PAPERS Resources

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

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Contemporary Islam Unit and Religion, Media, and Culture Unit
Theme: Popular Preachers, Gendered Authority, and the Digital Ummah
Samah Choudhury, University of North Carolina, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 305 (Third Level)

Many popular Muslim preachers with great media following draw upon traditional forms of gendered authority in their online discourses. In the fall of 2017, #NAKscandal began trending on Twitter and Facebook following allegations of sexual impropriety committed by the popular religious leader Nouman Ali Khan with some of his students. The ensuing debate online and offline raised key questions concerning the gendered authority that public figures exert in the Muslim community through digital mediums. What role do gender relations play in online religious authority? How do they construct normative discourses and practices of sexuality in an authoritative Islamic framework? This papers session considers these questions and the ways popular authority figures such as da'i, televangelists, imams, and preachers draw upon authoritative modes of Islamic learning to perform their own embodied gendered authority and construct appropriate "Islamic" gender performances and sexual identities.

Unregistered Participant
From National Television to YouTube: Shaykh Sha'rawi, Zakir Naik, and Gendered Religious Authority in the Age of Mass Media

Muhammad Mitwalli Sha‘rawi (d. 1998) was a national Egyptian television preacher and Zakir Naik is a well-known internet preacher. Both men are figures of male authority who speak about Muslim women. In many regards the differences and similarities between Sha‘rawi and Naik expose the need to constantly evaluate how we define religion, here Islam—an evaluation that should consist of exploring what is implied when the words like religion and Islam are used, and what is accepted when this usage is received. In order to trace how these two men present gender norms in their time, their discourse, style, and choice of medium must be taken into consideration. To distinguish between them, I will examine their presentations of gender to see how they actively obligate themselves to underlying assumptions. This will help expose deeper differences and supports the notion of polyvalence, even in what seems to be similar discourse.

Garrett Kiriakos-Fugate, Boston University
Yasir Qadhi, Homosexuality, and Preaching an Islamic Masculine Heterosexuality

This paper looks at the ways conservative Muslim-American scholars preach on subjects of sexuality and gender in order to construct an authentic Muslim piety. Representative of these preachers and their pious rhetoric is Yasir Qadhi and his discourse on homosexuality. In his online articles and lectures, Qadhi views homosexuality as a heinous sexual deviance. Discussing the sinfulness and unnaturalness of homosexuality helps him formulate a righteous and natural heterosexual piety. Sexuality functions as a kind of episteme through which proper and pious ways of dealing with one’s desires come to be known. And for Qadhi, whose sex talks reveal a primary concern for men, the piety he promotes as authentically Islamic is a particularly masculine one in which a Muslim man gains a mastery over his natural lusts, directing them in pious ways. In this way, talk about homosexuality reveals the masculine heterosexual boundaries of normative Muslim-American piety.

Abtsam Saleh, Harvard University
NAKscandal: Nouman Ali Khan and the Rhetoric of Authority in Digital Space

In the fall of 2017, it surfaced that Nouman Ali Khan, a well-known Islamic religious leader based in Texas, had been involved in numerous inappropriate relationships with women who have either worked for him or sought his counsel. Infamous for his charismatic persona and YouTube lectures on contemporary Islamic perspectives on gender-relations, knowledge about his spiritual abuse took the American Muslim community by surprise. Alongside a myriad of discussions surrounding sexual assault and abuses of power, contestations surrounding the meaning of being a Islamic authority figure in America rose to the forefront of these deliberations. This paper explores the discourse surrounding the #NAKscandal to help complicate our understandings of digital authority in the Muslim American context and beyond. By focusing on the rhetoric surrounding this particular situation, used by community members, various Muslim-American authority figures, and Nouman Ali Khan himself, we can better conceptualize the role he occupies in the digital American Muslim context, alongside how he came to occupy his position as an online teacher, da‘i, and, ultimately, a globally venerated figure of authority. Attention will be paid to how digital space mediates and contributes to gendered constructions of religious authority, in a framework that exceeds the traditional contours of community and authority.

Brittany Landorf, Emory University
Becoming the Alpha Muslim: Popular Da3i, Men’s Rights Activists, and the Emergent Muslim Manosphere

Who is the original “Alpha Muslim”? This question, posed by da3i and self-help guru Nabeel Azeez, draws from the manosphere and Men’s Rights Activists’ discourses to rearticulate prophetic masculinity within an “Alpha” framework. Azeez, who is also the founder of the blog and aspirational brand, Becoming the Alpha Muslim, claims that the Prophet Muhammad is the original Alpha Muslim. In this paper, I examine the online discourse of the “manosphere’s most visible Muslim”. What sort of Islam, gender norms, and gendered authority does Nabeel Azeez seek to enact? What normative arguments and Islamic authority does he draw on in his construction of an Alpha Muslim Masculinity? In response to these questions, I argue that Azeez and other popular da3i participating in the emergent Muslim manosphere alternately engage, appropriate, and transform alt-right gender ideologies and traditional Islamic discourse to construct an ontological and epistemological praxis of alt-right Muslim masculinity.

Faiza Rahman, Emory University
Khanum Tayyiba Bukhari on TV: Anti-Shia Violence and Shia Female Propriety in Contemporary Pakistan

A spate of anti-Shia attacks had cast a more pronounced sense of fear for the minority Shia community of Pakistan since 2010. In the wake of this, a Qom-trained female Shia televangelist – Khanum Tayyiba Bukhari – soon became a household name in Sunni-dominated Pakistan. Often featuring on news shows as the only female scholar – and also often the only Shia scholar – she appeared stern-countenanced with a characteristically black chador, her tone curt, lashing out at members of the Sunni ‘ulama community, her eye rimmed tastefully with kohl and her face prepared glamorously with make-up for a TV appearance. In this paper, I study the TV-mediated authority of Khanum at a time of crisis for the Shias in Pakistan. How did the bloodshed during the 2013 anti-Shia attacks pave the way for Khanum’s public prominence? How does the interpretation of Shia Islam in Pakistan – complete with the powerful, constant, almost-daily recounting of the political roles of Zaynab and Fatima against a perpetual ‘Yazidi’ oppression – facilitate the gendered imagination of a female Shia intellectual and televangelist like Khanum?

James Hoesterey, Emory University
Ecclesial Practices Unit
Theme: Ethnography, Theology, and Intersectionality
Theodore Hickman-Maynard, Boston University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411A (Fourth Level)

Theological ethnographies of ecclesial practices are increasingly attending to dynamics of power and privilege. Theories of Intersectionality – which analyze how social identities are both situated within dynamic matrices of oppression and privilege and are constituted by ideological, economic and political systems of power – have much to offer to this conversation. This panel looks both at how intersectionality can provide an analytic frame for interpreting Christian practice and how it can help orient Christian practices towards ethical ends.
Papers explore black women’s ministry in predominantly White, Presbyterian, Southern communities; peacemaking interventions of marginalized faith communities in Colombian war-zones; and stewardship as practiced by women at the intersections of religion, race, class, and gender, as they also navigate experiences of domestic violence.
Nancy J. Ramsay, leading expert on intersectionality, Christian practice and Pastoral theology and care will respond.

Sheryl Johnson, Graduate Theological Union
“Feminist” Fundraising?: Women’s Economic Practices and Christian Stewardship

How does gender intersect with Christian stewardship ideologies and practices? Both gender-related theories and specific practices engaged in by women can provide relevant and meaningful contributions toward a more justice-based approach to Christian stewardship. This paper will focus on two examples: the “tanda” (rotating credit scheme used predominantly by women in Mexico and elsewhere) and organizations working against gender-based violence in the U.S. context. This paper will analyze and critique aspects of the stewardship ideologies and practices which are common in mainline North American congregations and offer constructive proposals drawing on these specific examples and gender-based theories more broadly. The issue of justice in relation to Christian stewardship is significant because churches may be embodying patriarchal practices that their statements say are contrary to Christian ethics. Further, many of these churches identify gender justice as central to their theology and ecclesial identity.

Perzavia Praylow, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Carrying the Load: Black Women Ruling Elders and the Enduring Mission and Sustainability of African American Presbyterian Churches in Rural South Carolina

This paper is a study of the contributions of black women ruling elders to the sustainable development of the Black Presbyterian Church in rural South Carolina. Relying upon oral history and ethnographic research methods, this research records and analyzes the mission work of Black women elders in Presbyterian churches located within the bounds of Trinity Presbytery in South Carolina. Although African American Presbyterian churches in rural South Carolina have struggled to thrive since reunion of the northern and southern Presbyterian Church in 1982, the mission work and leadership of rural Black women elders have kept African American churches in South Carolina socially relevant and responsive to the needs of local black communities. Despite the struggle of their respective churches, including declining and aging membership, limited fiscal resources and inconsistent pastoral leadership, the mission work of black women ruling elders have sustained the ministries of American Presbyterian congregations in South Carolina.

Janna Hunter-Bowman, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Tracing Borders of Constraint as Intersectional Analysis

Intersectional analysis enables right understanding of the conditions of duress war-affected communities suffer and confront through emancipatory praxis towards a telos of justpeace. The constructive interventions of faith communities in Colombia that are marginalized and vulnerable as well as transformative and generative are a form of liturgical-political—and ecclesial—practice that catalyzed resistance movements and grassroots processes. A careful accounting of the limiting systems that structure a given environment helps us to recognize that seemingly impenetrable and hegemonic systems of oppression are actually constructed and malleable and thus objects of transformation. Such was the discovery of the featured communities through tumultuous decades marked by peak deadly violence and an historic peace deal, that their interventions precipitated. It sparked a dangerous hope: another world is possible.

Nancy J. Ramsay, Texas Christian University
Business Meeting:
Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, Emmanuel College
  • Exploratory Sessions
Exploratory Sessions
Theme: The Mahābhārata: A Text for Classical Hinduism
Bruce M. Sullivan, Northern Arizona University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 402 (Fourth Level)

There has never been greater interest in the Mahābhārata than in recent years. This is reflected in the quantity of fine scholarly work being done on the text and its traditions. These developments build on the completion of a critical edition of the Mahābhārata in 1966. They would have been unimaginable without the secure textual foundation that this edition provides. It has transformed our understanding of the history of Hinduism. As the text that both establishes the canonical authority of the four Vedas and adds itself to them as the Fifth Veda, the Mahābhārata is key to understanding the religion and system of thought we today call Hinduism. This roundtable seeks to establish whether sufficient interest exists to justify the creation of a five-year seminar dedicated to the Mahābhārata. Rather than present papers, we seek to articulate a case for such a seminar, while soliciting participation from fellow AAR members.

Vishwa Adluri, City University of New York
Unregistered Participant
Frederick M. Smith, University of Iowa
Unregistered Participant
Joydeep Bagchee, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich
Brian Collins, Ohio University
  • Exploratory Sessions
Exploratory Sessions
Theme: Religion and Friendship
Alexander Y. Hwang, Saint Leo University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

The Religion and Friendship Exploratory Session seeks to explore friendship from various religious and scholarly perspectives. It will provide an opportunity to analyze and discuss an essential but understudied and underappreciated human relationship. The individual papers focus on friendship as the locus for religious and interreligious reflections. The panel will draw upon a rich body of literature from different religious, theological, comparative, ecumenical, and interreligious traditions to better understand this universal and fundamental human relationship and to welcome other scholars (AAR/SBL) to join and contribute to this conversation going forward.

