Exploratory Sessions PDF-NOTE: Internet Explorer Users, right click the PDF Icon and choose [save target as] if you are experiencing problems with clicking. Print
An Exploratory Session is a complete prearranged session that provides a platform for a group of members to announce a line of inquiry new to the AAR program and to seek out others interested in pursuing it further.

Hindu Theology of Love

Saturday, 4:00 PM–6:30 PM
McCormick Place West – 175C*

Graham Schweig, Christopher Newport University, Presiding

The successful wildcard session on Hindu theology organized at last year's AAR conference beautifully addressed the rationale for having a group at the AAR that focuses specifically on the theology of Hindu traditions. This neglected and very rich area of scholarship now continues to find a vibrant voice, as reflected in this second round of in-depth academic papers. Here we propose a session that presents a range of carefully crafted theological studies that explore fresh perspectives on love as the theme. Five scholars propose textual, dialogical, iconographic, and architectural approaches to framing the question of the human–divine relationship. Drawing on the latest research, scholars will discuss this relationship, variously conceived as "love" (bhakti), "grace" (prasāda), and "faith" (śraddhā). By exploring the different ways in which the question of love is framed in the classical and vernacular traditions and in myth, art, and poetry, this panel explores a range of its theological manifestations in India.

Karen Pechilis, Drew University
Theology Beyond the Social in the Poems of a Female Bhakti Poet-Saint

Vishwa Adluri, Hunter College
Ascensio ad Deum: Garuḍa and Onto-Theo-logic Praxis in the Mahābhārata

Alf Hiltebeitel, George Washington University
The Umā-Maheśvara Saṁvāda and the Hindu Theology of the Mahābhārata

Isabelle Ratié, Universität Leipzig
Polemics, Nondualism, and Love in Utpaladeva

Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida
Building a Vaishnavite Theology: Angkor Wat and the Churning of the Ocean of Milk Story

Arvind Sharma, McGill University, Responding

Irreligion, Secularism, and Social Change

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
McCormick Place West – 178A*

Per Smith, Boston University, Presiding

Scholars of religion from a variety of disciplines are increasingly focusing their attention on the relationship between the religious and the secular. So what would a sustained discussion of "the secular" look like within the American Academy of Religion; and moreover, how would such a discussion be relevant to religious studies? This exploratory session seeks to provide modest answers to those questions by looking at specific examples. On the heels of the year of the protestor, the session explores how "the secular" is implicated in and affected by social transformations. How did social change make the secular possible? How have the demands of twentieth century social movements shaped emergent forms of secularism? How do contemporary social movements provide fertile soil for secular theologies of resistance? And how are contemporary irreligious identities evolving within a social context that considers them deviant?

Daniel Silliman, University of Heidelberg
The Possibility of Secularity and the Material History of Fiction

Petra Klug, University of Leipzig
The Dynamics of Standardization and Deviance Using the Way U.S. Society Deals with Atheists as an Example

Jordan Miller, Salve Regina University
Occupying Absence: Political Resistance and Secular Theology

Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Social Science Research Council, Responding

Late Antiquity East

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
McCormick Place North – 135*

Jorunn Buckley, Bowdoin College, Presiding

Scholars who work in "Late Antiquity East" have long been somewhat homeless in the AAR /SBL. There is no Zoroastrian slot anymore, nor a Manichaean one. This session aims to gather interested fellow-scholars to discuss how we can establish a new unit in the AAR for our interrelated fields of study. We are not Bible-oriented, but work in areas such as eastern forms of early Christianity, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, late Babylonian religion, Jewish eastern traditions, and Mandaeism.

James McGrath, Butler University
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Haverford College
Yuhan Vevaina, Stanford University
Charles Häberl, Rutgers University
Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Northern Arizona University
John Reeves, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Alexander Treiger, Dalhousie University
Jason BeDuhn, Northern Arizona University
Jennifer Hart, Stanford University

The Affective Turn in Religious Studies

Sunday, 5:00 PM–6:30 PM
McCormick Place West – 178B*

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Wesleyan University, Presiding

Across the humanities, a number of disciplines have recently undergone what Patricia Clough has called the "affective turn," a new interest in the political, cultural, and social modes of embodied, precognitive forces. Emerging out of the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's poststructuralist reading of psychologist Silvan Tomkins, "affect theory" orients the humanities to the priority of affect over drives, cognition, and language. In the words of Sedgwick and her collaborator Adam Frank, there is a "crucial knowledge" missed when linguistic constructs are taken to be the "final word" of embodied experience without reference to prelinguistic emotions. This session considers the significance of the affective turn for religious studies, investigating how affect theory can be used to ask new questions from different perspectives within the field.

Donovan Schaefer, Le Moyne College
What Does It Feel Like to Be an Atheist? Affective Disciplines of Belief and Disbelief

M. Gail Hamner, Syracuse University
Religion in the Public Sphere: The Image-Flesh Assemblage of Our National Imaginary

Abigail Kluchin, Columbia University
Irreducible Intensities: Affect Theory as Unwitting Theology

Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, University of North Carolina
Quilting Points: How Religion Makes Meaning in American Globalization

*Room locations are subject to change. Please check your Program Book onsite to confirm the location when you arrive at the Annual Meeting.


This website contains archived issues of Religious Studies News published online from March 2010 to May 2013, and PDF versions of print editions published from Winter 2001 to October 2009.

This site also contains archived issues of Spotlight on Teaching (May 1999 to May 2013) and Spotlight on Theological Education (March 2007 to March 2013).

For current issues of RSN, beginning with the October 2013 issue, please see here.