PAPERS Resources

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

To return to the Welcome Page, please click here.

Program Book (PDF)

Preliminary Program Book (MS Word)

Floorplans of Annual Meeting Facilities (PDF)

Exhibit Hall Listing and Map (PDF)

Program Book Ads (PDF)

For questions or support, email

To return to the AAR website, click here.

Online Program Book

Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit and Religion and Politics Unit
Theme: Religion, War, and the Empire in Arts and Literature II: Europe and the U.S.
Matthew Potts, Harvard University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire A (Fourth Level)

One of two sessions dedicated to the connections between religion, war, and empire as rendered in literature, film, or visual art, this session looks at art’s complicity with—or resistance to—war and empire in Europe and the U.S. The first paper will look at artistic work as complicit in the imperial expansion of the British Empire in the 18th century through the lens of Handel’s oratorio Joshua. The second paper uses what Judith Butler calls “frames of war” to examine depictions of World War I in the work of two German Jewish women: youth fiction writer Else Ury (1877-1943) and visual artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943). The third paper will examine the speech Adolf Hitler gave at the opening of Haus der Kunst in July 1937, in which he most clearly connects the purposes of the government and the arts to the purification and preservation of a “nation’s blood.” The final paper constructs a historical and interpretive narrative of hand-painted triptych altarpieces that were distributed to the American Armed Forces during World War II.

Jean Cotting, Virginia Theological Seminary
Handel's Joshua: Leading the British People into the Promised Land

This presentation will offer insight into an artistic work complicit in the imperial expansion of the British Empire in the 18th century through the lens of Handel’s oratorio Joshua. I will examine how George Frideric Handel’s appropriation of the Book of Joshua/Conquest Narrative of Joshua in the 1748 oratorio articulated the undercurrents of the age. These undercurrents include the economic and political environment, patterns in popular culture and artistic innovation, as well as theological, philosophical, and religious themes prevalent during this period. My paper will offer a close reading of several select biblical texts of Joshua and examine how the text intersects with the oratorio. This examination of the similarities and inconsistencies between the two will provide insights into the prevailing expansionist attitudes of the dominant culture in Great Britain during the era in question, as well as their legacy carried into activities of colonization and continued repercussions.

Brian M. Britt, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
The Art of War in the Work of Two Jewish Women from Berlin

This paper investigates depictions of World War I in the work of two German Jewish women: youth fiction writer Else Ury (1877-1943) and visual artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943). Ury’s novel Nesthäkchen and the World War (1917/1921) chronicles the wartime experiences of Annemarie, an upper-class German girl, and Salomon’s Life? Or Theater? (1942) is a series of hundreds of paintings with text and musical directions that juxtaposes stories of love and death with both world wars. I will argue that Ury and Salomon offer two distinct models of what Judith Butler calls “frames of war,” challenging audiences to connect war and death to the lives of girls and women. Unlike the explicitly anti-war art of Käthe Kollwitz, the works of Ury and Salomon challenge the war by depicting nationalistic frames of war through the eyes of civilian women and girls.

Unregistered Participant
The Beauty of a People

This paper examines the speech Adolf Hitler gave at the opening of Haus der Kunst in July 1937, in which he most clearly connects the purposes of the government and the arts to the purification and preservation of a “nation’s blood”. This speech, alongside the inaugural two-part exhibit contrasting “Degenerate [i.e., “Jewish”] Art” against “Great German Art”, illuminates key ways in which Hitler’s anti-Semitism merits study not simply as an aesthetic phenomenon but as an aesthetic philosophy in its own right. The paper first provides an historical account of the sociohistorical confluences that gave rise to German anti-Semitism before turning to a close study of the exhibits and Hitler’s speech, focusing on how they tethered the nation’s works of art to the physical bodies of its people, and functioned as pedagogical tools to gain the public’s consent and participation in eradicating “Jewish” artwork as a precursor to eradicating Jewish bodies.

Holly Mitchem, Graduate Theological Union
Spiritual Armor: Religious Paintings for the American Armed Forces in World War II

This presentation constructs a historical and interpretive chronological narrative concerning hand-painted triptych altarpieces that were distributed to the American Armed Forces during World War II. The triptychs were intended for use in religious services conducted by military chaplains in both battle zones and stateside military installations during the war. Conceptualized by American artist Hildreth Meière and managed by the nongovernmental organization Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy, the project commissioned 472 triptychs featuring Christian and Jewish iconographies that were often twinned with contemporary military imagery. The triptychs were painted and carved by American artists, many of whom had participated in the United States Government’s Work Projects Administration’s Federal Art Project. The richly illustrated paper interrogates the use of traditional religious iconography to send messages of military victory, and closely questions the triumphalist visual discourses of the triptychs and the messages they sent when surrounded by weapons of war.

  • Focus on Chaplaincy
  • New Program Unit
Buddhism in the West Unit and Innovations in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Unit
Theme: Buddhist Chaplaincy Education and Pedagogy
Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

Buddhist chaplains, as an emerging form of applied Buddhism, are serving both religious and nonreligious persons in crisis or distress. They train to minister without proselytizing the person(s) they serve. Through direct engagement with suffering they support reintegration of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual lived experiences in relationship. Buddhist Master of Divinity (MDiv) or Master (MA) degree programs for chaplaincy education hold a unique perspective for chaplaincy training, contemplative care, spiritual formation, and embodied practices, which may open new pathways for the field of chaplaincy overall. This panel will explain how Buddhist chaplaincy educators devise curricula, work collaboratively, draw on the foundations of Buddha-Dharma, and align educational requirements with the larger professional, clinical, and academic field.

Elaine Yuen, Naropa University
Attending with Body, Speech, and Mind: Chaplaincy Training at Naropa University

Our contemporary times allow suffering to be more evident than ever. Chaplaincy, a profession that supports grief and life transitions with religious/spiritual understandings and practices, is taught through an experiential, Buddhist inspired lens at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Presencing is a key element of chaplaincy practice. At Naropa, students utilize mindfulness and awareness methods based on Indo-Tibetan practice traditions to ground their presencing practice. By bringing awareness to body (physical), speech (communicative), and mind (cognitive), aspects of the client/patient as well as one’s own personal perceptions can be observed and embodied. By engaging in this way, a greater appreciation and understanding of the physical, emotional and environmental aspects of a pastoral encounter can be developed. The experience of these domains is supported by a pause, evoked by a brief bow, which allows one to step into the liminal, unknown space, where the kernel of experiential possibility lies

Leigh Miller, Maitripa College
Buddhist Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Training at Maitripa College

A Buddhist MDiv program applicant recently said, “I don’t want to study Buddhist texts for only academic reasons, or practice with lamas only to cultivate my own spiritual insights; I want to develop a compassionate, virtuous mind and gain practical skills to actively benefit sentient beings right where they are suffering, in the world.” Maitripa College is the only graduate school recognized by the Association of Professional Chaplains as a faith-based Endorsing Body and as meeting the standards of theological education required for Board Certification. The pedagogy of “significant learning” (Fink) and the sangha are conditions for the integration of our three pillars - Scholarship, Meditation, and Service – for the those aspiring to a vocation in Buddhist spiritual care, and their identity as scholar-practitioners. Cabezon argues “who we are is in large measure a result of what we do,” thus Maitripa prioritizes the philosophical, contemplative, and relational dimensions of pedagogy as practice for engendering the presence, equanimity, loving-kindness, and wisdom chaplains need, and in order to become the people the world needs us to be.

Jitsujo T. Gauthier, University of the West
Buddhist Chaplaincy Education: Integrating Academic, Practitioner, and Caregiver

The Buddhist chaplaincy department at University of the West (UWest) consists of students from many branches of Buddhism, as well as those from other religious and secular traditions. The Master of Divinity (MDiv) program prepares those seeking right-livelihood for clinical chaplaincy in interfaith settings, such as hospitals, hospices, Dharma/temple communities, police departments, prisons, and the military. Students learn about other worldviews, and how to be of service to a wide variety of people in need. The program utilizes an Appreciative Inquiry methodology for leadership development and a Chaplaincy Education Model that combines the Academic, Practitioner, and Caregiver. The curriculum is interdisciplinary, incorporating Buddhist ethics and a path for spiritual formation throughout. Students are encouraged to engage in reflexivity, contemplative formation, and sharing their process with peers and professors.

Daijaku Judith Kinst, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union
Buddhist Foundations for Effective Chaplaincy: Graduate Education at the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Effective chaplaincy in contemporary settings depends upon the creative inclusion of perspectives drawn from diverse traditions and cultures. Buddhist chaplaincy graduate programs, offered by institutions with deep roots in the Buddhist tradition, are making significant contributions to the field. I will discuss central aspects of the program jointly offered by the Institute of Buddhist and the Graduate Theological Union. 1) An educational and pedagogical foundation for chaplaincy based in Buddhist teachings and its relevance for the field 2) A unique model of assessment and response based on the principles of healing identified by Buddhist scholar, Paula Arai, in her study of contemporary Japanese Buddhist lay women. 3) Theological/Dharmalogical reflection practices 4) Specific benefits of interfaith dialogue done within the context of a minority faith Institution with students from a range of faith traditions and seminary experiences.

Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Unit and Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: Religion and Gendered Racial Violence in the Contemporary United States
Diane Fruchtman, Rutgers University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410B (Fourth Level)

These papers examine the intersections of religion, race, gender, and violence, focusing on how gendered and racialized violence is embedded in, supported by, and generative of religious discourses and dynamics in the contemporary American political landscape. The papers weave theory and example, addressing misogynoir in the contexts of the Kavanaugh hearings and the "Mute R. Kelly" movement; the objectifying theological imaginary that connects the violence of fracking in the Dakotas; and the violence-inducing patriarchal revenants embedded in the construction of the modern sexual subject.

Hilda Koster, Concordia College, Moorhead
Fractured Lands/Fractured Bodies: Petroculture, Religion, and Violence against Native Women in the Dakotas

The oil boom in Western North Dakota (US) has caused an influx of transient, male workers who are housed in so called “man camps” that have become launching pads for sexual predators and a lucrative ground for sex-traffickers. Native women and girls have been disproportionately assaulted, raped and abducted. While sociological analysis of the oil boom in the Bakken typically treats sexual violence as a “byproduct” of the extraction industry, this paper theorizes/theologizes the intersection of the violation of the earth and the murder and abduction of Native women as inherent to our petroleum based culture. Drawing on eco-feminist and settler colonial theory I demonstrate that the interlocking violation of women and the earth expresses a predatory logic regarding the earth and Indigenous women’s bodies/sexuality. Such a logic is energized by a theological imaginary that objectifies the earth and seeks to control women’s sexuality.

