kumārī is one of the most important aspects of this ritual, but why? Using a comparative analysis of a broad range of understudied Tantric texts and rare ethnographic ritual study of a living community of Tantric and orthodox Hindu practitioners at the Kāmākhyā temple in Assam, this paper argues that the ritual offering of food to the kumārī represents a publicly accessible, chaste, and highly coded inversion of the antinomian sexual rituals of Kaula Tantrism, which satisfy bodily desires in order to achieve a liberated state. The kumārī’s consumption of food thus represents a critical element in a covert cycle of enjoyment, secrecy, and power, which serves as an expression of Tantric identity.

Elizabeth Pérez, University of California, Santa Barbara
Business Meeting:
Kevin Schilbrack, Appalachian State University
Katherine C. Zubko, University of North Carolina, Asheville
Space, Place, and Religion Unit and Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Power, Gender, Place
Courtney Bruntz, Doane University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202A (Second Level)

Focusing on feminine deities in Buddhist cave sites and ritual texts. Creating ritual space in a highly gendered place. Cultivating equality at women-run Jewish farms. Fighting for equal space online and in local mosques. These gendered uses of space and place aim to generate, redistribute, or challenge power in various ways. A number of scholars have done work on the connections between religion, ritual, space/place, and power, and gender is increasingly an important element of these analyses. This panel continues the important work of scholars who have examined how gender affects and is affected by the organization, use, re-appropriation, and cultivation of religious spaces and places. We focus on how space and place can be used to generate, reinforce, redistribute, or subvert power by people of various genders. The papers on this panel demonstrate the ways that power, gender, and space/place are intimately connected in a variety of religious traditions.

Adrienne Krone, Allegheny College
Cultivation through Collaboration and Conservation: Gender and Power in Jewish Community Farming Spaces

The Jewish Community Farming (JCF) movement is grounded in an ethic of environmentalism and social justice but gender imbalances persist within the movement. I use ethnographic interviews and participant observation conducted at all of the JCF organizations to argue that the persistence of gender inequities is due to the replication of patriarchal power structures that recognize and reward the approaches to land stewardship that are favored by the men in the movement. I pay careful attention to the four JCF organizations led by women in Toronto, Canada, Boulder, Colorado, Los Angeles, California, and Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the distinctive approaches the woman-led farms take to land ownership and usage, which focus on collaboration and restoration over ownership and production. I also describe the JCF movement’s continued efforts to incorporate feminism into their visions in a continued effort to move North American Jews toward a more equitable and sustainable future.

Hillary Langberg, University of Texas
Enter the Goddess: The Transference of Ritual Power in the Mahāyāna-Related Sculpture of an Indian Buddhist Cave Site

This paper emphasizes the previously-understudied role of goddesses as advanced Bodhisattvas—compassionate savior figures—in Mahāyāna soteriology. It analyzes early examples of their sculptural representation alongside Buddhas and great male Bodhisattvas in the monastic caves of Kānherī (present-day Mumbai, ca. sixth century CE). Through a comparison of images carved in stone with a roughly contemporaneous ritual manual, the Mañjuśriyamūlakalpa, I suggest that we can better understand how female deities ultimately become objects of worship in Mahāyāna contexts, beyond being merely part of a late-stage appropriation of non-Buddhist divinities (as scholars have suggested with regard to goddesses in early tantric ritual families, or kulas). By bringing a previously untranslated passage of this text into conversation with the images, this study demonstrates the transference of power from one gender (and level of ritual hierarchy) to another, as represented in the spaces of this monastic site.

Matthew Mitchell, Allegheny College
Mutually Empowering: Displaying the Kami and Buddhas in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s Castle in Early Modern Japan

In 1783 the nuns of Zenkōji Daihongan were invited to display their convent’s treasures in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s castle. The nuns worked closely with administrators on the organization of allocated space to encourage the generation of a karmic connection between their Buddhist icon and the influential women of the castle. Daihongan’s nuns were not alone in this recreation of space. During Japan’s early modern period a number of Buddhist and Shintō clergy were invited to bring their icons into the shogun’s castle so the women there, many of whom were restricted in their movement, could meet the clergy, receive teachings, have rituals performed, and view the treasures. This was mutually empowering: the clergy received prestige and gifts from the women while the women developed connections with the religious world, enhance the standing of their lineages, and strive for success within the competitive atmosphere of the Women’s Quarters.