Anant Rambachan, Saint Olaf College
Interreligious Relations as Friendship: Mahatma Gandhi and Charles Freer Andrews

In this presentation, I examine the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), and his closest Christian friend, Charles Freer Andrews (1871-1940) as a form of interreligious friendship. Gandhi and Andrews differed considerably in background and training. Andrews was British and belonged to the nation that exercised imperial rule over India. Gandhi was Indian and led a struggle against British rule in India. Andrews was Christian; Gandhi was Hindu. Andrews was trained for the Christian ministry; Gandhi was educated as a lawyer. Yet, their friendship blossomed quickly and remains an illuminating example of a relationship across religious traditions. Gandhi and Andrews helps us to see that religious difference is not, in and of itself, a barrier to friendship. They remind us that such friendships do not occur between traditions, but between human beings even those who subscribe to different visions of truth.

John M. Thompson, Christopher Newport University
Who Is Really Your Friend? "Good Friends" in the Lotus

Buddhism highly values friendship, regarding it as crucial to spiritual life. We can see this most obviously in the ideal of the kalyāṇa-mitra (“good friend”), someone who encourages others to live according to Dharma. Typically, “good friends” should be morally upright, have deep knowledge of the sacred canon, and extensive experience in meditation. It is, therefore, fascinating to some later texts challenge this ideal. The Lotus Sutra, perhaps the most popular and influential Mahayana text, is a good example. Known for its controversial rhetoric and unexpected twists, the Lotus turns the traditional notion of a “good friend” on its head through some specific examples: Devadatta, the Buddha’s “arch nemesis,” and two unnamed princes who use magic powers to convert their household.

Hussam S. Timani, Christopher Newport University
The Shahada and the Trinity: Acts of Faith, Acts of Friendship

The most important pillar and act of faith in Islam is the Shahada (to testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Messenger). The shahada is the acknowledgement of the loving relationship between God and Muhammad, and true faith is to act on this relationship. God is a being that represents a loving relationship. Thus, as the first pillar of Islam is an act of faith––an act of friendship––God expects us to act in this faith—this friendship—accordingly. Similarly, in Christianity, God, as expressed in the Trinity, is a lived union who is a friend with, and in relation to, other persons.This paper will discuss the ontological relationship that God has established with others in both the Islamic Shahada and the Trinity and explore its significance and implications on the believers in both Christianity and Islam. The goal of this paper is to establish a theology of friendship from the sources of both traditions, discuss how this loving friendship can be used to contribute in the lives of Muslims and Christians, and demonstrate how the loving friendship in the Shahada and the Trinity can help adherents of both traditions come together in friendship and realize that friendship, as expressed in the Shahada the Trinity, is an act of faith that leads to salvation.

James Nalley, Georgetown University
Deiformation and Interreligious Friendship: The Contribution of St. Thomas Aquinas and Muḥyiddīn Ibn al-ʿArabī

It is transparently clear why interreligious engagement and friendship is beneficial at the secular or state level, but very little literature exists as to why it is beneficial at a theological level. This paper works towards filling that gap through an analysis of two particular authors in the Christian and Islamic tradition, Thomas Aquinas and Ibn al-ʿArabī respectively. Through an examination of how each author correlates the relationship between the infinite and the finite, along with how the notions of friendship and sainthood converge in their theological visions, I will show that interreligious friendship is not only justifiable, but that it also fosters growth in sainthood understood as deiformation. By doing so, it is my aim to show that interreligious friendship is not only, nor primarily, a benefit to the state, but is a religious and spiritual practice that sanctifies the parties involved of through the purging of conceptual idols.

Megan Case, Virginia Tech
“Where You Go, I Will Go”: Female Friendship in the Hebrew Bible

Friendship, as a whole, is an area of research largely ignored by biblical scholars; female friendship, even more so. The women most commonly designated as friends in the Hebrew Bible are Naomi and Ruth, the mother- and daughter-in-law pair of widows from the book of Ruth. In this paper, argue that Naomi and Ruth are not actually depicted as friends, as women with mutual feelings of regard or affection. While both perhaps show some slight regard for one another by their refusal to abandon the other in Ruth 1, throughout the majority of the text, Naomi manipulates the younger woman in order to accomplish her plan of Ruth marrying Boaz. Never referred to as friends, these women are primarily in-laws, relatives, which accounts for the limited affection but copious support. More broadly, I question whether female friendship can be found, or is even possible, in the biblical text written by, and for, men.

Dorothy Dean, Berea College
Queer Friendship and Nonhuman Others

This paper proposes that Christian ecotheology should employ queer methodologies in order to disrupt the narrative binary human-God partnership as the only way of being faithful to God. In so doing, ecotheology can use the model of “queer friendship” to promote human concern for the nonhuman world.

Business Meeting:
Alexander Y. Hwang, Saint Leo University
Folklore and Religion Seminar
Theme: Folklore, Religion, and Race
Leonard Norman Primiano, Cabrini University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 311A (Third Level)

The discipline of Folkloristics has long concerned itself with the ways in which vernacular beliefs and behaviors shape and are shaped by racial or ethnic identities. Stephen Stern’s 1977 article “Ethnic Folklore and the Folklore of Ethnicity” (Western Folklore, Vol. 36, no. 1) examines the myriad ways in which Folklorists have – since the earliest years of the discipline – engaged with concepts of race or ethnicity. Folklore forms and examples – and scholarship concerning them - have also historically been used or employed by communities to articulate ideas of Race in both positive and problematic ways. This year's offerings from the Folklore and Religion Seminar explore articulations of Race/Ethnicity in the lyrics of African American Blues songs and Gospel hymns, Visual and Ritual engagements with "Black" Madonnas, alternative visions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and spirit possession in vernacular Zanzibari healing rites.

Unregistered Participant
The Virgin of Guadalupe as Vernacular Religion: Online Brujería and Festival Processions as Identity Play and Performance

Crucially, much of the discussion surrounding Latinx vernacular Catholicism has examined the way that lay members’ lived, emergent religious practice resists the hierarchical power structures of official religion. This paper expands this approach by exploring the ways in which vernacular Mexican American and Latinx Catholicism both reinforces and undermine institutional religious hierarchies. Specifically, this paper will examine the annual celebrations associated with the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Chicago, Illinois and the incorporation of the Virgin of Guadalupe and other saints into Brujería rituals shared online. These vernacular religious beliefs and practices overlap with, reinforce, and challenge existing categories of identity relating to religion, ethnicity, and nationality. These traditions create an alternative space in which these overlapping identities can be articulated in both a religious and an activist context.

Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, University of Kansas
Our Lady of Africa (Algiers)

Among the shrine images of the Virgin Mary venerated by Roman Catholic devotees are some which have dark complexions. Known for the many miracles attributed to them, these so-called Black Madonnas have attracted the attention of scholars from various disciplines curious about their origins and the possible meanings of their color. Sharing the concern of vernacular religion with the religious lives of particular persons past and present and the negotiation of beliefs among various constituencies, this paper examines the 19th century history of the pilgrimage and images of Our Lady of Africa (Algiers) in the context of the French colonization of Algeria, beginning with a small statue of the Virgin placed in a tree by two devout women from Lyon (France), and culminating in a bronze statue, based on a prototype of the Miraculous Medal, now known as Our Lady of Africa which dominates the sanctuary of the Basilica.

Lisle Dalton, Hartwick College
Heavenly Trains and the Railroad Blues: Race and Railroad Folksongs in Theological Perspective

In the United States, railroads have longed served as a folkloric muse, most especially in musical expression which emerged in response to the massive growth of the railroad industry over the 19th century. Railroad folklore can be found in many musical genres, notably ballads and blues songs about work, train accidents, outlaws, lost loves, and many other subjects. Some of these folksongs incorporate theological content, most especially themes of liberation, sacrifice, unexpected death, divine judgement, heaven, and hell. This presentation will use a few examples of railroad folksongs to make two general points. First, railroad folksongs reflect the larger theological concerns of the late 19th century, including strains of evangelical, modernist, and liberationist theologies. Second, folkloric methods, especially those that scrutinize source traditions and performance styles with attention to race, ethnicity and social location, enhance our understanding of how musical folk traditions adapted religious ideas to a new technological vernacular.

Stephen Wehmeyer, Champlain College
Marketing Mashetani: Race, Vernacular Religion, and Folk Healing as Commodities in the Contemporary Tourist Industry in Zanzibar

This paper interrogates and problematizes the ways in which the rites of Uganga – a complex of traditional Tanzanian vernacular religious and healing practices – have been incorporated into programs promising tourists and other visitors a unique and in-depth experience of Zanzibari folk culture. On the two largest islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, hotels, professional tour directors, and NGOs dedicated to heritage management frequently include offerings of Uganga rites or audiences with healers (waganga) alongside more standard tourist experiences like snorkeling excursions, spice tours, and swimming with dolphins. This paper explores the ways in which the commodification of race/ethnicity and the commodification of vernacular religion and healing intersect in a calculated presentation of racial and regional authenticity. I also offer some suggestions about the ways in which the tools and perspectives of Folkloristics (as a specific discipline) might provide uniquely appropriate lenses through which to critically examine this phenomenon.

Daisy Vargas, University of Arizona
Business Meeting:
Stephen Wehmeyer, Champlain College
Philosophy of Religion Unit
Theme: Philosophy of Islam and Islamic Philosophy: What Is the Difference and Why Does It Matter?
Iman AbdoulKarim, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-24A (Upper Level East)

This panel’s goal is to explore the relationship between Islamic Philosophy and the Philosophy of Islam, thereby expanding the field of Philosophy of Religion which has historically been dominated by Christian and post-Christian understandings of the definition and relationship between “Philosophy” and “Religion.” In this session, panelists will identify or define each type of discourse (“Philosophy of Islam” and “Islamic Philosophy”) as it pertains to their areas of research and ask whether and how the two speak to one another and what is the crux of their difference. At stake are issues of “scholarly objectivity;” the boundaries of academic discourses and disciplines; post-colonial and neo-colonial power relations; gender hierarchy; historical concerns, such as the supposed end of Islamic philosophy as a genre; and issues of inclusivity/exclusivity of who are philosophers of Islam and what types of topics are considered philosophical within Islamic discourses.

Unregistered Participant
Islamic Philosophy and Philosophia in Islam through the Lens of Ghazālī

The first paper is a close reading of the term falsafa itself, exploring Ghazali’s definition either as the love of wisdom or a rational endeavor. As such, there are overlaps between Ghazalian and Avicennian thought that debunk the common thesis that Ghazali outright rejected self-reasoned philosophy as a form of knowledge in the Avicennian tradition. This paper argues that ultimately Ghazālī believed in the embodied nature of knowledge and how such a conception brings him closer to ancient philosophy while distinguishing him from his fellow Islamic philosophers.