Hilary Scarsella, Vanderbilt University
Blessed Are Those Who Have Believed but Not Seen: The Theo-Logics of Misogyn(oir)istic Incredulity in Women’s Testimonies of Harm

This paper contemplates the intersection of theology, politics, and misogyny. It does so by sustaining a conversation between four main interlocutors: 1) Kate Manne’s notions of misogyny and testimonial injustice put forward in her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, 2) Moya Baily’s concept of misogynoir as the form of misogyny that is expressed against black women and girls, 3) contemporary popular discourse around the Mute R. Kelly campaign and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, and 4) feminist and womanist theological treatments of the intersection between sexual violence, theology, politics, and the ways in which survivor testimony is and is not believed.

Rosemary Kellison, University of West Georgia
Empathy and Anger as Democratic Virtues, Vices, or Violence

In the wake of the 2016 election, there has been much popular discussion of the need to cultivate the democratic virtue of empathy while overcoming the uncivil vice of anger. Drawing on feminist thinkers including Kate Manne, Audre Lorde, and Lisa Tessman, I argue that critical study of how these notions of virtue and vice are shaped by the contexts of patriarchy and white supremacy reveals that our expectations of empathy and denunciations of anger vary widely depending on the social status of the persons to whom they are directed and by whom they are expressed. Specifically, we are likely to be empathetic toward powerful perpetrators of violence and their anger at being named as such, while simultaneously dismissive of the “uncivil” rage of harmed and vulnerable persons. Thus, this feminist analysis reveals that our notions of civic virtue and vice are often complicit in violence.

Brandy Daniels, University of Virginia
Sexual Violence, the Social/Symbolic Order, and the “End” of Sexual Subjectivity: A Negative Queer-Feminist Political Theological Proposal

Responding to Traci West’s recent claim that Christian political theologies are too conservative to undermine sexual violence, and that they must ask more disruptive questions, this paper places critical political theological methodological approaches in conversation with queer and feminist theories to raise questions about patriarchy and the politics of sexual subjectivity within both Western sociopolitical formations and constructive political theologies. Contending with the respective critiques of the symbolic/social order and its subjectivizing and sociopolitical effects within Irigaray’s politics of sexual difference and Edelman’s queer negativity, this paper (re)turns to and (re)examines two key political theological themes, sacrifice and redemption, as sites of both critical analysis and (de)constructive possibility. This paper argues that efforts to undermine sexual violence must seek to disrupt and dissolve, rather than conserve, restore, or redeem, accounts and politics of sexual subjectivity, and considers critical political theological methods as a resource towards those efforts.

Gay Men and Religion Unit and Religion, Memory, and History Unit
Theme: Queer Memory, Trauma, and Religion
Rachel Gross, San Francisco State University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-24B (Upper Level East)

This session addresses memories and memorialization of the traumas of the AIDS epidemic and the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. Examining the Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, ACT-UP and WHAM!’s “Stop the Church” demonstration at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and responses to the Pulse nightclub shooting, these papers analyze new, queer forms of memorialization, including forms of protest, and their contentious relationship with Christian forms of memorialization that dominate American landscapes of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Whitney Cox, Rowan University
No Atheist Panels: Religious and Secular Representation in the Houston AIDS Quilt Display, 1988

This paper examines the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt as a complex, fraught site of public mourning, centering around a single display in Houston in May 1988. Though the event was sold as a decidedly secular memorial, the presence of clergy and Christian language at the display caused a great deal of anger from the head of the American Gay & Lesbian Atheists, who took his case to the letters to the editor section of the local gay press. The controversy here raises several questions about the purpose of the Quilt, the religious and secular meanings of mourning, and the difficulties of reconciling freedom of religion with freedom from religion.

Jane Nichols, Emory University
ACT-UP, "Stop the Church," and the Theological Implications of a Liturgical Protest

This paper attempts to recover the liturgical meaning at the heart of the “Stop the Church” demonstration organized in 1989 by ACT-UP and WHAM! (Women’s Health Action and Mobilization) and held at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, particularly the meaning of a protest at the altar rail by ACT-UP member Tom Keane. Using a reimagined form of Gordon Lathrop’s “catholic exception,” this paper argues that, far from disrupting the creation of liturgical meaning, the demonstration created it. The paper calls for a reimagining of this demonstration, universally condemned by religious organizations at the time, that would recover the deep theological critique at its core. This paper argues that such a recovery is vital to the Church’s memory of the AIDS crisis and should be understood as having implications for the way that protests of marginalized people are regarded by the Church and by all who are interested in theological reflection.

Brett Krutzsch, Haverford College
The Trauma of Pulse and the Queer Potential of Memorialization

This paper examines the religious rhetoric and queer memorialization that followed the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, the largest mass murder of LGBTQ Americans in U.S. history. The “Pulse nightclub massacre” took place one year after the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a legal possibility. The shooting, and the myriad political responses to the catastrophe, revealed the precarious position of many LGBTQ people after the purported victory of “marriage equality.” This paper will examine the religious rhetoric deployed by politicians after the shooting, particularly the vilification of Islam, and then focus on the queer memorialization and activism that emerged in the wake of the trauma. Ultimately, the paper will demonstrate how the queer memorialization following Pulse offered visions for how to challenge the white, heterosexual, Protestant parameters of ideal American citizenship that had dominated much of national LGBTQ politics since the 1990s.

W. Scott Haldeman, Chicago Theological Seminary
Jain Studies Unit
Theme: Padma Padma: New Studies in the Jain Rāma Tradition
John E. Cort, Denison University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Marriott Marquis-Presidio 1 (North Tower - Lobby Level)

From the early centuries CE, Jain authors contributed their own distinctive versions to the great epic traditions of South Asia. Consideration of these Jain contributions is essential for a fuller and adequate understanding of the Indian epics. This panel presents four new studies of the Jain tellings of the story of Rāma, known as Padma in Jain texts. The papers cover texts ranging from the 3rd-5th c. CE to 1657 CE, in Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Braj Bhasha. They address questions of ethics, philosophical argument, poetic style, audience, gender, and genre. As a group, the papers show how the Jain Padma narratives project a distinctively Jain perspective on the shared South Asian “greater Rāmāyaṇa,” and at the same time participate in literary and intellectual genres across religious boundaries.

Eva De Clercq, Ghent University
“Did He Kill His Own Brother? For a Woman? In a Disgraceful Manner?”: Jain Approaches to the Death of Vālin

A key feature of the Rāmāyaṇa tradition is its questioning, due to the presence of some morally ambiguous episodes in the most authoritative telling of the Rāma story, the Sanskrit Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Jain retellings have been considered particularly critical, adapting the story to the Jain world view, and presenting a nonviolent Jain Rāma. This paper explores how Jain authors dealt with one infamous episode, depicting the death of Vālin, who in Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa is shot in the back by Rāma while engaged in a duel. Stressing the heterogeneity of the Jain tradition, we will question the assumption of the Jain Rāma’s nonviolence and highlight the multifacetedness of the problematics of Vālin’s death.

Seema Chauhan, University of Chicago
Crossing Boundaries: The Padmacarita’s Refutation of Kumārila

My paper takes up a subtale contained within Raviṣeṇa’s Padmacarita: the story of King Marutta’s Vedic sacrifice and the debate that unfolds between the Jain sage Nārada, and the Brahmin priests. I argue that the arguments levelled by the Brahmins in this sub-tale parallel those arguments that are expressed by the 7th-century Brahminical philosopher Kumārila in his Ślokavārttika. Raviṣeṇa’s sub-tale poses provocative questions about the nature of the Jain Purāṇa genre (under which the Padmacarita falls) that we need to begin to take seriously if we are to understand how they relate to alternative religious-philosophical discourses. Thus, the first half of my paper presents the key points of convergence between Kumārila’s arguments from his Ślokavārttika and those expressed by the Brahmin officiants at Marutta’s sacrifice, and then I extract the major questions and their implications in the study of South Asia and the study of religion at large.

Gregory Clines, Trinity University
For Poetry Makes Nothing Happen: Toward an Understanding of Later Jain Rāma Composition

This paper examines the history of Jain authors re-composing Sanskrit Rāma narratives, arguing that later authors of Jain Rāma literature adapted earlier versions of the narrative to better fit and work in the social world they inhabited. The paper compares Raviṣeṇa’s seventh-century Padmapurāṇa and Jinadāsa’s fifteenth-century narrative of the same name. Jinadāsa explains that he possessed a copy of Raviṣeṇa’s narrative when composing his own and that his goal in rewriting the narrative was to make Raviṣeṇa’s text “clear.” The paper explains what Jinadāsa means by “clarity” and outlines how he goes about achieving this goal, demonstrating that Jinadāsa consistently removes poetic and courtly-technical language from Raviṣeṇa’s text. This abridgement is simultaneously a mechanism for achieving clarity. The paper concludes with a discussion of how understanding the texts’ relationship helps scholars to understand (1) each text’s conditions of composition, and (2) each text’s anticipated audience and methods for moral edification.

Adrian Plau, Wellcome Institute, London
The Jain Rāmāyaṇa as Kathā: Rāmcand Bālak's Sītācarit

Rāmcand Bālak's Sītācarit, a seventeenth-century Jain Rāmāyaṇa in Brajbhasha, is an example of satī-kathā; narratives on the lives of supremely devout Jain women. In this paper, I explore the intersections between the specifically Jain satī-kathā, as represented by the Sītācarit, and the wider culture of the kathā genre with its many variations across languages and religious affiliations. In its emphasis on the practice and virtues of performing, listening to, and contemplating kathās, the Sītācarit is shown to be clearly situated within a broader kathā culture, indicating something of the interaction and circulation between Jains and non-Jains in early modern North India.

