This seminar is dedicated to exploring the “hagiographical” as a category that transcends the particular contextual boundaries of religious traditions, while functioning as a focused and sustained site of collaboration, pedagogical exploration, and theoretical foundation for better refining the Study of Religion. It takes up the question of “hagiography,” and, using a comparative method, interrogates its broad analytical utility. By inviting a wide-range of traditions and types of scholarship (textual, materially-oriented, ritually-conceived, oral, historical, and contemporary) into a diverse scholarly conversation and collaborative community, we seek to challenge the normative, Christian rendering of the term. We place the growing need for cross-fertilization at the center of our methodological approach, building it into our theme and function. Hagiology is an inquiry that has been marked by a range of interpretive strategies and vectors of influence, from early practitioners and emulators, to authors and compilers, to commentators and historians, to societies and contemporary practitioners, to re-imagined historical prominence. It has finally emerged as a dynamic area for comparative studies. Ultimately, this seminar will foster dialogue among scholars from a range of institutions and intellectual traditions. Its aim is to use the collaborative and comparative methods to resituate hagiology within the current religious studies context, and to explore how this field can best support, articulate, and inform the broader field regarding the importance of doing Hagiology in a productive manner that is commensurate with the prevalence of its material forms.
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Call for Proposals
The Hagiology Seminar is engaged in a multi-year call for contributions to a field-defining reference work for Comparative Hagiology. This volume, A Companion to Comparative Hagiology, introduces the field, its comparative and collaborative ethos, issues in theory and method, and provides a series of case studies on key themes. In this context, we adopt terms such as “saint,” “holy,” and “sacred” as broad and fluid heuristic devices that allow us to apprehend and compare discrete culture-specific historical data. This call for papers is centered around two of the themes that will comprise this volume. Scholars whose papers are accepted may be invited to contribute to the Companion.
We invite proposals on Dangerous "Saints":
The nature of the “holy” or “sanctified” individual in society marks them as separate, powerful, and “other” from culture or society, setting these individuals in sometimes antagonistic and complicated relationships with normative religious and social mores. At times, the rhetoric of “sainthood” is applied to individuals perceived as dangerous precisely because doing so will set them apart, ideally diffusing part of their “power” and threatening traits. This session asks how the marking of “saint” opens up power relationships, reception histories, and subsequent relationships to the saint as places of inquiry for the hagiologist.
Some questions to consider:
- How does power function in the landscape of sainthood?
- What makes a saint dangerous, and are they always a danger? Or, what makes a dangerous individual a candidate for “sainthood”?
- How does one teach dangerous aspects of sainthood (ascetic, political, sexual, gendered) in the contemporary college classroom, where students struggle with mental health, body image, and other modern concerns?
We also invite proposals on Secular "Saints":
Saints are often recognized by dynamics of veneration, emulation, and mediation of power. But the same dynamics can be seen in contemporary, secular society with the relationship between celebrity and fandom. Are celebrity and sanctity broadly analogous? This session asks how we might use the hagiological categories and approaches to better understand the phenomenon of “secular saints” and how this eventually informs the comparative study of the rhetoric of “sainthood.”
Some questions to consider:
- How do celebrities, politicians, scientists, athletes, and activists embody holiness by another name?
- How do secular “saints” mediate power to their devotees and to what end?
- What (if any) is the analytical purchase of mapping celebrities as saints and celebrity as sanctity?
These sessions will be exploratory and collaborative in nature, as they seek to practice a style of conference preparation and presentation that utilizes comparative practices and innovates along those lines. Presenters will share their papers with fellow panelists prior to the conference date and collaborate with one another.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Reyhan Durmaz, University of Pennsylvania1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Jon Keune, Michigan State University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Massimo Rondolino, Carroll University1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Barbara Zimbalist, University of Texas, El Paso1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025