Krista Riley, Vanier College
Documenting, Changing, and Reimagining Women’s Mosque Spaces Online

The issue of mosque spaces in North America (and elsewhere), particularly with regard to gender, has received increasing attention in recent years, both within and outside of Muslim communities. This paper will focus on discussions about gendered mosque spaces taking place online. Taking as case studies three North American Muslim feminist bloggers, this paper examines how online and offline spaces interact, and how some Muslim women move in and out of these spaces in order to shift the gendered dynamics in their contexts. This paper will conclude with a reflection on what these examples can tell us about gender and power in online and offline spaces, and about the possibilities and limitations revealed as these conversations move between physical and online worlds.

Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
  • Books under Discussion
Women's Caucus
Theme: Saturday Emerging Scholars: Redefining Fields: Considering New Resources
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Theresa A. Yugar, California State University, Los Angeles, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-14A (Mezzanine Level)

The disciplinary histories of religious and theological studies have been shaped by
patriarchy, White supremacy, and colonialism in ways that are being challenged in new
introductions to both fields: Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan Shaw’s Intersectional
Theology: An Introductory Guide and Sarah Bloesch and Meredith Minister’s Cultural
Approaches to Studying Religion: An Introduction to Theories and Methods. Both texts
seek to redefine their respective fields by reimagining foundational patterns of teaching
and interventions in theology and religion courses. This roundtable explores these
interventions creating a path toward better introductions to both fields, cooperation
between the disciplines, and reducing the need to draw sharp lines to protect
hegemonic ways of knowing.

Alejandro Escalante, University of North Carolina
Unregistered Participant
Sheryl Johnson, Graduate Theological Union
Unregistered Participant
Sarah Bloesch, Elon University
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Earlham School of Religion
Meredith Minister, Shenandoah University
Susan M. Shaw, Oregon State University
Body and Religion Unit
Theme: Gestures of Protest, Resistance, and Critique
George Pati, Valparaiso University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

This session examines the use of gestures enacted within particular analytical contexts, ranging from Guatemalan evangelical and Catholic forms of Christianity, the United Methodist Church’s recent decisions around LGBTQIA clergy, and black women’s literature and sermons. These case studies create space for revealing powerful embodied interventions from differing perspectives that disrupt normative and dominant interpretations and actions. Papers incorporate literary, ethnographic, theological and choreopolitical approaches in order to recalibrate attention to the ways that gestures reframe experiences of identities and intersubjectivities.

Sarah Dove, Ohio State University
To Take a Stand: Body, Gesture and Protest in the Divided United Methodist Church

On February 26, 2019, at a special session of the General Conference for the United Methodist Church convened in order to discuss language regarding human sexuality included in The Book of Discipline, a majority decision to uphold traditionalist views that mark homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2016; 161) was passed. This decision sent shockwaves through the Methodist global community as it was forced to grapple with the precarity of openly LGBTQIA clergy who might now be facing ostracization from communities in which they had invested their lives. As an organization that positions inclusiveness as a recognition that “openness, acceptance, and support…denies every semblance of discrimination,” (140) for many, this decision represented a clear dissonance. This paper investigates two local responses to this decision where individuals put their bodies on the line as an intervention meant to reinforce remaking the UMC for individuals and communities in the name of social justice.