Philip Lutgendorf, University of Iowa
Liberal Theologies Unit
Theme: Theology and the Charge of Liberal Complicity with Totalitarianism
Joel Harrison, Northwestern University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 300A (Third Level)

This session considers the charge of liberal theology's complicity with totalitarianism by examining liberal theologies in different contexts, beginning with the Chinese Catholic Church of the 1930s. Although the church is often characterized as supporting the “Confucian Fascism” of Chiang Kai-shek, Wong's study of the earlier Beiyang Era (1912-1928) suggests that the picture is more complex. Staying in the 1920s and 1930s, but shifting contexts to U.S. Protestantism, Stauffer traces Methodist minister Harry Ward's increasing comfort with Soviet communism and ultimate failure to denounce Stalinism. Bossen extends the conversation by exposing theological "liberalism" in the 1920s Ku Klux Klan, noting their downplaying of atonement theology and support for women's suffrage and public education. Schmiedel concludes by arguing that Ernst Troeltsch offers what much contemporary political theology suggests is impossible: a liberal political theology that not only troubles the Schmittian separation between the liberal and the political, but successfully resists totalitarianism.

Stephanie Wong, Valparaiso University
Liberalism in Chinese Catholicism: Resisting State Confucianism and Church Supremacy in Beiyang, China

This paper explores the political activity and theological vision of the liberalist wing of the Catholic Church in Beiyang Era China. The Chinese Catholic Church is often characterized as having simply supported the “Confucian Fascism” of Chiang Kai-shek’s right-wing New Life Movement during the 1930s, a troubling alignment of Catholic and Confucian authoritarian tendencies. However, a study of the earlier Beiyang Era shows that some liberalist foreign missionary and indigenous Chinese Catholic leaders argued against any domination of the social discourse by either Confucian or Catholic magisteria. By studying the writings of the liberalist Lazarist missionary Anthony Cotta and the liberalist Chinese Catholic senator Ma Xiangbo, we can see their efforts to circumscribe the role of religion in China as an effort to resist both the Confucian constitutionalists’ bid for state Confucianism and the Rome’s integralist vision for the Catholic Church to reign supreme over all sectors of society.

Aaron Stauffer, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Our Last Best Chance? Harry Ward's Radical Social Gospel, Liberal Theology and Soviet Communism

Few better exemplify the troubled relationship between liberal theology and totalitarianism in the 1920s and 1930s than Harry Ward. At the height of his influence Ward was blinded by his commitment to a new social order in place of the reigning capitalist one. By the end of 1930s Ward’s legacy was tarnished, with him ostracized by the organizations and institutions he helped found and build. Ward’s ethical religion is creative mix of social ethics as taught to him by Frances Peabody with an ethical religion of Jesus that resonates with the pragmatism of William James and George Hebert Mead. The upshot is a tragic, yet important example: Ward worked and wrote tirelessly in the effort to show that the ethics of Jesus needs to pervade our moral, political and economic life, but his silent support of Soviet totalitarianism occluded a richer and longer influence that his early work deserves.

Colin Bossen, Rice University
The Liberalism of the (Second) Ku Klux Klan

In the 1920s Protestant Christian fraternal and terrorist organization the Ku Klux Klan was the largest white supremacist movement in the twentieth-century United States. Scholars typically describe it as “evangelical” and place it “on the far right.” Klan affiliated clergy, however, often embraced theological liberalism, lifted up Jesus as a moral exemplar, called “Christ, a Klansman’s criterion of character,” and downplayed atonement theology. Klan leaders also saw themselves as defenders of political liberalism. Their commitment to liberalism led them to support causes such as women’s suffrage, public education, and prohibition even as they lynched and terrorized people of color and political radicals. Klan members did not view this as a contradiction. Instead, they believed white supremacy was a logical extension of liberalism. This dynamic suggests that the project of dismantling white supremacy must include the question: Why have theological and political liberalism been so compatible with white supremacy?

Ulrich Schmiedel, University of Edinburgh
Who Is Afraid of Liberalism? Ernst Troeltsch's Political Theology

Whatever else the label of liberalism is, it is toxic for political theologians. Liberal theology is either dubious or dangerous, because throughout the history of theology liberalism has been indirectly or directly complicit with totalitarianism(s). Hence, for most political theologians, the critique of liberalism that runs through Carl Schmitt’s studies separates the liberal from the political. Countering the Schmittian separation, this paper turns to Ernst Troeltsch. Analyzing Troeltsch’s “Letters from a Spectator”—which comment on the events in Germany at the turn from the Wilhelmine to the Weimar epoch, including the revolution—I argue that Troeltsch charts the contours of a political theology in practice. I assess the core concepts and the core concerns of Troeltsch’s practical political theology in order to advocate it as an important and instructive alternative to Schmitt’s. Troeltsch’s “liberal” political theology is not one for strong and stable party-political slogans, but it is radically political.

Unregistered Participant
Business Meeting:
Sarah Morice Brubaker, Phillips Theological Seminary
North American Religions Unit and Space, Place, and Religion Unit
Theme: Working the Edges: New Approaches to Space & Community in America
Samira Mehta, Albright College, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 402 (Fourth Level)

Including Muslim mothers at skating rinks, Jewish family farms, Protestant seminaries, and the U.S. postal service, this session explores how moving people, papers, seeds, and ideas through space has constituted practices of religious community in the United States.

Andrew Gardner, Florida State University
Pastoring the Nation: The "Theo-Spatial" Politics of an Antebellum Seminary Education

Beginning with the founding of Andover Theological Seminary in 1808, over fifty institutions of theological higher learning emerged on the American religious landscape prior to the Civil War. These institutions, while deeply invested in the promotion of proper theological belief, were also committed to the cultivation of ministerial agents who could regulate the spirit of republicanism that animated the American citizenry of the quickly growing new nation. This paper argues that institutions of theological higher learning functioned as political institutions designed to support the republican democracy of the early republic. Drawing upon the work of spatial theorists, this paper suggests that reformed, evangelicals who founded these institutions wedded their theological convictions to their conceptions of space. Their “theo-spatial” outlook energized their commitment to educating ministerial agents who could properly nurture a spirit of republicanism that would not divulge into anarchy on the one hand or oligarchy on the other.

James Dupey, Arizona State University
Mail Order Christianity: Alexander Campbell and the Commoditization of Religious Material Production

Much like the business practices of late nineteenth century, mail-order catalog companies Montgomery Ward and Sears, Alexander Campbell used the mail, after being appointed postmaster in 1828, to build an expansive print clientele base and a broad religious following. The U.S. Post Office provided printer-postmasters such as Campbell with a free and massive distribution network, it presented able, willing, and well-placed agents at other post offices, it eliminated the enormous cost of shipping thousands of pieces of mail, and it positioned Campbell, even more so, at the center of his local community. It was a remarkable competitive advantage that was only available to the “right kind of person,” a white, propertied, man. If the print shop was Campbell’s engine, the postal system was, quite literally, the open road.

Unregistered Participant
Raising Children on the Iceskating Rink: Corporate Stewardship, Race, and the Muslim Practices of Motherhood in Reston, Virginia

How does the urban landscape of Reston, a new town located twenty-five miles west of Washington D.C., structure Muslim practices of motherhood? As a “minority within a minority,” a phrase my informants often invoke to describe their liminal status navigating Islamophobia and Muslim patriarchy, Muslim women draw upon a distinct notion of corporate stewardship bound around play that has shaped Reston’s development since the early sixties reconfigure motherhood as a professional work centered around the management of Al-Fatih Academy, a kindergarten to eight grade private Islamic school. One of the key ritual practices of motherhood includes ice-skating at the Reston Town Center, a school event with mandatory participation from parents, teachers, and students. Such recreational activities allow for the formation of a close-knit community that extends beyond the confines of the home and contests the atomization of the family unit into husband, wife, and children.

Adrienne Krone, Allegheny College
Roots in the Past, Seeds for the Future: A Revived Historical Jewish Community Farm in New Jersey Takes on Climate Change

The Alliance Community Reboot (ACRe) organization is rebuilding a Jewish community farm where the Alliance Colony was founded in 1882 as one of the first Jewish agricultural settlements in the United States. ACRe was started by a young Jewish couple, one of which is the descendant of one of the original settlers of the Alliance Colony. The farm neighbors a historic synagogue, a museum about the Alliance colony, and the Jewish cemetery the colonists built. As ACRe builds on their past, their organizational vision looks toward the future. ACRe’s mission centers on twenty-first century values including sustainability and food justice. This is exemplified by ACRe’s collaboration with the Experimental Farm Network, an organization that is breeding seeds to combat climate change. In this paper, I will argue that ACRe exemplifies an approach to climate change that draws on a historical foundation and Jewish values to prepare for an uncertain future.

Religion and Food Unit and Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism Unit
Theme: Grounded Practices: Women of Color, Food, and Farming Practices
Sarah Robinson-Bertoni, Santa Clara University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 314 (Third Level)

This session includes four papers that explore of how the work of women of color (as scholars, teachers and activists) in public spaces impacts the private spaces and lives of women. Participants will present for 10 minutes, providing a significant time for response and conversation. We envision broad engagement between activists, scholar-practitioners, theologians and religious scholars.

Unregistered Participant
Indeterminably Indebted to Society: Faith Communities, Food Insecurity and Incarceration

This paper explores the link between faith, food insecurity, and justice.
It makes the case for faith communities going beyond charity to doing justice with respect to vulnerable populations of individuals who suffer disproportionately from health disparities and continued racial injustice within the American Penal System, particularly African American and Hispanic women. The paper examines how formerly incarcerated minority women and their children struggle with food insecurity post-incarceration. These women and children struggle primarily because of rights that are denied to ex-offenders regarding access to public benefits such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Mass incarceration is a public health and public morality crisis which requires justice following incarceration, and justice requires a re-visioning of the Carceral State and the role of faith communities in moving beyond charity to doing justice on behalf of vulnerable populations suffering from indeterminable indebtedness to society.

Candace M. Laughinghouse, Chicago Theological Seminary
Spiritual Legacy of Women Working in Dirt

This paper is a journey through the practical work of women working in dirt (Fannie Lou Hamer, Alvenia Fulton, today’s black women gardeners), women working in academic spaces constructing ecowomanism (Karen Baker-Fletcher, bell hooks, Melanie Harris) and black veganism (Aph Ko, Syl Ko, A. Breeze Harper), to a robust social justice that incorporates a justice for the entire cosmos – nature, animals and people – all who have experienced oppression by western economic imperialism and connected by food production and consumption. The goal is not to simply flatten hierarchy and eviscerate the principles of patriarchy, but to challenge the irreconcilable conflicts within food justice work, acknowledge its privileges, and then present a dimension towards mutuality and moral obligation from an anti-speciesist ecowomanist theology therefore expanding the public discourse of decolonizing communities through farming. Now is the time to recognize black women as a pioneer crusader for expanding social justice with food justice.