Zahra Ayubi, Dartmouth College
Frameworks for Critiquing Gender, Race, and Class Hierarchies in Feminist Philosophy of Islam

In this paper, I frame texts of Islamic philosophical ethics as part of a larger history of philosophers seeking wisdom on universal questions of how to live as individuals, in families, and in communities. This framing allows inquiry into “philosophy of Islam,” while breaking from orientalist-academic rhetoric that claims Islamic philosophy is a copy of Greek philosophy (although the field of Philosophy of religion has long been Christian-normative). More specifically, such a framing enables the creation of what I call “Feminist Philosophy of Islam,” which is a feminist philosophical approach to reading various genres of the Muslim intellectual tradition. Ultimately, this paper brings together theories from masculinity studies and feminist critiques of the multiple inheritors of the Greek tradition in order to create a framework for critiquing gender, class, and race hierarchies in Islamic philosophy.

Caner Dagli, College of the Holy Cross
The Culture of Ultimate Questions

The projects to demarcate between the enterprises of science, philosophy, and art/culture—and the disassociation of each of these from religion—has led, through the culturally contingent questions “What is science?” “What is philosophy?” and “What is art?” to a confusion at the level of the more universal questions, “What is?” “What can be?” and “What ought to be?” Many intellectuals are already sensitive to the problems that arise when we get wrong the relationship of facts, arguments, and values. Despite these efforts to cross the boundaries between the factual, theoretical, and normative, the cumulative trajectory of the modern culture of ultimate questions is toward fragmentation and separation between these realms, owing to the general absence of a way of relating all three dimensions together as a meaningful whole. The fragmentation between facts, arguments, and values may not be absolute, but it is pervasive and consequential.

Nora Jacobsen Ben Hammed, University of Chicago
Genre-Bending and Discipline Defying: The Philosophical Poetry of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210)

In addition to being a prolific scholar, the Ashʿarite theologian Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210) was also known to have been an albeit less than spectacular poet who wrote in his native language of Persian. This paper will detail and explore one such poem, extant in manuscript form, that grants a remarkable window into Rāzī’s ultimately open acceptance of the philosophical tradition (falsafa) as well as the receptivity of the upper echelons to philosophy. The panegyric (madḥ) is written in praise of logic (al-manṭiq), physics (al-ṭabīʿāt), and metaphysics (al-ilāhiyyāt), and concludes with a section praising the governor of Khurasan, Nāṣir al-Dīn Malikshāh (d. 593/1196-97). It adds depth to our understanding of Rāzī, illustrates the continuation of the philosophical tradition, and challenges our notions of the boundaries between genres and disciplines with a particular blurring of the divisions between theology, mysticism, and philosophy in the medieval Islamic world.

Muhammad Faruque, Fordham University
A Philosophy of “Self” in Islam, or an Islamic Philosophy of “Self?” What Is the Difference and Who Cares?

The topic of selfhood has been a constant subject of debate for scholars of various disciplines as wide as from neuroscience to religious studies. Islamic philosophical ideas concerning selfhood, similar to those of other comparable traditions, have a direct bearing on a person’s ethical considerations. However, the dominance of post-Enlightenment philosophy implies that scholars who investigate “selfhood” in Islam imperceptibly takes the categories of Post-enlightenment thought as one’s starting point, and end up treating various Islamic conceptions of the self as nothing more than historical artifacts. This study provides a corrective to such approaches by overcoming the excesses and the supposed objectivity of post-Enlightenment theories on the nature of the self. It does so by treating Islamic philosophy as “philosophy” (i.e. a living stream of thought) as opposed to “objectivizing” it through various scholarly categories pertaining to the self such as “philosophy,” “religion,” “psychology,” and “reason.”

Nicholas Boylston, Harvard University
The Primacy of Being between Assent and Conception: Some Ramifications of the Insider-Outsider Problem in Islamic Philosophy

The study of Islamic philosophy has remained almost completely untouched by critical reflection on the insider-outsider problem, as if it is to be observed only as a historical artifact, without the need of theoretical reflection on the positionality, interests and purposes of the curator. In this paper, I focus on one set of arguments – the proofs for the primacy of being (asalat al-wujud) from the school of ‘transcendent philosophy’ (al-ḥikma al-muta‘aliya), developed by Mulla Sadra (d. 1640) and currently the paradigmatic framework of the living Islamic philosophical tradition in Iran. By showing that the central purpose of these arguments concerns ‘conception’ rather than ‘assent’, I will argue that it is not possible to correctly understand them without being in some sense an ‘insider’ or participant in this philosophical discourse. I then suggest the creative potential of this insight for practitioners of Islamic philosophy and for scholars in the western academy.

Oludamini Ogunnaike, College of William and Mary
  • Books under Discussion
Psychology, Culture, and Religion Unit and Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit
Theme: Meditation, Buddhism, and Mental Health: State of the Field
C. Pierce Salguero, Pennsylvania State University, Abington, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 520 (Fifth Level)

With media stories appearing daily on clinical applications of meditation and yoga, the psychotherapeutic capabilities of Asian religious practices have captured the U.S. popular imagination. In the past year, two monographs have been published that excavate the history of this phenomenon and offer greater insight into its role in clinical psychology in the U.S. Wakoh Shannon Hickey’s Mind Cure: How Meditation Became Medicine uncovers the “hidden histories” of meditation movements, showing that the practice was first advocated by women and other marginalized populations who defined true psychological healing to include liberation from oppression. Meanwhile, in Prescribing the Dharma: Psychotherapists, Buddhist Traditions, and Defining Religion, Ira Helderman demonstrates that psychotherapists’ surprisingly diverse approaches to Buddhist traditions are generated by their own definitions of concepts like “religion,” “psychology,” and “health” itself. Including panelist commentary and Q&A with the authors, this panel offers a state of the field of meditation and mental health.

Kin Cheung, Moravian College
Francisca Cho, Georgetown University
Franz Aubrey Metcalf, California State University, Los Angeles
William Parsons, Rice University
Ira Helderman, Vanderbilt University
Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Notre Dame of Maryland University
Religion and Families in North America Seminar
Theme: Religion and Families in North America
Susan Ridgely, University of Wisconsin, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua E (Third Level)

The seminar insists on broad definitions of religion and pulls from as diverse a range of families as possible, in order to create generative conversations. To that end, we will think critically about how the concepts of religion and family are co-constituting terms, asking how religious rhetoric shapes understandings of the family and how families provide a primary context for religious experiences, identities, and rituals.

Michal Raucher, Rutgers University
The Ordination of Women and the Changing Orthodox Family in Amerian Judaism

The ordination of Orthodox Jewish women challenges conventional gender norms that are established within Orthodox Judaism. As the only sect within Judaism that is not egalitarian, ordaining women to serve as members of the clergy has led to an outcry among the movement’s more conservative leadership. Many of its supporters, however, maintain that Orthodox female clergy are positive role models for young, Orthodox girls, because they are educated, observant of the tradition, and career-oriented. Yet, many of the women who have been ordained within Orthodoxy are unmarried, a fact that puts them in a precarious position as role models because of the pro-family and pro-natalist tendencies of the religious tradition. Additionally, those who are married challenge gender norms of the family as their husbands take on the traditional role of rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife). As rabbinic families negotiate new gender roles, they set examples for Orthodoxy that run counter to traditional gender norms. My paper draws on my ethnographic research on the ordination of Orthodox Jewish women in America to consider how women’s ordination establishes new paradigms for Orthodox Jewish families in America. This seminar will help me put these changes in a broader religious, social, and historical context as I relate religious discourse about the family to expanded roles for women.

Jenny Wiley Legath, Princeton University
Protestant Deaconesses and the Creation of Sanctified Fictive Families

In nineteenth and twentieth-century North America, deaconesses were Protestant women who created a vocation of service embedded within a life of consecration. A key component of their chosen lifestyle was living together in a sanctified fictive family. Deaconesses chose to remain unmarried and childless and struggled to convince fellow Protestants of the validity of this choice. Deaconesses argued that instead of exerting their beneficent influence on husband and children, they were helpmeets and mothers to the world. Standing outside traditional families, deaconesses crafted their own fictive families by appropriating norms of white Protestant families. They constructed communal homes, seeking to replicate the interactions of an ideal Christian family, at leisure, at mealtime, and especially at prayer time. Yet, deaconess homes diverged from child-centered Protestant domestic piety by remaining focused on prayer, singing, and Bible reading. Deaconesses created families tied together not by kinship but by a sisterhood of shared consecration.

Samira Mehta, Albright College
So, You Wanted Jewish Grandchildren? The Role of Grandparents in Christian-Jewish Interfaith Families

Grandparents come up repeatedly in depictions of Christian-Jewish interfaith family life, in two very different forms of prescriptive literature: children's books and advice manuals. Grandparents appear in children's literature in two forms. Sometimes, in books such as My Two Grandmothers or Bubbe and Gram children's literature presents the grandparents' homes are places where the child can experience Christian or Jewish tradition, such that she can come to claim both as her own. Other children's books, such as Papa Jethro are dedicated to making children understand that one can have close and loving relationships with grandparents across religious difference. In Papa Jethro, the Christian grandfather enthusiastically supports his grandchild in her Judaism. Advice manuals, however, give a very different depiction of the intergenerational politics of interfaith families, as they are often pitched at Jewish grandparents who are dismayed at the choices that their offspring have made--both in selecting non-Jewish (often Christian) spouses and then in how present those adult children have made Judaism in their home. While advice manuals for interfaith couples often talk about setting boundaries with extended families, advice manuals targeted at these grandparents offer strategies for shaping the Jewish identities of their grandchildren, sometimes in opposition to the wishes of the grandchildren's parents. This paper puts the various depictions of grandparents (predominantly created by Jewish publishing houses) in conversation with mainstream American and traditional Jewish understandings of family and community structure. Where are American ideals of nuclear family constituting a break with older patterns of extended families? When is nostalgia for a imagined extended family mobilized to justify interference in the upbringing of grandchildren? How do Jewish communal organizations offer support to grandparents in dealing with the choices that their children make around interfaith families and what does that support look like--how, in short, does the Jewish community imagine extended families in the contemporary and increasingly pluralistic American society?

Kristy Slominski, University of Arizona
How the “Judeo-Christian” Interfaith Ideal Transformed Sex Education into Family Life Education

By the mid-twentieth century, the framework of “family life” dominated public sex education in America. Happy Christian and Jewish families had replaced venereal diseases and prostitutes as the primary symbols of sex education. Starting in the 1920s, liberal Protestants had led the charge to transform sex education into family life education through their work within the sex education movement. Although physicians held more power within the movement, Protestant social purity reformers had joined with these social hygienists to create the first national sex education organization. Protestants leveraged their social capital, church resources, and personal expertise in social scientific approaches to families to sway sex education in the direction of family life. Through their partnership with the Federal Council of Churches, liberal Protestant sex educators mobilized the interfaith ideal of “Judeo-Christian” family values to promote family life education as a more palatable and effective form of sex education for most Americans.

