Catch Me If You Can #SBLAAR18 #NAASR2018

It’s time. The annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the North American Association for the Study of Religion are underway.

A lot of our community has been reaching out to me to find ways of connecting. I can’t tell you how great it is to hear from so many you–our contributors and readers–doing exciting things and wanting to stay in touch!! This is why I still maintain that November is one of the most wonderful times of the year for me.

I’ll be in Denver for the long haul this year with a number of conference appearances that I hope you’ll make time to check out.

Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion
Theme: Teaching and Traumatic Events
Convention Center, 12-5pm [Closed Event]

Current events are pressing conversations about trauma and traumatic events in classrooms across higher education, not just those associated with theology and religion. This pre-meeting workshop invites religion and theology faculty into critically reflective conversations about trauma and traumatic events related to classroom teaching. The workshop will explore such topics as: hot-button issues, teaching methods and strategies for engaging trauma and traumatic events in classroom teaching, and crisis teaching. The workshop will also provide participants with a range of effective teaching resources related to the topic. I’ll be co-leading this with Dr. Ella Johnson of St. Ambrose University with assistance of Dr. Paul Myhre of the Wabash Center.



North American Association for the Study of Religion
Theme: Race and Ethnicity
Director’s Row H (in the Plaza Tower) at the Sheraton Downtown, 9:00-10:50am

I’ll be summarizing my pre-circulated paper, “Signifying ‘Der Rassist’ in Religious Studies and the Axes of Social Difference.”

Today’s scholars of religion have little reservation in decrying some of the fields 19th century theoretical frameworks as “racist.” Religionwissenschaft and racism share a modern cultural genealogy. And while examples of the former—such as Axial Age theory, the World Religions Paradigm, and the comparison of sacred books—join the latter in obsolescence, such dismissals are more akin to virtue signaling than careful critique. Many avoid theorizing religion out of this context so as not to appear racist, but in so doing fail to reckon with how discourses like race work. In reading race & ethnicity and religion as coterminous, the following paper presents a model for signifying the political characters, cultural characteristics, and discursive caricatures involved in mapping territory. Particular attention will be given to the field’s aforementioned three frameworks for considering the difference humans make with difference.

The session will be chaired by Candace Dixon (UNC-Chapel Hill) and feature responses by:

Craig Prentiss (Rockhurst University)
Robyn Faith Walsh (University of Miami)
Rudy Busto (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Martha Smith Roberts (Denison University)


AAR Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Unit
Theme: Re-Thinking the Teaching of Theories and Methods: A Discussion of Cultural Approaches to the Study of Religion(Bloomsbury, 2018) and The Bloomsbury Reader for Cultural Approaches to the Study of Religion (2018)
Hyatt Regency-Mineral D (Third Level), 3:30-5:00 PM

Innovative cultural theories used in the field of religious studies consistently remain under-represented in introductory text and course materials. This roundtable offers new strategies for revising “theory and method” courses in conversation with two new resources that are being released by Bloomsbury in Fall 2018, Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion: An Introduction to Theories and Methods and The Bloomsbury Reader in Cultural Approaches to the Study of Religion, both edited by Sarah J. Bloesch and Meredith Minister. These resources create a pathway to re-envisioning introductory theories and methods courses that is both more in touch with contemporary trends in the field of religious studies and that also reveals the intellectual histories often occluded in theories and methods courses.I’ll be speaking about these books and my thoughts on teaching theory and method.

Teaching Religion Unit
Theme: A Conversation about Pedagogy: Reading Of Education, Fishbowls, and Rabbit Holes: Rethinking Teaching and Liberal Education for an Interconnected World (Stylus Publishing, 2016)
Convention Center-501 (Street Level), 9:00-11:30AM
Join Kathryn McClymond of Georgia State University and I for a conversation about Jane Fried’s Of Education, Fishbowls, and Rabbit Holes Rethinking Teaching and Liberal Education for an Interconnected World and its implications for teaching the study of religions. Co-sponsored by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. Kathleen Fisher (Assumption College) will lead the discussion.
SBL Student Advisory Board
Theme: Politics and Pedagogy
Room 601 (Street Level) Convention Center, 4:00-6:00PM

At the 2017 SBL Annual Meeting scholars gathered to collaborate on pedagogical strategies and syllabi responsive to contemporary political and social climates. Academics at every career stage began a conversation that has continued in various forums about constructing courses attending to interwoven issues such as immigration, exile, social injustice, racism, gender and sexual oppression, and ecological crisis. Graduate students and early career scholars have a unique set of considerations regarding teaching courses on these subjects. On the one hand, being able to teach these courses may enhance their marketability. On the other hand, faculty without the protection of tenure are more vulnerable if student discussions become inflamed or if they are targeted by “outsiders” policing higher ed. Still more, graduate students and early career women or scholars of color experience acute pressures to teach and challenges in teaching such courses. The SBL Student Advisory board, in collaboration with this Wabash-funded workshop “Politics, Pedagogy, and the Profession,” aims at broadening the implications of this important pedagogical initiative through fostering a frank and open discussion about the challenges and opportunities of, as well as the best strategies to prepare for, teaching courses responsive to these critical and complex issues.

Erin Walsh, Duke University, Presiding (5 min)
Sarah Porter, Harvard University, Presiding (5 min)
Sharon Jacob, Pacific School of Religion, Panelist (15 min)
Peter Mena, University of San Diego, Panelist (15 min)
Richard Newton, University of Alabama, Panelist (15 min)
Maria Doerfler, Yale University, Panelist (15 min)
Roberto Mata, Santa Clara University, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (35 min)

AAR Graduate Student Committee

Theme: The World Needs Us: Serving the Public Sphere through the Study of Religion

Convention Center-Mile High 4A (Lower Level), 9:00-11:30AM
I’ll be a respondent to a great set of papers taking up the following charge:

The AAR’s mission statement begins: “[i]n a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values.” Such a broad statement extends the understanding of the study of religion beyond both teaching and individual scholarship. This Special Topics Forum explores how the study of religion undergirds, challenges, and shapes public understandings of religion. Through a combination of presentation and response, panelists discuss the significance of diverse approaches to the study of religion in the public sphere. These approaches, ranging from formation in the classroom and social media engagement to influencing public political imagination about persistent concerns around radical identity and sanctuary campuses, highlight various avenues available for the study of religion in the public sphere and the challenges of that work.

D. Ashley Campbell, University of Colorado
Platforms, Publics, and Production: Rethinking Religion Public Scholarship in a New Media Age
Nicholas Krause, Baylor University
Can Universities Be Christian? Reflections on Baylor University’s Sanctuary Campus Campaign
Maria Carson, Syracuse University

The Memory of Abraham Joshua Heschel at Selma: The Whiteness and/or Non-Whiteness of Contemporary Ashkenazi Jews in America

Given the above schedule, I’ll be on the go. But if we can’t cross paths, I’ll be tweeting when I can and adding to my story on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @seepods.

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