Himanee Gupta-Carlson, SUNY Empire State College
Rhythm and Ritual in Hip Hop and Farming

This paper explores Hip Hop and farming as practices of social change. It argues that healing of the body and community are an essential component of that change, and that Hip Hop and farming share common modes of self-expression, community building, and faith. The paper traces the historic roots of Hip Hop and small-scale farming from their emergence in the 1970s through the present. It then examines stories about artists in Seattle’s Hip Hop community and farmers in the Adirondack foothills of New York alongside the author’s own engagements with Hip Hop in creating a small farm. It gives particular attention to projects that fight injustice in the food system such as the building of community gardens in housing projects, partnerships between farmers markets and food pantries, and the proliferation of new farms. The author draws on her work as a writer, Asian American religions’ studies scholar, and a farmer.

Deborah Rogers, Lane College
Eco-Womanist Pedagogy & Spiritual Activism: Sustaining Work for Justice in the Classroom and on the Farm

As a campus community, we are on our third iteration of a community farm. Each iteration of the farm has been grounded in the reality that our college is literally the first institution one encounters upon crossing the railroad tracks—the dividing line into a community that has long been designated as a food desert. This paper will explore the strategic ways our farm project seeks to re-orient students toward developing skills and values that intentionally foster the intangible bonds necessary for a strong sustainable, justice-centered community. Additionally, I reflect on what it means to do this work in a sustainable way that provides a healthy model of self-care and care for the earth that beckons students to be committed to this work long term. In particular, I reflect on my engagement with spiritual activism as a source for meaningful and arduous work in the dirt and the classroom.

Kimberly Nettles-Barcelon, University of California, Davis
Religion and Popular Culture Unit
Theme: Beyond Television: Religious Controversy in Contemporary Televisual Mediascapes
Linda Ceriello, Rice University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-28A (Upper Level East)

Three papers each begin with current television shows (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, Turkish dramas, and The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu) and consider how they embody religious tension and controversy while also taking into account their respective mediascapes (comic books and spin-offs, Turkish films, and the original novel and its sequel, respectively).
How does Sabrina perpetuate misogynist and othering tropes about witchcraft and Satanism? How are Qur'anic stories and verses reshaped, reflected and deployed in Turkish television dramas? Why is The Handmaid's Tale borrowing from real events to craft its dystopic view problematic?

Laurel Zwissler, Central Michigan University
Feminists and Cannibals: Marginalized Religions in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

This paper analyzes The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (comic and show) at the nexus of several popular culture trajectories, including Christian witchcraft stereotypes, American secularization narratives, and feminist new religious movements, including feminist Witchcraft and activist Satanism. Playing with historical Christian witchcraft stereotypes, themselves popular culture and entertainment, in combination with references to current new religious movements, the latest entries in the Sabrina lineage more explicitly than their predecessors engage concerns about gender, power, and freedom that cluster around images of witches. However, rather than busting open genre conventions that equate witches with women and evil, Chilling Adventures, ultimately perpetuates misogynist and othering tropes. The television show’s recent legal dust-up with The Satanic Temple demonstrates that the Sabrina franchise is entangled with current cultural struggles over secularization and religious diversity as they play out across popular culture.

Leyla Ozgur Alhassen, University of California, Berkeley
The Qur’an in Turkish Television Series and Films

This paper will analyze four Turkish television dramas and one film to look at their portrayal of and reflection on Qur’anic verses. These shows and movie are: “Yunus Emre: Aşkın Yolculuğu,” “Elimi Bırakma,” “Muhtesem Yuzyil,” “Ekmek Teknesi” and “Rabia: İlk Kadın Evliya.” I will identify Qur’anic verses in this media, determine the role that the Qur’anic allusions play and compare the Qur’anic versions to the popular ones. Through this analysis, I will examine how Qur’anic stories and verses are reshaped, reflected and deployed in Turkish television dramas and film. This paper does four main things: it develops a theory of Qur’anic art; it argues that we can look at Qur’anic art as interpretation and as reader response; it analyzes how this art reflects back on the Qur’anic text; and it examines how this art form adds to and takes away from Qur’anic polysemy by cementing its meanings in various ways.

Rachel Wagner, Ithaca College
The Testaments: The Handmaid's Tale as Emerging Transmedia

This paper considers how the newest elements of the dystopic world of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale—the television series and the soon-to-be-released novel The Testaments—respond to very real contemporary political events within a self-consciously fictional context. Both the series and the new novel borrow the original novel’s habit of appropriating painful events from political and religious history and placing these within the story’s North American fictional context. Atwood’s particular blend of fact and fiction has always been problematic, but it is especially so in today’s world of “fake news” and conspiracy theory. In the transmediated world of The Handmaid’s Tale, fiction and fact are grafted onto each other haphazardly, leaning hard on Atwood’s claim that her novel borrows from real events to craft its dystopic view. What results, though, is the same messy concocted blend of real with imaginary that drives the political approach of the very regimes she would critique, with especially troubling implications for the representation of race and gender.

Religion in Premodern Europe and the Mediterranean Unit and Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit
Theme: Religion, Healing, and Healthcare in Premodern Europe
Marla Segol, State University of New York, Buffalo, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 204A (Second Level)

The papers in this panel approach the subject of healing within premodern Christian Europe from three distinct vantage points: the role of amulets, the uses of a specific medicinal herb, and stories of miraculous medical interventions. They overlap, however, in their consideration of issues related to gender, magic, and the multiple overlapping discourses associated with healthcare.

Jonathan Zecher, Australian Catholic University
The Negotiation of Culture in Late Antique Clinical Practice: The Case of Alexander of Tralles and “Natural Remedies”

This paper presents a historical study of the cultural determinants of health and healthcare, as they emerge in the clinical practice of Alexander of Tralles (c. 525-600 CE) and are recorded in his Therapeutica. Alexander was a widely-read and influential Christian physician, working within the Galenic-Hippocratic intellectual tradition, who records numerous candid reminiscences of clinical practice in Sixth-century Rome. Focusing on Alexander’s use of “natural remedies” or “amulets” for patients who requested them, this paper will unravel the densely interwoven meanings attributed to words and objects in his clinical practice: magical, religious, and medical. It will be demonstrated that Alexander is entangled in multiple, competing cultural discourses, as are his patients, and that these discourses are negotiated in context of the physician-patient relationship. Thus, it will be shown that Alexander offers a unique insight into the cultures of health and healthcare in premodern Europe.

Minji Lee, Reunion Institute
Gendered Healing: Mugwort Treatment in Medieval Christianity and Gynecology

In this paper, I investigate the medicinal and cultural functions of mugwort in Western medieval traditions to study the commonalities between medicine and religion regarding the herb’s healing effects and, overall, the impact of medicine in the rhetoric of female inferiority. I aim to examine how mugwort was used in medieval gynecology in close relation to the Christian belief that women lack heat in their “inferior” body. According to popular medieval gynecological books, such as the De secretis mulierum and Trotula, mugwort could heal women with “womanly diseases” by bringing back the heat that they lack and need, betraying the following cultural belief: heat is a good component for the body: women in general lack the heat, women become sick if they lose their “already insufficient” heat more. In this view, mugwort was the right medicine to heat the woman’s body up and cure womanly diseases.

Claire Fanger, Rice University
Healing and Divine Embodiment: The Powers of the Virgin Mary in the Cure of Bodies and Souls

The Virgin Mary is unusual in her ability not just to perform miracles of bodily healing as many other saints did, but also to be an intermediary in the process of salvation and to bestow wisdom. Her bodily role in the gestation, delivery, and suckling of Jesus gives her powers strong ties to her reproductive body, and enables metaphors of birth and nourishment in spiritual arenas. Her interventions thus have exceptional boundary crossing properties: her milk, for example, can heal wounds, bestow eloquence, induce prophetic powers, and teach people to read. She can engender conversions by easing difficult birth for Muslim and Jewish women. This paper will examine the net of associations with Mary in tales of her miracles and her invocation in magical prayers and charms, focusing on healings connected to childbirth and lactation, to argue that Mary’s most important power always connects to the divinization of human flesh.

Religion in South Asia Unit
Theme: The Buddha and the Banyan Tree: Hindu Assimilations of Buddhist Traditions
James G. Lochtefeld, Carthage College, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo C (Second Level)

Rather than replicate scholarship about Hindu assimilations of Buddhism devoted to fraught questions of "origins,” we seek to attend primarily to rhetorical dimensions of Buddhist-Hindu exchange over a broad historical swath, from purāṇic to contemporary times. What language is used in acts of assimilation and rejection? What valences attach to conceiving another as ‘unorthodox,’ ‘foreign,’ or ’superstitious’? What images of ‘Buddhism,’ ‘Hinduism,’ and boundaries between them circulate in such discussions? We address these questions from multiple temporal and regional perspectives using textual and ethnographic approaches. Through studies of purāṇic Vaiṣṇava theology, early modern Śākta ritual compendia, and colonial period Bengali and contemporary Ambedkarite strategies to distinguish Buddhism from Hinduism, we resituate the apparent assimilations or appropriations of Buddhist traditions within a broader discursive arena accounting for polyvocality and ambivalence, modernity and globalization, and region-specific dynamics too easily obscured by the unifying frame of ‘Hinduism’ as a religion.

Unregistered Participant
“The Scientific Study of Pali”: Bengali Buddhists’ Strategy to Dispel the Shadow of Hinduism

This presentation focuses on the one of the strategies used to decouple Buddhism from Hinduism in colonial Bengal. Capitalizing on the 19th century enthusiasm in Indo-European languages and public education, a marginalized Buddhist minority argued that what Sanskrit meant for Hindus, Pali for was Buddhists, so as to secure grant-in-aid for Pali studies. With the assistance from Buddhists from Ceylon, they introduced Pali weekly classes at village temples and primary, secondary and postsecondary schools with Buddhist students in Chittagong. They convinced the colonial government to fund Pali Departments at Chittagong College and at the University of Calcutta and more importantly to establish a “state scholarship for the scientific study of Pali in Europe” in 1915 that produced arguably the first Buddhologist. I argue that Pali studies gave Bangla-speaking Buddhists access to modern education that enabled them to dispel the shadow of Hinduism and emerge as a distinct religious community.