Business Meeting:
Samira Mehta, Albright College
Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Unit and SBL Bible and Film Unit
Theme: Terrifying and Transformative Bodies: From Exodus to Modern Films
Matthew Rindge, Gonzaga University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-28B (Upper Level East)

to be added

Caryn Tamber-Rosenau, University of Houston
The Goddess in the Exodus: Nina Paley’s Seder-Masochism and the Female Divine in Israel

Nina Paley’s animated musical Seder-Masochism (2018) reimagines the story of the Exodus. To Paley, the Exodus is not the pinnacle of God’s relationship with Israel but the silencing of Goddess religion. The controversial Paley, who also made Sita Sings the Blues, here draws heavily on the work of feminist thinkers such as Mary Daly, Marija Gimbutas, and Merlin Stone to argue that YHVH’s rise killed “the Goddess.” Paley sets her animations of biblical material to music by John Lennon, the Pointer Sisters, a Bulgarian choir, and others. Paley also includes audio of a 1950s Passover seder, illustrated with an animated Jesus at Da Vinci’s Last Supper, as well as audio of an interview she recorded with her late father, illustrated with her father as God and Paley herself as a sacrificial goat. Paley is remarkably conversant in scholarship about goddess worship in the Ancient Near East; she incorporates images such as the Judahite pillar figurine, the Ugaritic Mistress of Animals, and the-goddess-as-stylized-tree throughout the film. This paper will use Seder-Masochism as a dialogue partner for a discussion of goddess worship in ancient Israel. It will draw on scholarship about Israelite and Judahite female deities, (i.e. recent work by Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, Peggy Day, Thomas Römer, and Mark Smith, as well as older work by Susan Ackerman, William Dever, Othmar Keel, and Christoph Uehlinger) to discuss the current consensus about goddesses in the biblical world. In addition, this paper will use a formalist approach to show how the film’s central thesis that God silenced the Goddess connects with Paley’s stated anti-transgender ideology. Paley writes on her blog, “God used to be female. All of Her attributes were taken over by the male God. Creation, fertility, vegetation, the bringing forth of food, life and death – all that was once the Goddess’s is now God’s. It’s like the male God put on Her clothes, and then ‘identified’ as Her, and there’s no Goddess any more.” Paley’s ideology is obvious throughout the film. For example, there is a scene where a goddess gives birth to men, one of whom returns with an ax, splits her in half, and clothes himself in her remains. (One is reminded of Marduk and Tiamat in the Enuma Elish.) To the tune of Guns N’ Roses’s lyric “I used to love her/but I had to kill her,” the man-in-goddess-clothing then becomes God, a white-bearded man with a folded dollar bill for a face—and the voice of Paley’s father. Informed by her anti-trans stance, Paley has produced a Bible film strongly aligned with a sort of feminist theology that has mostly fallen out of favor today—one that sees a primeval mother goddess slain by the monotheistic God.

Joshua Canzona, Wake Forest University
Lust and Weibermacht in Biblical Film

Lust is a popular theme throughout biblical film. It is often explored in connection with biblical narratives, which may be rendered faithfully, expanded upon, or creatively reinterpreted. Lust has also appeared independent of biblical narrative while remaining closely linked with scripturally-inspired morals and categories. In early film, lust is often treated in conjunction with weibermacht or “the power of women,” an artistic topos showing distinguished men brought low by feminine beauty and wiles. This presentation will explore how biblical lust developed on the screen with an emphasis on its role in giving rise to "the vamp" archetype and its close connection to violence.

Jordan Conley, Boston University
A Woman’s Place Is in the Home: The Material, Spatial, and Agential Dimensions of Aronofsky’s Mother!

The religious resonances of Darren Aronofsky’s genre-bending film Mother!—including its biblical subjects, liturgical motifs, and eschatological imagery—evoke an exegetical impulse in even the most resistant or critical of viewers. In focusing on the film’s considerable materialist and spatial dimensions, this paper explores how the film engages with a long tradition of gendered modes of domestic emplacement—starting with relationship between the film’s female character and the house itself, including the ways in which the female body is operative both within and as a (the) home. How does the titular “mother” shift, gestate, and unravel in tandem with the house, even as both entities are constituted in relation to the film’s other inhabitants? Moreover, the paper suggests that the film’s “mother” performs and inhabits cultural norms of domesticity to such a degree that the effect is to simultaneously undermine and elevate the domestic space and the female domestic self.

Jon Coutts, Ambrose University
Arrival and Annihilation: Cinematic Re-Imaginations of the Eschatological Transformation of the Body

This paper interprets the films Arrival and Annihilation alongside 1 Corinthians 15 in order to re-imagine the continuity and physicality entailed in the theology of final resurrection. The apostle’s statement that 'we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed' suggests that, whatever takes place at the end of history, it does not necessarily require natural death, but does entail bodily transformation. In Annihilation, when we see a body being doubled and intensified after its absorption into a twinkling eye of blooming light, we are invited to imagine the change wrought upon living bodies at the visitation of the already-resurrected Christ. In Arrival, when we see the twelve corners of the world trying to communicate with the occupants of unidentified flying objects, we are beckoned to imagine whether and how the frightful encounter might actually benefit the social body. Such films may helpfully reinvigorate the contemporary eschatological imagination.

Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Unit
Theme: Womanist Engagement through the Lens of Scripture
Teresa L. Fry Brown, Emory University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-16A (Mezzanine Level)


Melanie Jones, Chicago Theological Seminary
Up against a Crooked Gospel: A Womanist Reading of Luke 13:10-17

America’s gaze upon the Black female body locates Black women in a crooked society that misrecognizes and misjudges their moral character. Moreover, Black women of faith face contempt by a crooked gospel that reinforces such mischaracterization theologically. Drawing upon Tamura Lomax’ central question in Jezebel Unhinged (2018), “What does it mean to loose Black women’s bodies in religion and society?,” this paper analyzes the narrative of the woman suffering with a bent condition in Luke 13:10-17 [often scripted as Woman, Thou Art Loosed! narrative in Black sacred culture] as a parallel account and source for womanist theo-ethical analysis of the Black female body bent multiple by pervasive threats seeking to stifle survival in a multi-traumatic world. This paper constructs a womanist reading of Luke 13:10-17 that engages the unnamed woman’s bent-body and uncovers the true crooked characters, both religious leaders and the socio-religious community, who aim to suppress her liberation.

Jean Derricotte-Murphy, Chicago Theological Seminary
Rituals of Restorative Resistance: Healing Cultural Trauma and Cultural Amnesia through Cultural Anamnesis and Collective Memory

Using a womanist approach to ritual enactment, this paper presents an anamnestic remedy for the healing of Cultural Trauma and Cultural Amnesia within the African-American community. It infuses new liturgical Rituals of Restorative Resistance into the worship experience of the Black Church. Building upon the work of doctors Delores S. Williams, Barbara A. Holmes, Linda E. Thomas, and JoAnne Marie Terrell, it links theology, anthropology, and the performing arts. It expands the meaning of “Do This in Remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24) to include commemorating the sacrifices of Jesus and enslaved African ancestors in Eucharistic rituals enhanced with new sacred songs, readings, and symbols. Participating in the enactment of Rituals of Restorative Resistance decolonizes minds and deconstructs negative Western narratives. Ritualistic transformation of painful histories and traumatic stories into narratives and symbols of endurance and faith can re-invent, re-construct, and re-member individuals and communities into whole and healed members.

Unregistered Participant
Murderous: Song of Cyntoia/Song of Yael, a Womanist Defense of Self-Defense

This paper seeks to use the Biblical tale of Deborah and Yael, with works by Alice Walker, Renita Weems, Toni Morrison, Deloris Williams, Katie Cannon and others, to construct a womanist ground of self-defense. Historically rooted, this lens is brought to the present with the recent case and clemency of Cyntoia Brown.

Angela Parker, Seattle School of Theology and Psychology
Business Meeting:
Teresa L. Fry Brown, Emory University
Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Shaw University
African Religions Unit and World Christianity Unit
Theme: Healing, Health, and Care in African Christianities
Teresia Mbari Hinga, Santa Clara University, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 502B (Fifth Level)

This panel addresses issues of healing, health, and care in African Christianities, while contributing to ongoing conversations concerning gender, digital media, migration, the intersection of the sacred and the secular, and the anthropology of ethics. The first paper, centered on the experiences of Pentecostal Christians in the Nigerian diaspora who participate in worship through online ministries, considers the potential of the internet to mitigate against anxieties concerning stigmas relating to gender and migration status. The second analyzes the formation narratives of grassroots nonprofit leaders in Uganda and explores the ways in which these leaders earn the trust of their partners, supporters, and beneficiaries. The third calls attention to how the Kenyan staff at a Catholic medical clinic in Nairobi navigate the competing moral demands rooted in Catholic teaching on sexual and reproductive health, on the one hand, and in their awareness of the practical needs of the community they serve.

Emmy Corey, Emory University
The Dilemmas of Distribution: Engaging the Transcendent through Practices of Care at Amani Clinic

This paper analyzes fieldwork from a Catholic clinic in Nairobi, Kenya that provides treatment, prevention and care to children living with HIV. Drawing on interviews and participant observation with Kenyan staff members at the clinic, I address the practices they develop as they navigate the complex moral demands placed upon them while caring for their patients. From condom distribution to teenage pregnancy, clinicians must uphold the social teachings of the Catholic church while also adhering to the demand for HIV prevention from U.S. funders. Drawing on the work of scholars of African religion, as well as the anthropology of ethics, I argue that the practices of care undertaken by practitioners both maintain and challenge outside authority, creating immanently-grounded, dynamic responses to both Catholic teaching and the moral crises that have called them into question. These practices foster transformative, multivalent engagement with Church teaching and illuminate the transnational formations of global Christianity.

Nicolette Manglos-Weber, Boston University
Reasons to Trust: Community Caregivers and the Religious Ecology of Uganda

This study is an analysis of the formation narratives of grassroots nonprofit leaders in Uganda—whom I refer to as community caregivers—and how those narratives reflect and build upon aspects of Uganda’s religious ecology. I bring a focus on lived religion, especially work on popular religious forms in “secular” spaces, to bear on a question in development studies, namely how nonprofits and NGOs achieve credibility as trustworthy care providers. Uganda is a setting in which confidence in social institutions and generalized trust is low, and religious and ethnic pluralism is high; and yet popular religious practice is common and has aspects that are shared across diverse groups. I ask whether and how aspects of this religious ecology shape the ostensibly secular work of grassroots nonprofit leaders, and in particular helps them provide partners, supporters, and beneficiaries with reasons to trust them to care for community needs.