Courtney Bryant, Manhattan College
Erotic Care of the Soul

This paper explores the physical implications of the erotic deployment of touch by black women. Rooted in Christian and folk practices of healing and transformation, erotic care of the soul showcases the body’s capacity to facilitate change as a medium of erotic power in religious and secular spaces. Framing black women’s practices of erotic care as a form of resistance, in the tradition of the ministry of Jesus, it expands upon theologian Mark I. Wallace’s concept of haptology (theology of touch), arguing for erotic care of the soul as a collaboration between spirit and flesh that erotically imparts new meaning to black flesh and usurps empire’s claims on black bodies. Investigating black women’s practices of erotic care of the soul, defined as intentional, haptic, intracommunal demonstrations of a countercultural love of the bodies of black women that minister to what womanist ethicist Emilie Townes calls the “isness” of black female being, it represents the transcendent power of the erotic and serves as the first movement in black women’s liberation from the strictures of the white gaze—the recognition that they are more than what the world tells them they are.

Eric Hoenes del Pinal, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Religious Movement and Its Critics: Gesture and Religious Conflict in Highland Guatemala

This paper examines the changing meaning of the role of gesture as marker of congregation difference between established mainline and Charismatic Catholic congregations. Based on ethnographic research carried out over two decades in Cobán, Guatemala with Q’eqchi’-Maya Catholics, this paper examines the ideological process through which gesturing practices come to be seen as literal embodiments of key religious principles, as well as the social process through which gesture becomes a meaningful marker of congregational difference and critique. Under what conditions does gesture— whether specific iconic gestures or general patterns of non-verbal embodied communication— get linked to larger regimes of meaning? What conditions enable gesture to be read as especially meaningful and/or socially consequential? This paper examines Q’eqchi’-Mayas’ gesture ideologies as a means of addressing these issues, and suggests that a focus on gesture can helps us better understand how intersubjective relations are created in ritual settings.

Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Unit and Lesbian-Feminisms and Religion Unit
Theme: Imagining New Worlds: Intersectional Visions for the Future of Religion and Technology
Amy Michelle DeBaets, Oakland University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-28A (Upper Level East)

Technological development is rapidly changing human beings and the ways in which we interact with each other. Transhumanist movements include new visions for what humans are and should be. As some of the major ethical concerns in these endeavors can be attributed to enthusiasm by a narrow demographic of developers and consumers (typically white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, wealthy men) what are the possibilities for a more just future? This session will feature constructive proposals for technological futures from lesbian-feminist, disability studies, people of color, and other intersectional religious perspectives.

J. Jeanine Thweatt, Flagler College
Beyond the Cyborg Manifesto: Haraway, Jesus and Afrofuturist Visions of Posthumanity

Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” is justifiably celebrated, but the cyborg has always been the starting point, not the end point, of rethinking what posthumanity can look like. In “Ecce Homo, Ain’t (Ar’n’t) I a Woman, and Inappropriate/d Others: The Human in a Posthumanist Landscape,” Haraway suggests that the categorical Human is (echoing Spivak), “that which we cannot want,” and offers two figures who might embody “the self-contradictory and necessary condition of a nongeneric humanity:” Jesus and Sojourner Truth. Taking this as our next starting point, Afrofuturism enfleshes this necessary condition of nongeneric humanity in specific and multiple ways.

Devan Stahl, Michigan State University
The “Prosthetic Erratic” as a Symbol for Disability Eschatology

Transhumanists rarely prioritize the experiences of marginalized persons when they imagine the future of bioenhancement. For many persons with disabilities, transhumanist projects appear hauntingly eugenic. Particularly for persons who do not wish to conform to our standards of normalcy using medical technology, the prospect of scientific programs that unite our cultural desire to become invincible with a medical model of disability can sound like an ableist nightmare.

Outside of the medical sphere, however, there is a growing movement to combine artistry and design into the development of prosthetics, which resists ableism while embracing a cyborg future. Prosthetic artists, most of whom are women, work with amputees to construct bespoke prosthetics that can be swapped in and out, making their wearer a “prosthetic erratic.” These radical prosthetic creations do not seek to make people appear “normal,” but exceptional—embracing and celebrating bodily diversity, while not trying to “overcome” or “fix” the wearer’s disability. Erratic prosthetics participate in their wearer’s embodiment while challenging our social demands for compulsory wholeness and comeliness.