Mallory Hennigar, Syracuse University
Rational Buddha: Ambedkarite Non-Brahmin Buddhist History

In this presentation, I argue that while Ambedkarite Buddhists are often forgotten when academics study South Asian Buddhism, their histories have contemporary political ramifications. While Ambedkar’s history is a creative one with little concrete evidence, his followers have taken the up the charge to uncover the Brahminical corruption of their Buddhist history and identity. Ambedkarites do this both by making claims like Maurya’s that temples in their home-places were originally Buddhist and by insisting that anything ‘irrational’ must be stripped from Buddhist practice. Beyond mainstream politics, these discourses are important to young Ambedkarites who search for a coherent explanation for their oppression and exclusion by extolling the virtues of truth and rationality over the irrational hatred and violence of their tormentors. These young people aim to find a history to be proud of that gives their communities a vital place both within the story of India and the world.

Joel Bordeaux, Stony Brook University
Crossover Appeal: Exoticism and Localization of the Goddess Tārā in Hindu Sources

The incorporation of the goddess Tārā into the Hindu pantheon appears to have begun around the turn of the first millennium, a couple of centuries after her first mentions in Buddhist sources. The earliest Hindu texts concerned with Tārā tend to acknowledge this through a narrative wherein the Vedic sage Vasiṣṭha must travel to ‘Greater China’ to learn from the Buddha how to propitiate the goddess properly through the violation of brāhmaṇical purity codes for which Indian tantric traditions are infamous. Over time her ‘foreign’ associations faded, narratives linking Tārā to sites in Assam and Bengal became more prominent, and her worship drew closer to regional Hindu orthopraxy. This presentation tracks the latter stages of that process through a reading of early modern ritual manuals in Sanskrit before considering a more recent revival of interest in the Hindu Tārā’s Buddhist connections as shown in Bengali sources and fieldwork.

Bradley S. Clough, University of Montana
Interpretive Issues in the History of the Buddhāvatāra Concept in Vaiṣṇava Theology

Tracing historical development of Buddha as avatāra of Viṣṇu concept in the Mahāpurāṇas of the 4th-11th centuries, we formulate a new theory that contests two currently prevalent ones that posit clear unidirectional trends in the construction of this idea, with one seeing almost completely positive characterizations of Buddha starting early on, followed by a definite break, after which mostly negative portrayals follow, and the other seeing a directly oppositional pattern. By contrast, we find much more complex processes occurring, wherein the polarities of praising and denigrating Buddha constantly shift back and forth, even within the space of single texts. We argue further that flaws found in previous theories are largely traceable to excessive reliance upon insufficiently queried notions of “Hinduism” as a fundamentally unified tradition, and that the revision offered here is better founded, because of greater attention to more justified notions of “Hinduism” as a collection of diverse traditions.

Gudrun Bühnemann, University of Wisconsin
Religion, Affect, and Emotion Unit
Theme: Borders and Felt Communities
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 502A (Fifth Level)

This session addresses affect at (and around) the limits, and the papers in it traces affect as it intersects with borders, boundaries, and the margins of form. Feelings draw people toward each other, and create community in ways that both cross and instantiate social boundaries and geographical borders. So too in these papers, lines become fuzzy – the line between true and false, between hope and despair, between private and public. These papers point toward the daily and surprising ways in which feelings accrue, in which affect configures and re-configures social, political, and religious landscapes.

Rebecca Moody, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Reshaping Shared Space: Gender Norms, Quotidian Islam and Grand Taxis in Morocco

In this paper, I trace the intersection of various affective and material borders encircling grand taxis (a ubiquitous form of public transportation in Morocco), therein rendering them liminal spaces, including quotidian Islam’s dominant and normative structures that simultaneously pause and affectively reinforce gender-specific scripts prescribing bodily comportment in public spaces and interactions with the opposite sex. In these taxis, young unmarried women squeeze next to young unmarried men, clearly touching but rarely speaking, while elderly grandmothers defy expectations that pious Muslim women remain within the private sphere. Thus, a very different set of scripts voicelessly circulates, blending patriarchal expectations while also noticeably abbreviating them; as soon as passengers disembark, they snap back into place. Among my motivating questions: what social, cultural and religious norms facilitate the function of grand taxis as liminal spaces that allow Muslim women to travel alone, unsupervised among so many men who are not family?

Matthew Vanderpoel, University of Chicago
Prosimetric Accretions: The Affect of Lack in Gerson's Consolation of Theology

Jean Gerson’s 1418 Consolation of Theology poses the problem of despair amid suffering, but does not offer a clear resolution to that despair within the narrative. Instead, the text layers multiple instances of shortcoming, absence, or lack that—on one level—seem to foreclose hope. I offer a reading of this text, drawing on affect- and queer-theoretical resources, that sees the shared affect of these lacks as constituting a mode of belonging. This shared affect, Gerson suggests, allows for an attenuated form of hope that emerges from a recognition of one’s own limits and one’s situatedness in a larger assemblage. The argument proceeds from a close reading of the literary form of the Consolation, a prosimetrum dialogue, that directly and repeatedly undercuts numerous norms and tropes of the genre.

Lisa Gasson-Gardner, Drew University
When God Feels True: Charismatic-Evangelical Christian Practice and the Politics of Truth in the U.S.

This paper engages ethnographic accounts of contemporary charismatic-evangelical communities, T.M. Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back and Jon Bialecki’s A Diagram for Fire, to argue that practices—of worship, prayer, and the gifts of the Spirit—teach communities to trust feeling as a marker of truth. Claims, like “God speaks to individuals,” that cannot be substantiated through scientific channels are verified emotionally. This is one place U.S citizens learn that truth does not need facts. Indeed, faced with a president whose claims are not verified by facts, but touch intensities of fear, anger, and other emotions, a portion of the U.S. population, and a majority of evangelicals, hear truth. This observation cannot result in a demonization of individuals who respond to feeling: scholars must learn to model truths that holistically fuel the human capacity for change, which is produced in a complex system that encompasses both conceptional and affective knowing.

Business Meeting:
Tam K. Parker, University of the South
Sacred Texts and Ethics Unit
Theme: Reading Sacred Texts with the Other
Elizabeth Goldstein, Gonzaga University, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-23C (Upper Level East)

The Sacred Text and Ethics Unit is excited to present three papers in which traditional interpretive techniques are both analyzed and utilized in the development of new readings of sacred texts in the areas of gender, race and religion. In “Luther’s Tears,” Ashleigh Elser explores Luther’s reading of the traumas of Dinah and Hagar and contends with the location of his empathy. In “Beyond the Upper Room,” David de la Fuente asks the Catholic Church to consider Pentecost as an important strategy in the healing of racial injustice. To close out our session, Russel Arnold pushes us to consider new ways to engage with the rabbinic approach to the dichotomy of the Isaac and Ishmael relationship which, in turn, might yield new avenues in contemporary Jewish-Muslim-Christian relations.

Ashleigh Elser, Hampden-Sydney College
Luther's Tears: Violent Narratives and Masculine Empathies

This paper takes up theories about the relationship between biblical narratives and readerly empathy and tests them against Martin Luther’s reading of two biblical texts that narrate varied forms of violence against women. I argue that the way Luther directs his interpretive empathy toward the male witnesses in these stories (rather than the female victims of violence) challenges standard formulations of the capacity of narratives to provoke or transfigure readerly empathy. The history of biblical interpretation pushes us to develop new approaches to narrative ethics that address the ways in which narratives (and particularly narrations of violence against women) tend to unveil rather than refigure pre-existing structures of empathy.

David de la Fuente, Fordham University
Beyond the Upper Room and upon All Flesh: Pentecost, Phenomenology, and Racial Justice in the Catholic Church

The Pentecost Event is a central yet underappreciated sacred text for ecclesial and ethical reflection. A perennial challenge for the Roman Catholic Church is to perceive the call of the text in our time. Beyond typical themes of the constitution of the church as hierarchical or charismatic, the reality and meaning of phenomena like “praying in other tongues,” this paper instead wishes to focus on the call of Pentecost to promote racial justice, as evidenced both by the dynamics of the Pentecost account and by the narrative arc of Luke-Acts. To make this case, this paper deploys insights from the theological turn in phenomenology regarding saturated phenomena (Jean-Luc Marion) and the notions of the “gaze” imposed by a sacred text and the call to responsibility (Jean-Louis Chretien) in conversation with contemporary scholarship on Luke-Acts as a resource for decolonial and anti-imperial praxis. As the Pentecost text testifies, the Spirit is promised to fall “upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17-18/Joel 2:28-32), which in our time should signify “othered” flesh above all. Pentecost can thus be understood as a vital text for ethical reflection in an age of intensified racial violence.

Russell CD Arnold, Regis University
Isaac as a Model for Interfaith Engagement

The accounts of Isaac in the Book of Genesis, especially those in which he interacts with his brother, Ishmael, and his elder son, Esau, have historically been read as evidence of the sinfulness and rejection of Ishmael (ancestor of Arabs and Islam), and Esau/Edom (ancestor of Rome and Christianity). Rereading these stories, which turn on ambiguities in the language in the text, with a focus on Isaac’s role and relationships with his brother and eldest son, we see instead a model for contemporary interfaith engagement between Jews, Muslims, and Christians that can help us to build mutually inspiring relationships across the important lines of difference between people and traditions.

  • Books under Discussion
Study of Judaism Unit
Theme: Roundtable on Mara Benjamin's The Obligated Self
Larisa Reznik, Pomona College, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411A (Fourth Level)

Mara Benjamin’s new book, The Obligated Self: Maternal Subjectivity and Modern Jewish Thought (Indiana UP, 2018), offers an opportunity for interdisciplinary conversation between scholars of gender and feminism working in different religious traditions. In bringing the underexplored physical and psychological experience of caring for children to bear on reading Jewish sources, Benjamin shows that key questions preoccupying a variety of Jewish sources are questions that caring for children already negotiates on a daily basis—for instance, how to use one’s power ethically in asymmetrical relationships. This roundtable brings together scholars outside of the study of Judaism to explore the broader implications of the method Benjamin develops on the terrain of Jewish thought, for feminist theory and method in the study of religion and theology.