Emily Crews, University of Chicago
Miracles on the Margins: Digital Technology, Healing Rituals, and Gendered Embodiment in the African Christian Diaspora

Drawing on digital ethnographic research into attestations of online religious healing or “cyber miracles” shared by Nigerian Pentecostals living in diaspora, the proposed presentation will focus on the convergence of digital technology, gender and the body, and ritual practice. Many practitioners of Pentecostal Christianity across the globe worship in part or even entirely through online media, and many of those worshippers are women searching for treatment of health issues labeled as distinctly female. Thus, this presentation will explore the ways in which women’s hyper-gendered bodies, and especially their sexual and reproductive health, become sites for the expression of the anxieties produced by homesick and migrants’ marginal status in their host nations, and in turn, the ways in which those anxieties are diagnosed and treated in and through online ritual contexts. It will ultimately argue that the use of the internet to mediate the physical and emotional consequences of migration momentarily collapses both the spatial and ideological boundaries between Nigeria and diaspora and between practitioner and home, offering a unique and invaluable connection otherwise rarely achieved through healing rituals bound by more conventional technologies. This in turn has a potentially profound effect on the ways that Nigerians in diaspora practice their particular form of Christianity, connect their faith to others in their lives, and ultimately understand themselves to be Christian.

Business Meeting:
Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds
David Amponsah, University of Pennsylvania
Animals and Religion Unit
Theme: Race/Gender/Animals/Religion: Further Engagements at the Intersection
Christopher Carter, University of San Diego, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-23C (Upper Level East)

The intersection between academic engagements with race, gender, animals, and religion is attracting growing interest, as evidenced by the standing-room-only 2018 AAR panel on this topic, which left those attending enthused and excited by the papers and discussion. This panel follows up on that excitement with four further cutting-edge papers. “Why The Dog had to be Killed: When Redemption Fails,” interrogates the mutual imbrication of race and species in America with the help of Sam Fuller’s controversial film ‘White Dog’ (1982); “St. Guinefort and the Green World: A Comic Reading of the Cult of St. Guinefort as depicted in ‘Sorceress’” engages the greyhound cult in Berger and Schiffman’s film. “Using a robust ecowomanist theology to expand food justice” makes the case for a theology embracing intersectional care for animals, race, gender and the environment, through reclaiming the farming practice of black women pioneers. "The Exhibition of Humans, The Construction of Whiteness, and The Theological Sideshow" investigates how dehumanizing displays of black bodies provided a foil for whiteness and how this legacy is perpetuated in contemporary theology.

Katharine Mershon, Whitman College
Why The White Dog Had to Be Killed: When Redemption Fails

“Why The Dog had to be Killed: When Redemption Fails,” interrogates the mutual imbrication of race and species in America with the help of Sam Fuller’s controversial film White Dog (1982), in which a dog conditioned to attack black people cannot be retrained, making the dog’s story what I call a failed redemption narrative. The film’s white, female protagonist tries in vain to change the dog’s behavior, which I view as a parable for the American failure to address the legacy of slavery, demonstrating that sentiment and good intentions alone are not enough to remedy the larger structural problems inherent to human and human-animal relationships in America. Traditional canine redemption films use the sentimental mode to evoke feelings of sympathetic identification from the audience. In most cases, the dog’s symbolic redemptive role in these films acts as a stabilizing force that provides narrative resolution and concludes with the restoration of the heterosexual white family. In this way, classic canine redemption narratives position the economic definition of redemption as “buying back” a human or canine life against the sentimental definition of redemption as a form of personal transformation or rebirth that culminates in the restoration of the family. White Dog reveals the problem of projecting a human social problem onto the figure of an animal, a phenomenon that turns the dog into a scapegoat for human social ills, releasing the film’s human audience from feeling indicted by their inevitable role in America’s racist structures.

Callie Tabor, Emory University
St. Guinefort and the Green World: A Comic Reading of the Cult of St. Guinefort as Depicted in "Sorceress"

In this paper, I propose a comic reading of the medieval cult of St. Guinefort, a sainted greyhound, and the 1987 film Sorceress which dramatizes the inquisitorial investigation into the cult. I argue that the film privileges the erotic knowledge of women and their interspecies kin while laughing at the authoritative, rational man as impostor. First, I examine the little-known cult of the dog-saint Guinefort and the film inspired by this cult. Second, I state the case for a comic reading using recent feminist scholarship on interspecies solidarity and Northrop Frye’s theory of the green world. Finally, I illustrate how Sorceress creates a green world, which in Frye’s theory is not a world of wish fulfillment but a genuine form of reality that we should strive towards. The kinship between local women and a sainted dog provides a framework for imagining a comic, inclusive society for all creatures.

Candace M. Laughinghouse, Chicago Theological Seminary
Using a Robust Ecowomanist Theology to Expand Food Justice

Last year’s panel on the intersection of race, gender, animals and religion addressed many overlooked and often taboo subjects within the academy. As an anti-speciesist ecowomanist doing theology, my own interface presents an additional dimension to expanding the discussion.
This paper proposes ways in which womanist theology expands the public discourse in three areas: 1) an intentional anti-speciesist ecowomanist response that is intentional in navigating a theology embracing the intersectional care for animals, race, gender and the environment 2) referencing a redefinition of farming of black women pioneers as a womanist principle of reclaiming identity that leads to 3) a moral and theological responsibility towards animals.

Lisa Powell, St. Ambrose University
The Exhibition of Humans, the Construction of Whiteness, and the Theological Sideshow

In this paper I: 1) Offer a brief history of the display of humans in ethnographic exhibits and their function as a device of white supremacy to demonstrate “scientifically” that black humans are a “missing link” in the evolution of the human species. 2) Provide the stories of two specific individuals from Africa who were exhibited in cages and described as animals: Ota Benga and Sarah Baartman. 3) Illustrate how this legacy persists in the white imagination, focusing on the animalistic portrayals of black women as a foil for white femininity. 4) Suggest that this legacy is perpetuated in theology when the work of people of color is relegated to a sideshow or is used only as a foil to feature the prominence of white theology

Jea Sophia Oh, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Business Meeting:
Barbara Ambros, University of North Carolina
David Clough, University of Chester
Baha'i Studies Unit and Women's Caucus
Theme: Bridging Faith and Feminism: The Role That Religion Can Play in Advancing Gender Equality
Julia Berger, Baha'i International Community, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 501A (Fifth Level)

Efforts to replace the often confrontational dynamic between secular and faith-based proponents of gender equality are extremely important, recognizing that such tensions are often rooted in conceptions of culture and are driven by broader political agendas and geopolitical realities. No one part of society will succeed in realizing the goal of gender equality in isolation. Faith-based organizations and actors need to join together with secular organizations and social justice movements working towards the same ends—combining their experiences, insights, and resources—to work towards a goal that requires and promotes the participation of all.
This roundtable will consider the depth and scale of change required for the realization of gender equality worldwide—change that is not only material and technical but also moral, spiritual, and cultural. It will explore the tremendous social, spiritual and intellectual resources of religious communities and faith-based organizations that form a key component of these efforts.

Unregistered Participant
Saphira Rameshfar, Baha'i International Community, United Nations Office
  • Focus on Sustainability
Religion and Ecology Unit
Theme: Anticipatory Directions in Hindu Dharma and Earth Ethics for the Anthropocene
Vineet Chander, Princeton University, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-3 (Upper Level West)

The ocean of diverse values, practices, and theologies which make up the living wisdom of Hindu **dharma have urgent and immediate restorative potentialities for our common discernments of robust Earth Ethics for the Anthropocene. This papers session will explore Hindu dharma as critical/constructive practices of Earth Ethics. Hindu dharma can be understood as the combination of energies, practices, and theological flows which represent the harmonies, entanglements, flows, and dissonances which constantly emerge from Earthly creation. As we face the awesome challenges of the Anthropocene, what elements of timeless and time-tested wisdom from Hindu sources can help us anticipate a way forward which is sane, just, reparative, and regenerative? How can Hindu scholars, practitioners, and students of Hinduism help to shape and form understandings of Hindu dharma which best reflect and express the natural elements and practices of Earth Ethics which are inherent to the experience of dharma itself?

David Haberman, Indiana University
A Return to the Gods of the Land

Climate change related disasters are happening with increasing frequency and intensity in the central Himalaya of India, a region where gods have been conceived as being deeply embedded in the land. This paper explores how these disasters are being understood locally as divine punishment, with particular focus on the place of earthly deities in this understanding. This paper tracks how attempts to reckon with climate change related disasters in the central Himalaya have driven new speculation that the vital connections with such earth deities have been lost, and highlights cultural developments that indicate that the anticipatory direction within Himalayan Hinduism may involve the reestablishment of respectful relations with such gods. A horrific climate change related disaster that occurred during the summer of 2013 in Kedarnath, a major pilgrimage site of this region, will be presented as an illustrative example.

Rita Sherma, Graduate Theological Union
The Ecological Ethics of Deep Immanence

Religion-inspired ecological ethics are usually based on a philosophy of praxis or grounded in a theological principle. In the case of Hinduism, the highly influential principle of the immanent dynamic divine power (śakti)—that variously informs most theologies—is an important key to understanding Hindu attitudes towards nature and ecological “ethics of care.” This core principle is rendered as the Feminine Divine; the paper will trace its significance.

Unregistered Participant
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, Nassau Community College
Unraveling the Weave between Body and Cosmos in Jagannatha Temple

This paper shows that the main ritual of the devadasi in Jagannatha temple was a Shakta Tantric ritual that used to enact the weave between food on the one hand and the Goddess, women’s bodies and the earth/cosmos on the other hand. The Hindu temple consists of an ecological cycle between the earth/cosmos, the deities, and humans. The devadasi during this ritual was Kali/Shakti. The product of her dance activity enacted a transformation of the food offering into the cosmic power of life. Since the administration of this temple was transferred from the King of Puri to Indian Administrators of the State of Odisha in 1963, this ritual ceased to take place and with it the weave between cosmos and humans was unraveled. However, in devotees’ personal practices of visualizing yantras in their bodies, this tradition lives on.

Christopher Patrick Miller, Loyola Marymount University
Softpower and Biopower: Narendra Modi’s Dual Deployment of Yoga for Climate Change and Self-Care

This paper tracks the Indian government’s multiple, shifting discourses surrounding yoga since 2014 as Modi and the BJP have interacted with both international and domestic audiences. These discourses can be broadly grouped into two categories: 1) Yoga as a global soft power solution for climate change and 2) Yoga as a bio-political exercise regiment for the advancement of India’s increasingly neoliberal economy. The paper specifically highlights how the BJP’s international discourse surrounding yoga as a solution for climate change has almost entirely ceased since Donald Trump‘s election, while the bio-political dimensions of the BJP’s yoga discourse has simultaneously expanded. It also shows how the BJP’s push for a homogenized and patently bio-political yoga regiment via the government’s “Common Yoga Protocol” (CYP) has potentially disastrous environmental effects pertaining directly to climate change in so far as the CYP aims to reinforce neo-liberal subjectivity and the environmentally deleterious structures of global neoliberalism. 

Allegra Wiprud, Yale University
Pastoral Earth Ethics for the Climate Crisis in the Teachings of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The current moment of climate crisis manifests as a moment of awakening and deep questioning of human futures. This soul-searching anticipatory moment is amplified amongst privileged Western populations who identify themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, as the perpetrators of climate change. The answers sought in this moment are as much pastoral as they are policy. This paper focuses on the Earth Ethics of Hindu traditions through the teachings of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977). As a direct Earth Ethic, Prabhupad directed his followers to conserve resources as Krishna’s energy and to create God-conscious earth-honoring agrarian communities. As Earth Ethics by implication, Hindu ontology of material nature as temporary, ever-changing, and manifested by Krishna – as well as the directive of non-hoarding (krpana) – challenges the “human tendency to dominate over nature” and the current loss aversive-behavior of the global 1%. Through it all, Prabhupad's teachings are deeply pastoral.