In this presentation, I argue erratic prosthetics signal important features of the Kingdom of God in the Christian tradition. As expressed by many disability theologians, a desirable eschatology is one in which: (1) bodies retain their identity while being radically transformed, (2) diversity is celebrated, and (3) it is possible to have a disability without impairment. Together, the artist and her muse can help signal a future that is at once pro-disability and pro-enhancement.

Myrna Sheldon, Ohio University
Justice and Life in Reproductive Enhancements

In the last several decades, assistive reproductive technologies have emerged on the transhumanist landscape with the promise of a postgender future. Transhumanist advocates of techniques such as in vitro fertilization argue that these biotechnologies open the possibility of a world without gender binaries; since IVF enables conception outside the body it opens up new scenarios for single-parent, multi-parent, and same-sex parent biological reproduction. However, reproductive technologies also create new ethical and social dilemmas over the meaning of family, the value of the individual and the role of the state in regulating reproduction. In this paper I examine the response of various sectarian religious and reproductive justice movements to two reproductive technologies: IVF and Intrauterine Devices, in order to explore how a womanist, queer and disability-studies approach to these technologies that is grounded in an awareness of the history of eugenics, can and should approach reproductive enhancement.

International Development and Religion Unit
Theme: Religion, Development, and Humanitarian Aid - Part I
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire M (Fourth Level)

For the 2019 Annual Meeting, where the Presidential Theme is “Religion and Public Life,” the International Development and Religion unit is presenting two consecutive panels that explore the historical relationship between religion(s) and humanitarian aid. “Religion, Development, and Humanitarian Aid - Part I & Part II” specifically focus on the triple-nexus of integrated humanitarian/development/peace as it engages religious partners both in the field and in donor countries/communities and humanitarian aid's increase attention to the localization agenda and its engagement with religious partners in the developing world.

Leonie Geiger, University of Bonn
"Saving Women by Empowering Them": Constructions of Gender and Religion in German Christian Development Agencies

This paper will critically discuss the ways in which German Christian development agencies perceive and problematize gender and gender roles in “developing countries” and their entanglements with religion. It will focus on two organizational case studies regarding the construction of gender roles in relation to religion: Brot für die Welt (Bread for the world) and Miserior are both German Christian development organizations that have launched projects aiming at the empowerment of women. In my analysis, I will relate the existing international debates on development, gender, and religion to the very specific German historical and political context, as these projects are mainly funded by the BMZ, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. I will examine how particular understandings of religion are implicated in “saving of women” by “empowering” them. When are references to religion made and above all: when are they not made? How is religion thought to be entangled with sexuality and gender?

Marie Stettler Kleine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Proselytizing Problem-Solving: Religion and the Training of “Engineers-for-Good”

Religion and technology play central roles in international development projects around the world. Scholars trace both of these themes, separately, in popular postcolonial and neoliberal development critiques (Barnett, 2011; Stamatov, 2013; Nieusma and Riley 2010). However, development scholars rarely consider how religion and technology impact each other. This paper explores sites of this intersection, specifically, the training of humanitarian engineers. These engineers work around the globe, providing technological solutions for basic human needs to marginalized communities (Mitcham and Munoz, 2010). Often humanitarian engineers assume they are designing in apolitical contexts, but engineering practice is value-laden. Humanitarian engineering programs train engineers to translate their desire to “do good” into actionable development projects, designed to “solve” problems through service and social justice. This paper examines what it means to do good, how and why engineers are motivated to do it, and what part universities play in training the next generation of humanitarians.

John Blevins, Emory University
Consequences Intended and Unintended: Re-Thinking the Effects of the Newfound Appreciation of Religion in the Field of International Development

As global funders in international development have shown a newfound appreciation of the contribution of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in social and economic development agendas, they have worked to build or strengthen partnerships with these FBOs. This paper argues for a more robust framework for a power analysis of the social and political effects of these partnerships in order to trace unforeseen negative consequences and anticipate complexities in carrying out programs through these partnerships.

Business Meeting:
Emma Tomalin, University of Leeds
Christopher Duncanson-Hales, University of Sudbury