Elizabeth Ann Pritchard, Bowdoin College
Phillis Isabella Sheppard, Vanderbilt University
Kecia Ali, Boston University
Mara Benjamin, Mt. Holyoke College
Theology and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: The Politics of Religion
Rakesh Peter-Dass, Hope College, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-3 (Upper Level West)

This session examines the politics of religion, with special attention to perspectives from different religions and contexts. The first paper in the session seeks to identify and problematize two contemporary trajectories in the South African politics of religion, namely the ‘numbing’ and the ‘intoxicating’ impact of Christianity on the public realm. The second paper analyzes intersections between the judiciary and India’s Hindu nationalist government as sites of contestation in contemporary understandings of gender and religion through the case study of a woman guru’s politics of equality, religion, and law. The third paper engages the work of Abul A'ala Mawdudi, an influential thinker from Muslim India, to demonstrate how theological reflection and religious history became key premises for political debate in the decolonization moment of Muslims in India and beyond.

Jakub Urbaniak, Saint Augustine College of South Africa
Tshinyalani Khorommbi, Saint Augustine College of South Africa
Between "Numbness" and "Intoxication": The Politics of Religion in South Africa Post-1994

Through the dialogue between an African politics scholar and a Christian theologian, this paper seeks to identify and problematize two contemporary trajectories in the South African politics of religion, namely the ‘numbing’ and the ‘intoxicating’ impact of Christianity on the public realm. We argue that, insofar as African Christianity uncritically lends theological support to the ideas of reconciliation, justice and non-violence – and thus implicitly legitimizes the Western models of democracy, neo-liberal capitalism and land ownership – it contributes to the desensitization of South Africans to the extreme inequalities inherent in a post-1994 white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal status quo. Through its intoxicating function, it fosters the ‘alliances’ of toxic leadership in religion and politics. The first tendency will be discussed based on the failure of the ‘critical solidarity’ model, and particularly the controversial role of public theology, while the second will be illustrated by Jacob Zuma’s co-option of the broad spectrum of Evangelical-Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity.

Antoinette E. DeNapoli, Texas Christian University
"What the Government Won’t Give Us, God and the Courts Will!”: How a Woman Guru’s Religious Politics of Gender Equality Is Transforming Hinduism through the Indian Legal System

This paper analyzes the intersections between the judiciary and the Hindu nationalist government of the Indian state as sites of contestation in contemporary understandings of gender and religion through the case study of a guru’s dharmic politics of equality and her transformation of Hinduism via the legal system. Although considered controversial in India, Trikal Mataji (“Mataji”) is an unknown guru in the west. Based on ethnographic research conducted by the author in 2019 with Mataji during the Kumbh Mela festival held in North India, this paper examines two competing discourses on “women’s power” that interface in mela contexts and characterize the opposing views of a religiously conservative government on the one hand, and a progressive-minded guru on the other. Even as both camps battle over competing “truths,” they do so before a judiciary whose commitment to uphold the secularist values of India’s Constitution may obstruct rather than enforce gender equality.

Syeda Beena Butool, Florida State University
Mawdudi’s God and the Theopolitics to Decolonize the Muslims of India

Should Muslims reevaluate their theological understandings about Islamic history in their postcolonial moment? Abul A'ala Mawdudi, an influential thinker from Muslim India, criticized the pre-partition and postcolonial political approach of Muslims on ethical and theological grounds. My paper has two arguments, a) Muslim political activism against the British, and their (postcolonial) decolonization movements exhibited theological understandings which demarcated different political flanks inside India and b) Mawdudi’s critique of Islamic history and Muslim societies was, in fact, a critique of the theological passivity of Muslims. Mawdudi disagreed with the theological as well as historical paradigms of Islam. He argued that the failure of Muslim societies and the defeat of the Islamic empire was a result of the failure of Muslims on an individual level. This paper demonstrates how theological reflection and religious history became key premises for political debate in the decolonization moment of Muslims of India and beyond.

Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Unit and Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Reproductive Justice Activists and Religious Scholars in Dialogue
Charity Woods, Interfaith Voices for Reproductive Justice, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-17B (Mezzanine Level)

Panelists on this panel will discuss merging the gap between reproductive justice activists and religious scholars, how reproductive justice activists and womanist scholars can collaborate on creating theo-ethical discourse at the intersections of religion, faith, and reproductive justice, and ways womanist scholars can play an active role in furthering the grassroots call for reproductive justice. It will focus on the impact of Black feminist and womanist theories on reproductive justice and how this framework can be broadened to include a womanist theo-ethical framing. There will be discussion about ways in which both scholars and activists can work collaboratively around concrete actions, including engaging in public dialogue and theology. The panel will be comprised of five panelists, a moderator, and one of the founding mothers of reproductive justice as the respondent.

Unregistered Participant
Cherisse Scott, SisterReach
Ashlyn Strozier, Claremont Graduate University
Itihari Toure, Interdenominational Theological Seminary
Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Villanova University
Toni Bond Leonard, Claremont School of Theology
Chinese Religions Unit
Theme: Buddhism in Modern China
Megan Bryson, University of Tennessee, Presiding
Tuesday - 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 300A (Third Level)

The three papers in this panel explore different aspects of Buddhism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China. They start with an exploration of Buddhist monastics' role in 19th-century coal mining operations, continue into the Republican period with an examination of the "woman question" and the construction of modern Buddhist identity, and end with a study of Buddhist properties on Mt. Jiuhua in the early decades of the PRC.

Unregistered Participant
To Keep Incense Burning and Lamps Lit: Local Buddhist Monastics’ Involvement in the Coal-Mining Business in Nineteenth-Century Chongqing

Recently, scholars have paid growing attention to the complicated relationship between Buddhism and economy in Chinese history. I, drawing on the local legal archives, join this body of scholarship to investigate the everyday economic strategies of small and medium-sized temples in nineteenth-century Chongqing area. More specifically, I focus on local monastics’ involvement in coal-mining, since local hills were an important source of medium-grade anthracite. I highlight the ambiguous role of coal-mining in the economic foundation of local temples. On the one hand, it provided a reliable and consistent source of income for temples against revenue fluctuations of donation or ritual fees. On the other hand, coal-mining was prone to ensnare monastics in litigation due to its potential economic and cosmological destructiveness. Not only did mining alter landscape which potentially jeopardized agricultural production, but it also potentially disturbed local fengshui, thereby putting the future auspiciousness of the whole community in danger.

Hongyu Wu, Ohio Northern University
The Woman Question and the (Re)Construction of Buddhist Identity in the Republican China (1911-1949)

In the wake of the establishment of the Republic of China, drastic changes in politics, culture and society took place in China. Pushed” and “pulled” by modernity, Chinese Buddhism in the Republic era redefined and reformed itself in order to make positive contribution to the nation-wide modernization campaign. This paper focuses on the articles about women, for women, and by women published in Buddhist journals in the Republican period to examine how the "woman question" were integrated into the effort to reform Buddhism and make contribution to the national modernization campaign to negotiate a position for Buddhism in the radically changing society of the early 20th century.

Nan Ouyang, National University of Singapore
Mobilizing Buddhists for Socialist Production: Disposal of Buddhist Properties on Mt. Jiuhua during the Mao Era (1949–1976)

The recent gush of new materials on Mao-era Buddhism has called for in-depth case studies and reassessment. Relying on local archives, this paper serves as the first attempt to understand the fate of a rural Buddhist center, Mt. Jiuhua, in the Mao era. It examines how Mt. Jiuhua was transformed from a pilgrimage center relying on religious donations to a production brigade composed of Buddhists in the eyes of the government. It argues that Mao-era policies brought both negative and positive changes to the local Buddhist economy before the full-scale destruction of Buddhism in the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). The so-called “pro-Buddhist” policies include granting subsidies to senior Buddhists and renovating several key monasteries, whereas the anti-Buddhist policies aimed at reducing the amount of Buddhist properties and forcing Buddhists to work. These seemingly contradictory policies enabled the local government to exert their control over the revamped Jiuhua Buddhism.

Religion and Politics Unit
Theme: Islam and Politics in Global Contexts
Rachel Scott, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Presiding
Tuesday - 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411B (Fourth Level)

Join the Religion and Politics section for a session on politics, race, authoritarianism, and religion among Islamic populations across the globe. The first paper will examine the intersection between race and religion by looking at narratives of niqab-wearing converts to Sunni Islam in the US and the UK. The second paper proceeds to the Middle East to look at variations in the Islamic discourse of political obedience in the face of authoritarianism in the Gulf, with specific reference to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The third paper moves east and investigates the use of religious terms and symbols within the non-fundamentalist Muslim political party, the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC).

Anna Piela, Northwestern University
Shifting between Experiences of Islamophobia and Racism: The Niqab as a Focal Point for the Study of Intersections of Exclusion in the United States and Great Britain

This paper examines consequences of racialization of the niqab. It focuses on narratives of niqab-wearing converts to Sunni Islam in the US and the UK. These women transgress unspoken norms related to race and religion. Their experiences thus highlight the manner in which these norms operate. Furthermore, the hypervisibility of the niqab offers a useful case for the study of racialization of Islam as it functions as a visual symbol of the faith in the common imaginary. This paper maps out how women traverse the matrix of religion, race and gender through the analysis of interviews with Black and white niqabi converts in America (5) and in the UK (5). Once read through the lens of critical race theory, their counterstories reveal that racialization of the niqab functions in intersecting ways - it affects mainstream perceptions of niqab-wearers’ race, and leads to forced erasure of their cultural and national belonging.

Ermin Sinanovic, Shenandoah University
Political Theology of Obedience in Contemporary Islamic Thought

The polarization of the Arab Gulf countries to the Saudi/UAE coalition and the Qatar-based opposition provides an interesting case-study in the authoritarian competition. Each of the two camps roots its legitimacy within an Islam-based discourse of political obedience, which dates back to the classical age of Islam. The paper argues that, in absence of modern constitutional rules, each monarchical regime depends on pre-modern justifications for its legitimacy. These regimes demand obedience from their populations under the pre-modern contractual rule which trades general political stability for acquiescence. The paper studies two institutions, the Doha-based Center for Islamic Ethics and Legislation (CILE), and the Abu Dhabi-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. Based on main publications and pronouncements issues by these two centers, in Arabic and English, the paper identifies various discursive instruments that are used in constructing political theology of obedience that perpetuates and deepens authoritarian institutions.