Christopher Fici, Union Theological Seminary
  • Full Papers Available
Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit
Theme: Innovations from the Margins: Religious Perceptions of Body and Healing
Linda L. Barnes, Boston University, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo C (Second Level)

The papers in this session explore how religious values, rhetoric, and/or imagery inform perceptions of body and healing in different historical eras and cultural contexts. "Medicating Eve’s Curse" explores how Christian teachings undergirded obstetric medicine in mid-19th Century United States. Through the case of late-19th century leprosy settlements in Hawaii, "A Horror of Moral Beauty" demonstrates how religious valence interacted with medical understandings of leprosy and affected global health policy. "New Age Mystics, Healing Cyborgs" examines the rhetoric of self-sovereignty in contemporary healthcare, and how body parts comprise the technology of healing. The session will consist of short recapitulated papers, Q&A with paper authors, and facilitated discussions. All full papers will be posted online on PAPERS by November 1.

Unregistered Participant
Medicating Eve’s Curse: Race, Class, and Religious Sensibility in 19th Century Obstetrics

In 1850, Thomas Nichols wrote in his treatise on water-cure and childbirth that, “Every woman is an Eve, and forbidden fruits are all around her” (9). In this presentation, I explore works by medical sectarians, like Nichols, as well as “regular” physicians to demonstrate how religious imagery and rhetoric shaped medical conceptions of the parturient woman in the mid-19th century. I show that the rise of scientific racism prompted physicians to define childbirth as inherently painful and difficult for white women, and notions of Christian Perfectionism undergirded the moral project of obstetric medicine. Through rhetorical analysis, I argue that mid-century characterizations of the the obstetric patient--identified by her race, class, and religious sensibility--cohered into a relatively stable figure. Ultimately, I contend that understanding the importance of religious values in the history of medicine can help scholars better account for the implicit worldview of “orthodox” childbirth medicine.

Mark Lambert, University of Chicago
"A Horror of Moral Beauty": South Seas Travel Writing, Religion, and the Perception of Leprosy

During the late nineteenth-century, the twin leprosy settlements on the Hawaiian island of Molokai became an indispensable destination for a new breed of adventurous traveller-writers. I will demonstrate how the travel writings of two such authors, Charles Warren Stoddard and Robert Louis Stevenson, complemented and clashed with the contemporary medical understandings of leprosy and how their contribution to the public perception of leprosy engendered a marked effect upon global health policy. The overtly religious valence of these writings, likewise supported and embellished by the literary flourishes of each author, provided them with a unique appeal to the public imagination. Stoddard and Stevenson, I argue, explicitly appealed to religious language in their invocation of three themes: portraying leprosy as an apocalyptic scourge, casting Father Damien as the contemporary embodiment of biblical exemplars, and championing the “city on a hill” status of these settlements—products of the Hawaiian colonial board of health.

Unregistered Participant
New Age Mystics, Healing Cyborgs

New Age healers use the body as the very technology to heal itself. Finding it inadequate to think of the body as limited to the skinbag, I will use cyborg and prosthetics theories to think about the human body as capable of expanding itself to include metaphysical prosthetics. For New Agers today, the body transcends traditional notions of materiality as it is physically intertwined with invisible technological appendages to the body, such as chakra, energy points, and vibrational resonances. In short, this paper offers a close reading of the empowering rhetoric of self-sovereignty that characterizes the New Age and contemporary healthcare to consider how the body's visible and invisible parts comprise the technology of healing.

Business Meeting:
Emily Wu, Dominican University of California
Japanese Religions Unit
Theme: Redefining “Religionists”: New Perspectives on “Religious Professionalism” in Early Modern through Contemporary Japan
Mark Rowe, McMaster University, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202B (Second Level)

This panel re-examines scholarly definitions of “religionists,” individuals serving professional or clerical roles within religious communities. To this end, we explore “religious professionalism” by engaging with the ways in which practitioners negotiate and deploy their own understanding of what constitutes a “religionist.” Moving beyond hegemonic images of the Shinto priest or Buddhist cleric, each of the presenters examine the ambiguity within religious engagement, labor, and positionality. We investigate “religious professionals” across a variety of religious traditions: from frictions created by gendered roles in Shinto ritual practice and contradictions between theological and institutional descriptions of “religionists” in Tenrikyo to a healer breaking with gendered and sectarian expectations in Jodo Shin Buddhism and Edo booksellers blurring lines between “secular” and “religious” labor. We hope to inspire further discussion of what defines labor as “religious” and what defines an individual as “professionally religious.”

Dana Mirsalis, Harvard University
Moving “Like Women”: Ritual Technique and the Gendering of the Shinto Priesthood

This paper considers ritual technique as both a site of friction and a lens through which to view larger issues surrounding the gendering of the Shinto priesthood. The Shinto priest is theoretically a gender-neutral position, but, in practice, is often conceptualized as two separate roles—(male) priests and female priests—which are imagined to have different roles, strengths and weaknesses, expectations, and modes of occupying and moving through space. While institutional regulations marginalize female priests as essentially different than (and therefore not equal to) male priests, I use archival and ethnographic research to argue that adoption of these regulations is uneven and conditional. Female priests do not actively resist institutional power so much as they reinterpret, adapt, or ignore regulations, taking advantage of the liminal, ambiguous space female priests inhabit within the institutional structure to forward their own understandings of what female priests should do and be.

Timothy Smith, University of North Carolina
“A Yōboku among Yōboku” : Institutional Hierarchies and Theological Equalities across Tenrikyō’s Past and Present

In the so-called “New Religions” of Japan, the boundary between followers and professional religionists is often blurred, partially due to how many such organizations developed as critiques of both new and traditional hierarchies and ideologies. Nakayama Miki, the Foundress of Tenrikyō, initially taught that through “world renewal” (yonaoshi), all humans would be made equal in a future “joyous life.” Today, Tenrikyō teachings recognize three “levels” of membership – believers, lay ministers known as yōboku, and kyōto, or ministers – and Tenrikyō literature argues that yōboku and kyōto are essentially the same. However, the present structure of Tenrikyō as a religious organization is in fact rigidly hierarchical, with clear distinctions dependent on lineage and church ranking. In this paper, I argue that Tenrikyō has utilized ambiguities present in the categorical understanding of “religion” to develop a layered understanding of “religious professionalism,” in order to integrate spiritual egalitarianism with secular organizational needs.

Barbara Ambros, University of North Carolina
Negotiating Religious Authority as a Female Jōdo Shin Healer in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Takumi Toyoko

In defiance of hegemonic claims that modern Jōdo Shin Buddhism does not accommodate shamanic practices, Takumi Toyoko (b. 1929), a Jōdo Shin religionist from Toyama, identifies as a kitōshi (“healer”, “exorcist”, or “shaman”). At the intersection between a leader of a secret Jōdo Shin confraternity and a healer with an open clientele, Takumi negotiates her status as a charismatic female religionist with little economic and cultural capital by tapping into the symbolic capital of traditional male authority figures, ranging from company presidents and town officials to a wide variety of other religious professionals. These traditional male authority figures serve as role models, conversation partners, and adversaries whom she marshals to bolster her authority. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and Takumi’s autobiography, I argue that as a female religionist Takumi simultaneously challenges and appropriates masculine institutional authority, thereby defying of male-centered constructions of a modernist Jōdo Shin identity.

Eric Tojimbara, University of California, Los Angeles
The Commercial Publication of Buddhist Books and the Blurring of “Secular” and “Religious” Labor in Early Modern Japan

This paper considers the activity of Edo period booksellers who specialized in the publication of Buddhist books, and argues that they constituted a new class of “religionist” or professional laborer whose work operated somewhere between the “religious” and “secular.” To do so, I take a two-pronged approach, first focusing on materials such as commercial booksellers’ catalogues, reflecting the immense demand for Buddhist books during the early years of the book market’s existence. I then turn to paratextual materials furnished by booksellers, particularly publisher authored prefaces, which reveal an investment in Buddhist ideas that extended beyond a merely economic interest in producing Buddhist books. Finally, this paper provides inroads into bridging the gap that has divided the field, namely, the inordinate focus on monastic publication in Buddhist studies, which has, for the most part, left analyses of commercially published Buddhist books to the work of historians and specialists of Japanese literature.

Jessica Starling, Lewis and Clark College
Men, Masculinities, and Religion Unit and Religions in the Latina/o Americas Unit
Theme: Between Power and Play: Latin American Masculinities in Institutional and Informal Contexts
Matthew Peter Casey, Arizona State University, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire D (Fourth Level)

This panel explores the performance and construction of masculinities in popular religious rituals, prisons, and Catholic social thought across Latin American contexts, from Peru to Puerto Rico. From conversion, to costumes, and Catholic interpretations of gender theory, these papers offer interdisciplinary perspectives on masculinities. The first paper, an ethnographic study of Pentecostalism in Peruvian prisons, explores how conversion promotes a reorientation, not a complete reshaping, of masculine ideals in a world structured by binaries of domination/ submission, authority/ obedience and reward/ punishment. The second paper explores the Church’s denunciation of gender and sexual equality movements. Exploring Pope Francis’ remarks about “gender theory” being a form of “ideological colonization,” it analyzes silences and erasure, and the knowledge produced by Catholic archives. The last paper explores the centrality of play and gendered divisions of labor in the Fiesta de Santiago in Loíza, Puerto Rico, a site for men’s performance and embodiment of the feminine and racialized Other in public space.

Veronique Lecaros, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
From Criminal Leader to Religious Leader: Conversion to Pentecostalism in a Provincial Peruvian Jail

This paper deals with inmates' conversion to Pentecostal Churches and their transformation into religious leaders in Piura, a Northern provincial Peruvian city. Because of overcrowding, extensive drug consumption, financial obligations, and networks of friendship and gangs, jails are commonly known as "universities of crime". In this context, conversion to Pentecostal Churches represents almost the only way out of crime.
Inmates, leaving criminal gangs for Pentecostal Churches, are usually attracted to very demanding and conservative groups. While rupture from previous ways of life seems obvious, we argue that such appearances must be challenged. The link which enables conversion without any drastic change in cosmo-vision can be identified in certain conceptions and practices of authority and of masculinity. It still entails a world organized in a binary manner; domination/ submission, authority/ obedience and reward/ punishment.
Our research is based on observations in jail and on interviews of officials, religious leaders and prisoners.

Danielle Dempsey, University of California, Riverside
Jessica Rehman, University of California, Riverside
On Ideological Colonization: Exploring the Relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Colonial Constructions of “Gender Theory”

Since 2015, Pope Francis has referred to “gender theory” as a form of “ideological colonization.” This paper analyzes Francis’s postcolonial rhetoric, geared toward members of the Global South. Francis, the first South American Pope, provokes questions as to the Church’s role in colonialism, particularly in Latin America (notably, he used this phrase during a visit to Bolivia, Paraguay, and Ecuador), a geopolitical area thus named due to the Roman Catholic Church’s colonial presence there. Despite the Church’s legacy of colonialism and the diverse, complex lived realities of Catholics in Latin America, Francis’s anti-colonial rhetoric imposes a seamless identity upon them: A proper Catholic and a proper opponent to neocolonialism will resist contemporary gender and sexual justice movements. Francis’s comments prove divisive to Catholics of nondominant sexes, genders, and sexualities, and reassert the Church’s authority as an institutional and colonial power.

Alejandro Escalante, University of North Carolina
Playful Masculinity: Drag Performance in La Fiesta de Santiago and Religious Belonging

This paper illuminates the way that masculinity is defined performatively through play and costuming during drag performances in Loíza, Puerto Rico’s la Fiesta de Santiago (la fiesta). La fiesta is a Spanish festival that celebrates the Catholic defeat of Moors in the ninth-century and was brought to Puerto Rico during Spain’s colonization of the Americas. Traditionally, there is a gendered division of labor that I describe as “religious” (hidden) and “non-religious” (public). On the one hand, women take the “religious” role of coordinating and scheduling the events of la fiesta de Santiago with the local parish; men, on the other hand, participate “non-religiously” in the festival by performing during the festivities. Specifically, it is men who dress up as “crazy women” (locas) that this paper examines as the way that masculinity it publicly performed in Loíza, Puerto Rico.

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, Kalamazoo College
Mormon Studies Unit
Theme: Systems of Survival: Sex, Kinship, and Food Storage in Mormon Culture
Sara Patterson, Hanover College, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Point Loma (South Tower - First Level)

This session explores aspects of Mormon history and culture related to sexuality, kinship and the succession crisis of early Mormonism, and survivalist/prepper themes in the height of the Cold War.

Megan Stanton, University of Wisconsin
Authoritative Kinship: Mormon Sects’ Symbolic Inheritance of Smith Family Members

This paper examines the symbolic roles that Joseph Smith Jr.’s family members played within Mormonism in the aftermath of his death. Smith’s kin functioned as both agents and symbolic objects in the succession crisis. Successors including Brigham Young, James Strang, and Lyman Wight campaigned for the support of Smith family members, uncovering a shared concern among leaders of multiple sects in the Mormon tradition. The pursuit of Smith kin—successors’ efforts to number Smith family members among their members—demonstrates the connection between family and authority in Mormon sectional conflict. Indeed, this contestation over Smith kin belies the extent to which nineteenth-century Mormonism relied on multiple models of authority, including familial leadership. In short, Smith’s successors vied for an inheritance of authoritative status via the cooperation of Smith’s family members.

Sara Moslener, Central Michigan University
So Much Greater Than a Cupcake: Celestial Marriage, Sexual Purity and Its Discontents in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Debates over gender and sexuality play a significant role in shaping religious identity within the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints. As an understudied tradition deeply invested in sexual purity, the LDS church remains an unrecognized player in our national discussion about religion and sexuality.

The primary purpose of this paper is to begin analyzing how the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints promotes their teachings about sexual purity known as the Law of Chastity. For Mormons, sexual purity is a deeply embedded, theological principle, rooted in long-standing church teachings linking the family with eternal salvation.

The secondary purpose of this paper is to complicate these teachings by attending to a faithful opposition within the church comprised primary of women who identity as both Mormon and feminist. This opposition provides a platform for re-framing the principles of virtue, chastity and modesty as forms of self-empowerment.

Randy Powell, Washington State University
Surviving the 1970s: Mormon Food Storage in American Culture

Storing at least a year supply of food is one of the most peculiar practices in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although its importance has diminished somewhat over the past several decades, it played a crucial role in tying Mormonism to an expansive survivalist movement in the 1970s. During that decade of energy crises, war, political unrest, and economic turmoil, LDS authorities begged ordinary Mormons to take food storage seriously. Most did not, but enough did that the practice attracted the attention of Americans worried about surviving financial catastrophe, renewed world war, or nuclear annihilation. Through Latter-day Saint books, meetings, and businesses, Americans learned from Mormons how to survive hard times. Americans worried about surviving the decade, from middle-class suburbanites to hard-core retreaters, hoped to survive and thrive by listening to and emulating Mormon food storage practices.

Business Meeting:
Sara Patterson, Hanover College
Taylor Petrey, Kalamazoo College
  • Books under Discussion
Philosophy of Religion Unit
Theme: A Book Panel on Religion, Ethics, and the Practice of Modern Politics under Conditions of Injustice
Alda Balthrop-Lewis, Australian Catholic University, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Vista (South Tower - First Level)

This is a book panel that addresses a collection of recent and in-progress works in Philosophy of Religion: Molly Farneth's Hegel's Social Ethics: Religion, Conflict, and Rituals of Reconciliation, Joe Winters's Hope Draped In Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress, and Randi Rashkover's Nature and Norm: Judaism, Christianity and the Theologico-Political Problem. The panel will take the strengths of the traditionally formatted book panel and broaden its scope, by asking the authors of a few different books to respond to one another’s work. Each author’s comment on one of the other authors will open up questions for broad discussion on topics that all three books address.

Molly Farneth, Haverford College
Joseph Winters, Duke University
Randi Rashkover, George Mason University
  • Focus on Sustainability
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Religion and Ecology Unit
Theme: Theorizing Publics in Religion and Ecology
Kimberly Carfore, University of San Francisco, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire M (Fourth Level)

This session examines the role of and who is included within our conception of “the public” within religion and ecology. The first paper argues for the critical and subversive role of lament as a practice of embodied silence in the public realm. More specifically, in the face of ecocide and neoliberalism, the paper argues that theological scholar must confront this reality. The second paper examines the life work of Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, activist, and Mission Blue founder, and argues that politically charged debates about anthropogenic climate change fail to adequately address gender dynamics that inform religious/spiritual engagement, environmental action, and hopes for a shared future. The final paper explores the contested ways in which religion, nature, and culture have been used by the “public.” The paper puts queer theorists into dialogue with “critically romantic” scientists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, who also understood nature as a fluid category and who were publicly engaged in the “culture wars” of their era, and argues for a more critical discourse attached to embodied subjects: subjects that co-construct the grounds of the planetary polis.

Timothy Harvie, Saint Mary's University, Alberta, Canada
Political Lament: Ecocide and Embodied Silence in Public Spaces

This paper argues for the critical and subversive role of lament as a practice of embodied silence in the public realm. More specifically, in the face of ecocide the theological scholar has little recourse in the neoliberal environment of the Alberta oil sands. Reflecting upon a particular encounter of suffering elk in the wild, affective responses in light of the impending death serve as analogies of academic participation in political and populist environs that denigrate academic inquiry and contributions to discourse. Following Unamuno and Merleau-Ponty, this paper charts a path for a subversive praxis of lament and apophatic silence as an embodied critique of public industrial practices which might model - and nurture - societal repentance.

Amanda Nichols, University of Florida
Hope Spots for Our Blue Heart: An In-Depth Study of the Lifework of Sylvia Earle and the Gendered Dynamics of Climate Weirding

Politically charged debates about anthropogenic climate change fail to adequately address gender dynamics that inform religious/spiritual engagement, environmental action, and hopes for a shared future. Examining the life work of Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, activist, and Mission Blue founder, I show how her efforts to protect and restore marine ecosystems and the world’s oceans were affected by religious and cultural ideologies that rely on androcentric, heteronormative, gender stereotypes. Adopting an ecofeminist lens, I argue that the ongoing subordination of women and the continued desecration of ‘mother ocean’ is paralleled. However, I also show that Earle promotes a Gaian Naturalism that expresses awe and wonder for the ‘blue heart of the planet’ and provides a new framework for thinking about climate change, gender, and “the living ocean.” Through her work, Earle has challenged the gendered status quo, earning her place in 2017 among “Time’s Firsts: Women Who Are Changing the World.”

Whitney Bauman, Florida International University
Erotic Thinking as Public Resistance

Queer Theory (QT) has expanded over the past 30 years to broader critiques of normative thinking in general. More recently, the destabilizing force of QT has been utilized to critique understandings of “nature,” highlighting the ways in which knowledge about nature is produced, and how nature is a changing category. Such destabilizations have recently been used to promote “alternative facts” and “fake news.” This paper puts queer theorists into dialogue with “critically romantic” scientists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, who also understood nature as a fluid category and who were publicly engaged in the “culture wars” of their era, in order to argue against the public misuse of a destabilized nature. Far from needing a return to stabile concepts or foundationalism in a “Trump Era,” what we need is more critical discourse attached to embodied subjects: subjects that co-construct the grounds of the planetary polis.

Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Unit
Theme: Gender and Genocide
Sarah K. Pinnock, Trinity University, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 204B (Second Level)

The papers in this session address little researched topics on the intersections of religion and gender in a genocide context. With a focus on women, each paper highlights the forgotten or obscured experiences of women across three genocides and indicates how a recovery of these narratives contributes to a more nuanced understanding of how genocide affects communities and is remembered. One paper contends that obliterated monuments and monasteries during the Armenian genocide also obliterated the collective memory of the contributions of ordained deaconesses to the Armenian Church and of women to nation building. The second paper challenges notions that God was absent in Nazi concentration camps and augments the limited research on the role of religion among non-Jewish prisoners, namely female Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses. The last paper examines the relationship between sexual and religious violence by analyzing how religious markers actualized the goals of perpetrators in the Bosnian genocide.

Alexander Maurits, Lund University
Religious Beliefs and Expressions among Female Christian Prisoners in the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp

Based on the testimonies in the Ravensbrück Archive at Lund University (Sweden), the purpose of this paper is to shed light on different kinds of religious practices and expressions among female Christians that were imprisoned by the Nazi regime.

Tamar Wasoian, Evanston, IL
Eradication of Monuments, Eradication of Memory: The Forgotten Legacy of the Armenian Deaconesses

The role of the women in the Armenian Church is a constant topic of debate for the twenty-first century Armenian communities. Although, there was a time, especially in the turn of the twentieth century, decades earlier than any Western church ordaining women, the Armenian women were on the altar leading the liturgy as ordained deaconesses.
This paper studies the historical background of the establishment of the office of deaconess in the Armenian Church as early as the fifth century. Next, will explore consequences of Genocide, lost lands and destroyed deaconesses’ monasteries which accumulated in selective communal memory that erased the legacy of the Armenian women’s contribution in the Armenian Church. Lastly, explores the theology of remembering and re-membering that can restore the spiritual home for the Armenian women to claim and own her remembering.

Jessi Taylor, University of British Columbia
“Once She’s Baptised, That Would Be a Sin”: Short Term Impacts of Religious Violence on the Use of Sexual Violence in the Bosnian War

During the religiously informed Bosnian War (1991-1995), between 20,000 and 50,000 Bosnian women were victims of systematic and strategic sexual violence, leading to the recognition of rape as a war crime by the international community. The lines of conflict were drawn across ethno-religious lines, leading to the use of religiously imbued rhetoric, symbols, and violence. Religious and sexual elements of violence in the Bosnian War can be mapped using mass graves, rape camps, destroyed religious buildings, and the bodies of the dead.
This paper suggests that including religious markers in acts of sexual violence worked within short term and long-term goals. This paper focuses on 4 identified short-term goals included framing, identifying, (self-) policing, and intensifying.
Exploring the relationship between religious and sexual violence gives new insights to these highly intimate and intentional forms of violence, and also indicates the way intimate forms of violence are remembered, buried, and obscured.