Andreas Johansson, Lund University
Muslim Politics in Sri Lanka

This paper investigates the use of religious terms and symbols in politics in Sri Lanka. More specifically, it investigates Muslim politics. When scholars of Islamic Studies and the study of religion research Muslim political parties, they generally focus on Islamist or post-Islamist politics, even though the world of Muslim politics is much wider. When political scientists analyze political parties, religious features are often brushed aside even though they are presented as crucial by the parties themselves. Many books and articles about Muslim political parties consequently deal superficially with Islamic terminology and its meaning. The aim of this paper is therefore to analyze the role of religious terms and symbols within a non-fundamentalist political party, namely, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a Muslim political party that has been part of the democratic process in Sri Lanka since the 1980s. Thereby, I hope to broaden the research on political parties founded on religious ideologies.

Religion in South Asia Unit
Theme: Religious Didacticism in South Asia: Critical Assessments of Jain and Hindu Literature
Arun Brahmbhatt, Saint Lawrence University, Presiding
Tuesday - 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 303 (Third Level)

South Asian religious didacticism is a complex network of pedagogical goals, instructors, transmitters, and methodologies. It is strategically constituted with a combination of aesthetic elements and logic. And, importantly, it is a discursive construction of propriety in which didacticism gets negotiated through intermediaries as it travels from texts to audiences. This panel addresses these themes by exploring style, content, functions, and reception of a diverse set of texts intended for Jain, Hindu, and Saiva audiences. Focusing on the narrative elements constructed for particular kinds of edification of intended audiences, the four papers of this panel explore the intersections of secular and sectarian, language and action, and actors and audiences who make, re-make, and receive instruction. In doing so, they comment on the function of didacticism in creating and regulating religious aspirations, as well as the tensions that arise when didacticism collides with personal, sectarian, or communal agendas.

Steven Vose, Florida International University
Caste Prestige as Religious Piety: Women’s Virtue in Early Vernacular Jain Didactic Literature

Merusundaragaṇi's fifteenth-century Śīlopadeśamālā-Bālāvabodha (ŚB) (A Primer to the Garland of Instruction on Virtue for Children), one of the earliest story collections in Old Gujarati, introduces the concept of śīla (piety, virtue, chastity) to novices in the Jain tradition. Nearly half of its stories are about exemplary (and cautionary) women. This paper compares the Story of Nammayāsundarī to two tellings in Prakrit and Apabhraṃśa upadeśa (instructional) texts that precede the ŚB to see Merusundaragaṇi’s purpose for re-telling the story. The ŚB goes beyond linking the preservation of śīla to women’s soteriological potential; it simultaneously roots women’s śīla in the preservation of family and communal prestige. Merusundaragaṇi’s vernacular upadeśa text shows how ideologues of Jain monastic orders (gacchas) understood, mediated and taught soteriology through caste identity and purity concerns, giving insight into strategies that linked castes with Śvetāmbara Jain monastic orders in late medieval India, which largely still hold true today.

Iva Patel, University of Iowa
Thinking through Tropes: Cognitive Practices and the Rhetoric of Instruction in the Sarasiddhi of Nishkulanand Swami

This paper examines the early nineteenth-century Gujarati composition Sarasiddhi (Attaining the Essence) for its use of figurative language in constructing religious didacticism directed toward cognitive actions the poet Nishkulanand Swami (1766-1848) deemed necessary to build a devotional relationship. The text’s emphasis on thinking, conveyed through more than 40 metaphors and similes, allows us to consider the multiple ways in which Nishkulanand makes a case for rationality being integral in making and sustaining a devotional selfhood, which is often shaped within Hindu bhakti traditions through emotional modes of engagement with a religious figure. In presenting the didactics for his proposal of devotion, Nishkulanand looks to the lucrative elements of vernacularization, which are the elements of public perception and religious cultures as lived. He trades on the familiarity of everyday experiences and the didactic significance of Vaishnava stories to make his schema of thinking as devotional action intelligible to his audience as well as present it as obligatory.

Eric Steinschneider, University of Arizona
Something We Can All Agree upon: Didactic Literature and Renunciation in Late-Precolonial South India

The Tirukkural, a circa fifth- or sixth-century collection of 1330 couplets on the moral life, is the best-known and most commented upon work in all of Tamil literature. This paper explores the transformation of this work within the context of South Indian monasticism between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it became an object of intense interest among Saivites writing on the nature and practice of renunciation. The paper asks how the reception of this work, from which explicit religious concerns are largely absent, has come to underpin notions of proper ascetic conduct as well as a distinctive ideology of Tamil Saivite universalism. Ultimately, it considers the manner in which monastic identities are constituted not merely through prescriptive doctrines and practices, but also through sacred moral economies that become inscribed within specific sectarian discourses surrounding notions of the ideal religious life.

Sravani Kanamarlapudi, University of Washington
Situating a Didactic Text in Its Narrative Context: The Case of the Viduranīti

Some recent Mahabharata (MBh) scholarship has cautioned against the relative neglect of the epic’s didactic texts, barring a few exceptions such as the Bhagavad-Gita, and importantly, on the prevalent academic tendency of not engaging with these texts as constitutive parts of the epic. Employing a novel methodology, this paper confirms the limitations associated with such attitude towards the MBh’s didactic corpus. Engaging with one particular politico-ethical discourse from the MBh, the Viduraniti, the text’s reception is traced from the medieval to modern periods in diverse domains. More specifically, two case studies are presented to explore distinct South Asian communities’ interpretive interactions with the Viduraniti; the first case deals with the Sanskrit commentarial sphere, and the second with a vernacular lived religious sphere. Both cases demonstrate that these indigenous communities have read and interpreted the Viduraniti by situating it in its narrative framework, an approach imperative for modern scholars to consider.

Unregistered Participant
Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Remembering Women in Global Religion
Stephanie May, First Parish in Wayland, Presiding
Tuesday - 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 314 (Third Level)

With three different theoretical frameworks, these papers attend to particular examples of religious issues women face in different parts of the world. Paying close attention to the local, together the papers also point to ongoing global concerns women face in religion.

Tamar Wasoian, Evanston, IL
Armenian Deaconesses: Remembering to Re-Membering

The Armenian Orthodox Church places the image of Mary-the Mother of God on the highest point of the altar, but Armenian women are not to be seen in any leadership roles in the church. Despite the fact, that as early as the fifth century the Armenian women were ordained deaconesses, this topic remains a constant debate in the twenty-first century Armenian communities.
This paper 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. Next, will explore the theology of remembering and re-membering that can restore the spiritual home for the Armenian women to claim and own her remembering. And lastly, will argue on the importance of restoring this forgotten history in confirming the call to ministry of the Armenian women today.

Mary Nyangweso, East Carolina University
Rites of Passage as the Loci of Public Health Discourse in Africa and in the Diaspora

Ritual in Africa, as elsewhere in the world, are symbols for expressing and conveying meanings. In addition to celebrating life, these rituals cultivate one’s identity and instill moral values. While sacrosanct and meaningful in most societies, some rites of passage invoked the public health discourse. In this paper, I explore how the rites of passages as the loci of public health discourse. Specifically, I highlight how puberty rites such as ‘breast ironing,’ female genital cutting and child marriage invoke both local and international discourse on public health in Africa and in the African diaspora. Drawing from the social, feminist and intersectionality as theoretical frameworks the paper argues the following: 1. Religious beliefs and practices are central to health discourse. 2. A cultural appraisal is useful in promoting a reflection and revision of norms and practices that undermine good health in Africa and the diaspora. 3. For the effective address of health-related beliefs and practices, the medical field needs to adopt a holistic, intersectional approach or as is widely known as the integrative or the biopsychosocial models.

Leena Taneja, Zayed University
Beyond Brahminical Asceticism: An Ethnographic Study of Female Ascetics in the Chaitanya Vaishnava Tradition

Female asceticism is located at the periphery of Hindu religious experience because much of the scriptural texts that regulate religious behaviors limit the role of women to marriage and motherhood. Despite the lack of any model of asceticism for women however female ascetics are a growing religious group in India.

The current paper is based on a two-year ethnographic study of female ascetics in the Chaitanya Vaishnava sect, a 16th century devotional school, that is predominate in the North Indian city of Brindavan (Braj). It spotlights the histories, experiences and performances of female ascetics whose lives have received scant attention by the tradition. Relying on feminist theory and intertextuality approaches, the paper will aim to show how the Chaitanya sect illuminates the role of female-centered social values and practices providing an alternative gendered model of asceticism that challenges and, at times, re-inscribes the dominant Brahminical-male centered textual model.

K. Christine Pae, Denison University
North American Religions Unit and Religion, Media, and Culture Unit
Theme: Infrastructuring Religion in the United States: Canals, Rails, Roads, and Pipelines
Pamela Klassen, University of Toronto, Presiding
Tuesday - 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 305 (Third Level)

The burgeoning interdisciplinary study of infrastructure can illuminate understandings of religious history in ways not previously pursued. Religion finds its place in this discussion at the enchanted margins of dreams about what infrastructure can do, and in the mix of the social realities it serves to produce. Infrastructures become interfaces: as surfaces of movement they interface between territories and bodies; as produced spaces they interface between nations and their subjects; as foundations for communication they connect communities across time and space. This paper session raises the issue of infrastructure as a site for examining the relationship of religious practice to social and political belonging in a diverse range of sites and scales in the 19th and 20th century United States. This includes attention to the development of the Erie Canal, railroads, county roads in the middle South, and oil pipelines near unceded Standing Rock Sioux land.

S. Brent Plate, Hamilton College
The Erie Canal and the Birth of US Religions

In A History of the American People, Paul Johnson suggests the Erie Canal is "the outstanding example of a human artifact creating wealth rapidly in the whole of history." My presentation suggests the Erie Canal is the outstanding example of a human artifact creating new religious movements rapidly in the whole of history. Within 25 years of its opening, the Erie Canal cultivated extraordinary experimental spiritual groups including the Mormons, the Adventists, Spiritualism, a revived Apocalypticism, utopian communal societies such as the Oneida Community, with the Amana Colony and Shakers passing through, as well as the emotion-laden revivals of the Second Great Awakening. The Canal also engendered the religiously infused social movements of abolition, women's suffrage, and temperance. This illustrated presentation explores the religious life established by the Erie Canal, and the ways it influenced religiosity across the continent, and across the globe.

Nicole Kirk, Meadville Lombard Theological School
“But, Hark! …the Whistle of a Locomotive...”

This presentation analyzes railroads from the mostly untapped angle of religion. The first part of the paper briefly maps the development of railroad infrastructure in the United States and its intersections with American religions. Using nineteenth-century presidential trains—in particular, Abraham Lincoln’s funeral cortege—as a case study, the paper then demonstrates how transportation infrastructure facilitated religious engagements. Analysis of religious responses to funeral trains sheds light on the intersections of religion with race, class, and ethnicity. The paper concludes by further considering the ways railroad infrastructure contributed to imagined American communities and religious metaphor. Railroads changed the politics of space by shrinking the distance between communities figuratively and literally. At the heart of this work rests reflection on the role of infrastructure and mobility in American religion.

Isaiah Ellis, University of North Carolina
The Southern Gospel of Good Roads

United States public discourse tends to gloss infrastructure as at least an inert or invisible substrate of society, or at most a material form whose ideological function is to bind nations together in a seamless reticulated system. This paper challenges the infrastructural fantasy of unification by examining former Confederate states like North Carolina in the first decades of the twentieth century, when citizens and politicians saw infrastructure projects as critical site where the work of Southern “redemption” from wartime defeat and post-war Northern economic and moral rule could become complete. This paper argues that good roads advocates in North Carolina merged religious and infrastructural tropes to signal their impending sectional redemption and affirm the South as the world’s authentic “good society.”

David Walker, University of California, Santa Barbara
Religion and Sexuality Unit
Theme: Reproductive Justice: Expanding the Discourse
Erica Ramirez, Auburn Seminary, Presiding
Tuesday - 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202A (Second Level)

 This roundtable brings together reproductive justice scholars and activists to address a shared theme-- Reproductive Justice: Expanding the Discourse. We take it as axiomatic that, currently, US political discourse about reproductive justice is dominated by a cultural narrative that presents abortion as the apex moral problem of our time. Our roundtable works to shift the narrative frames of this conversation; for one example, we posit that abortion is better conceptualized as one solution that women bring to existing, prior social problems which are left out of the dominant narrative frames. Retrieving these prior problems allows a panoply of the moral issues that effect reproductive choice to assume centrality in discussion of women's reproductive options.

Michal Raucher, Rutgers University
Elaina Ramsey, Ohio RCRC
Unregistered Participant
Toni Bond Leonard, Claremont School of Theology
Chelsea Yarborough, Advocates for Youth
Rebecca Todd Peters, Elon University
Religion and the Social Sciences Unit
Theme: Studying Religion in Hard-to-Define Populations and Places
Nichole Phillips, Emory University, Presiding
Tuesday - 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 314 (Third Level)

This paper offers interpretation and understanding of the effects of HIV/AIDS on the religious and social identity construction of African American women who are presently disproportionately affected by the disease. The field study is a combination of public health research, interviews, and data analysis of churched African American women in the Southern part of the United States (i.e., Atlanta, which has a high proportion of black American HIV/AIDS cases). This study is important to understanding the ways in which lived theology, religious narratives, and cultural memory work in relationship to down low men, and popular cultural figures “Magic Earvin Johnson” and “Oprah Winfrey,” who were critical to disseminating information about the spread of the disease in the black community. Both are also seminal to explaining the ways in which black church culture shapes social thought and behavior around HIV status and the transmission of AIDS in black American women. Judaism in public spaces is the heart of this second paper, as it looks at the various ways Jewish peoples are defined both religiously and culturally. It complexifies the “religion” and “culture/non-religious identification” which remains a permanent descriptor of Jewish peoples and practitioners. This ethnography of young adult Jewish people in “secular” public cultural arts venues transform such spaces into “places where the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’ or ‘cultural’ intertwine” and concludes the actual lived experiences of contemporary Jews defy bifurcated categorization of Jewish peoples into religious vs. “cultural” Jew/religious none, socio-cultural identities.

Laura Yares, Michigan State University
A Temple of Secular Culture? Researching Jewish Young Adults at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Extant research on Jewish participation in venues labelled under the auspices of “cultural arts” has largely focused upon opportunities for engaging “religious nones” in non-religious activities. Such a framing grossly undervalues cultural arts venues as sites for social scientific research on the Jewish commitments of contemporary Jewry. In response to the Religion and Social Sciences Unit’s theme of “scholarly work in public spaces,” this paper will present findings from a study of Jewish young adult experiences at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. These findings critique this binary understanding of secular and religious Jewish culture, demonstrating that Jews of various identifications experience public cultural arts venues as places where the “religious” and the “secular” or “cultural” intertwine.

Tyler Fuller, Boston University
Danielle Lambert, Emory University
Gina Wingood, Columbia University
The Good HIV and the Bad HIV: African American Women’s Construction of Religio-Social Identity in Relation to HIV
Public health professionals work to address HIV disparities in African American communities by conducting HIV interventions in African American churches. Yet, more attention needs to be given to the narratives that African American churches use to understand HIV and construct religio-social identity in relation to it. I examined 93 interviews from African American church leaders and members, gathered within a faith-based HIV prevention program. Inductively coded themes were analyzed using collective memory theories. An important narrative emerged of men on the “down low,” who have secret homosexual partners and a public female partner. The narrative names African American women as highly affected by HIV, articulates their pain, assigns blame to men on the down low, and relates to other African American men and women. Data suggests that part of why this narrative is relatable to African American Christians is because their religious beliefs already other men engaging in homosexual activity.
Study of Judaism Unit and Theology and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: Non-Doctrinal Theology in Judaism
Molly Farneth, Haverford College, Presiding
Tuesday - 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Convention Center-23C (Upper Level East)

It has become a common claim that Jewish tradition lays little emphasis on dogmas, if it espouses them at all. However, inasmuch as “God” is ubiquitous throughout the tradition, theological expression has occupied a central place in Jewish discourse. Our session proposes to explore this tricky terrain through a framework of non-doctrinal theology. Two scholars consider long-standing (if not perennial) elements of non-doctrinal theology in Jewish thought that have eluded the narrow gaze of a field which tends to dismiss female, nonliterate, and mystical subjectivities as not properly "theological." Another two scholars then examine distinctively modern modes of non-doctrinal theology in Jewish thought—one through a study of (post-)theological dynamics in American Jewish novels, and another through analyses of one striking hermeneutical shift in modern Jewish exegesis. All in all, this session raises foundational questions regarding the boundaries of theology and the very nature of Jewish religious thought.

Sam Shonkoff, Graduate Theological Union
Embodied Theology in Modern Jewish Thought

The modern “death of metaphysics” and “death of God” have posed fundamental challenges to the very idea of theological doctrines, but theologizing itself has not died. This paper highlights a form of post-doctrinal, embodied theology in modern Jewish thought. Specifically, I document a striking hermeneutical mutation regarding the biblical phrase na‘aseh ve-nishma (Exod. 24:7), literally “we shall do and we shall hear.” After a millennium of commentaries celebrating the phrase as a watchword for Israel’s unconditional obedience to God (i.e., we shall do the commandments even before hearing what they are), a new constellation of interpretations emerges in late-eighteenth-century Hasidism casting the verse as a declaration that theological truth is only intelligible by means of embodied actions (i.e., through doing, we “hear” or understand divinity). This exegesis catches like wildfire in other streams of Jewish modernity, and I contend that the pattern as a whole signals a much broader sensibility.

Claire Sufrin, Northwestern University
Theology in a Different Genre: Jewish Religion and Literature in Post-Holocaust America

In her 1970 essay “Existentialists and Mystics,” Iris Murdoch posits that in the postmodern world of science, secularism, and technology, literature will come to replace theology, for the novelist has become the chief teller of truth. This paper considers the significance of this claim within the area of American Judaism and Jewish culture and, more specifically, the work of American Jewish novelists who have used their work to engage and interrogate key categories and concepts of Jewish thought. Using examples drawn from the work of Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Elie Wiesel, Nicole Krauss and others, I seek to define the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing theological questions in novels. With a focus on God's role in history as an example of a Jewish theological concern, I will show how a literary writer can use both​ the form and content of a novel to challenge or destroy more typical theological claims without offering definitive alternatives. I will then consider why this may be more appropriate to the late 20th and early 21st centuries than the other, older, more definitive or doctrinal options.

Mara Benjamin, Mt. Holyoke College
Materiality as a Source for Jewish Feminist Theology

Textual sources offer a limited view of the religious lives of most Jews. Women, untutored men, children, and other subaltern Jewish groups leave few written records. How, then, can we understand how non-literate Jews have understood the theological “doctrines” – to the extent we can speak about Jewish theology in terms of doctrine – typically associated with the normative tradition? How can we understand the forms of piety that may have been characteristic of non-literate Jews? After presenting the challenges of building feminist theology from textual sources, this paper examines the utility of material objects for critical and constructive religious thought. First, I will offer a brief overview of scholarship regarding the critical uses of material objects for understanding the religious lives of ordinary Jews of the past. Then I explore the range of possibilities for constructive feminist theology that are opened by taking material objects seriously.

Ariel Mayse, Stanford University
Beyond the Hall of Mirrors: Jewish Mysticism and Post-Dogmatic Theology

The proposed paper explores non-doctrinal theology in three different historical stages of Jewish mysticism: medieval, early modern and modern. We will begin by reflecting upon the complex, fraught interface of doctrinal and non-doctrinal theology in medieval Kabbalah, focusing on the Zohar and Safed Kabbalah, arguing that these texts evince a flexible metaphysics and a vision of God as dynamic and ever-unfolding. We will then move to Hasidism, an eighteenth-century movement of mystical renewal that shaped the face of modern Judaism. The paper closes with of brief demonstration of how these earlier visions of non-doctrinal theology echo in the twentieth-century writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Arthur Green. These Neo-Hasidic thinkers read the Hasidic canon in opposite ways, but came to a similar conclusion: the non-dogmatic, post-doctrinal theology of medieval and early modern Jewish mysticism holds the seeds of contemporary flourishing and renewal.