Business Meeting:
Kate Temoney, Montclair State University
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Subversive and Creative Leadership and Activism of Women: Religion, Politics, and the Public Sphere
Boyung Lee, Iliff School of Theology, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-24C (Upper Level East)

How do religion and spirituality inspire women to socially engage for peace and justice? How does feminism inspire women to reimagine their places in religion? This papers session brings three excellent papers together that explore women's creativity and subversion in religious-political activism in a Tibetan Buddhist community, in Lithuania, and at the U.S.--Mexico border. The papers critically question the power of religious symbols and rituals in activism and the memorialization of national history, and the notion of sovereignty.

Grazina Bielousova, Duke University
The Art of Blasphemy: Lithuanian Feminist Protest and the Sacredness of National Reproduction

As the far-right populist regimes in Eastern Europe continue to rise, fueled by the resurgence of heteropatriarchal nationalist patriotism. Feminist protests in this social and political climate can be seen as a way of fostering an alternative social vision and of cultivating a blasphemous sacred, that is not tied to nor originating in the nation state or traditional hierarchical religious institutions. The proposed paper seeks to examine one such public performance by Lithuanian feminists, who interrogated the national anthem by placing it into its historical-intellectual context and exposed its implicit gender codes, which relegate women’s role in nation building to reproductive labor, broadly conceived. The examination of this performance illumines how and why such social actions are vital for egalitarian democratic processes even as they unsettle heteropatriarchal rituals of national sacredness, but also considers them as emotional and political labor on which democratic societies continue to depend.

Jue Liang, University of Virginia
“I Am Not a Buddhist Feminist”: Gender Discourse among Tibetan Buddhist Nuns at Larung Gar

As arguably the largest center for Buddhist learning in the world today, Larung Gar is particularly known for its gender equality initiatives, first established by its founder Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. This paper looks at these initiatives that have been taking place at Larung Gar and the gender discourse adopted by Tibetan Buddhist nuns there to justify and propel these changes. Marked by a skillful reworking of an appreciation of motherhood, a constant reminder of the ultimate irrelevance of gender, and a broad definition of womanhood, this discourse expands our scope of understanding as to what the argument for gender equality would be and what womanhood and femininity entail in a Tibetan Buddhist context. It also captures the complex reality of Tibetan Buddhism today, as it is shaped by an ongoing conversation with its Buddhist, non-Buddhist, Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese neighbors.

Rebecca Berru Davis, Montana State University
Border Crossings: Latina Women’s Restorative Interventions through Art and Activism

This paper examines how creative expression, organized by women and carried out as a collective enterprise is a means to document and process the trauma engendered by cross border experiences. Two separate projects, initiated by two specific women artists Margarita Cabrera and Tanya Aguiñiga, highlight the experiences of US/Mexico border-crossers and are examined as measures that animate healing and restoration. Their activist efforts underscore the ways in which interventions using art and carried out collaboratively are effective in bringing to light socio-political issues, raising awareness of border realities and inspiring recovery and change for the benefit of communities in flux.

Rosemary P. Carbine, Whittier College
  • Presidential Theme: Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces
Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching, and Activism Unit
Theme: Centering Women of Color in Religious Dialogue: Race, Gendered Bodies, and Justice
JungJa Joy Yu, Claremont Graduate University, Presiding
Monday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 303 (Third Level)

Inspired by this year’s AAR presidential theme, Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces, this panel broadly and creatively answers the question: how does our work in public spaces impact on the private spaces and the lives of women of color? Through conscious and critical engagement with sacred texts and practices across faith traditions, this panel articulates strategies that advocate for justice across public and private spheres. Panellists discuss using Islamic concepts of love and justice to weave together Muslim women’s academic work and activism; using the public space of social media and rereading biblical texts as strategies for making Black trans women visible; and creating strategies for addressing white supremacy and anti-blackness in spaces of yoga study and practice.

Sadaf Jaffer, Princeton University
Love, Justice, and the South Asian American Scholar/Activist

In this paper, I will weave together my academic work and activism in a way to illustrates that I do what I do because I am fighting for my life and the lives of other women. I will explore religion, culture, and solidarity as they relate to my story.
The ethical imperatives that drive my engagement with activism are those of love and justice. Whenever I decide upon an activist engagement, I think about the mothering that I needed when I was a young person, those activists who made it possible for me to accomplish what I have.
I will explore the ways in which my perspectives towards love and justice are informed by my research on Islamic literature and culture.

Robin Bruce, Naropa University
White Supremacist Yoga: A Black Feminist Perspective on Cultural Appropriation, Systemic Racism, and "Healing Maps" toward Future Reconciliation

The way we interact with the world is influenced by the culture surrounding us. White supremacy is a culture creating a system of privilege, fortified by political and economic forces. Within American yoga studios, this white supremacist ideal overpowers the historical origins of yoga resulting in cultural appropriation, heightened forms of white fragility, and exclusionary yoga studio environments. Enter the Black-American body as a living symbol that shatters obliviousness to race. Using a socio-historical model and an auto-ethnographic approach, cultural appropriation is examined within the context of white supremacist culture. In addition, the Black-American body is historicized through the process of the trans-Atlantic passage and American slavery, looking at physical and psychological effects of trauma. Finally, a feminist-constructivist framework is employed to create a Healing Map that closely mirrors the five stages of grief as a means to construct a contemplative relation to inhabiting a racialized body.

Danielle Buhuro, Chicago Theological Seminary
Retweeting Rizpah: Care-Fronting Black Church in Addressing Black Female Transphobia on Social Media

Nearly everyone has heard of the social media hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter.

The hashtag was started in response to the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict in which Zimmerman pursued an unarmed African American teenage boy, Trayvon Martin, in a gated community complex when Martin was returning home. After the verdict was announced, three African American female supporters took to Twitter in protest using the hashtag slogan “#BlackLivesMatter”. The hashtag was then used nationwide and the women turned the hashtag into “a Black-centered political will and movement building project.”

While racism continues through mainly police brutality, transphobia against Black trans females is nearby if not more excessive. In 12 months, from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, approximately 369 trans, non-binary and gender-variant people were murdered.

While the liberation Black Church has gotten on board with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, where is the response to Black trans murders?

This writer asserts that by not sharing information about Black trans murders on social media, the public is denied access to seeing LBGTQIA powerlessness, which fosters a lack of justice.

This writer asserts rereading/“retweeting” the biblical narrative of Rizpah as religious resistance and redemption to care-fronting Black Church in addressing Black female transphobia.

Lorena Parrish, Wesley Theological Seminary
Business Meeting:
Deborah Rogers, Lane College
  • Focus on Chaplaincy
African Religions Unit
Theme: Ritual and Imagination in African Religions
Sara Fretheim, University of Edinburgh, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 305 (Third Level)

African religious traditions centre on ritual and other creative and imaginative practices. Far from static, such practices are highly dynamic, ever-changing with time and place, incorporating new influences, and addressing and adjusting to new circumstances. This panel includes papers that explore the significance of ritual, the problem of ritual failure, and the role of stories and dreams, in various African and African diaspora contexts.

Shannon Frediani, Starr King School of Theology
Ritual Theatre as Communal Practices of Resistance and Healing

African spirituality recognizes the communal arts as mystical practices. Drawing from the work of diverse religious educators and spiritual care scholars, this paper focuses on the communal art of ritual theatre as a tool for communal praxis, resilience, resistance and healing. Ritual theatre, as noted by pastoral care scholars Cedric Johnson and Emmanuel Lartey, can be used for recognizing harm done as well as addressing symbolic returning, historical reconnections, cleansing, multi-religious prayer and education relies on integrating diverse African religious perspectives and symbologies. Incorporating practices across religious traditions that have influenced and informed resilience and resistance is necessary to provide effective rituals of transformation. While drawing from multiple religious traditions, ritual theatre as a communal art also employs narrative pedagogy and liberative story telling as defined by Christian educators Anne Streaty Wimberly and Frank Rogers Jr. African spirituality demonstrates characteristics across traditions integrating narrative pedagogy and liberative storytelling elements.

Daria Trentini, Drake University
“Majini Refused to Come out”: Ritual Failure and Religious Change in Northern Mozambique

In this paper, I propose a twofold approach to examine ritual failure, one that looks at both the social context in which the ritual is set and the qualities of ritual itself. I do so by drawing on my ethnographic research with traditional healers in northern Mozambique, focusing on ekhoma, drumming ceremonies aimed at making new spirit healers. I detail the story a woman who attempted to “dance majini—as the final ritual of ekhoma is called—but for whom these majini spirits “refused to come out.” I propose that this failure stems not only from emerging social and religious changes affecting ritual performances but also from the intrinsic, unpredictable qualities of these ekhoma rituals.

Unregistered Participant
Ara Dreams: One Malian Woman’s Reflection on Fertility, Islam, and Dream Interpretation

The perception that fertility problems are entirely a women’s issue abounds throughout contemporary southern Mali. While the increased accessibility of biomedical clinics in rural areas has slowly started to challenge this perception, many women continue to take special measures to protect and boost their fertility in order to safeguard their marriages. Drawing from stories and the dreams of a young mother, Ara Bagayoko, this paper explores the widely understood relationship between dreams and female fertility in the town of Ouélessébougou. Here I highlight the manner in which Ara has consulted a local, literate, male dream-interpreter who uses Islamic dream manuals in order to promote conception, prevent miscarriages, and avoid infant mortality. This holy man (mori) dispenses ritual prescriptions while candidly predicting the fate of women’s wombs. By considering the content of dreams as well as their analysis, this paper reviews the role of Muslim dream interpretation in ensuring female reproductive health.

  • Books under Discussion
Anthropology of Religion Unit and Religion and the Social Sciences Unit
Theme: Authors Meet Each Other: Religion and Sexuality in the Social Field
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 502B (Fifth Level)

This roundtable brings together authors of four recent monographs that use social scientific methods, broadly conceived, to investigate the lived intersections of religion and sexuality. Spanning anthropology, ethics, ethnic studies, gender studies, human geography, religious studies, and sociology, these books endeavor to understand everyday experiences of religion and sexuality using ethnography, archival research, critical discourse analysis, and oral history. The session invites authors to comment on one another’s books and consider how their interventions help chart new directions for the social scientific study of religion and sexuality. Participants will prepare original reviews that put their books into conversation with one another by addressing the following questions:

What do these books contribute to scholarship at the intersections of gender, sexuality, the social sciences, and religion?
Where would we like to see the book’s arguments taken?
How can this public engagement with sexuality and religion instruct students on using social scientific methods?

David Seitz, Harvey Mudd College
Jessica Johnson, College of William and Mary
Monique Moultrie, Georgia State University
Melissa M. Wilcox, University of California, Riverside