AUFS Approved AAR Sessions

I won’t be able to make the AAR this year, and to be completely honest even when I have attended I only attended the panels I spoke on. Something to do with the sheer size of the conference and the complete lack of atmosphere the hotels seem to foster makes it very difficult. Still, there are quite a few panels this year that are making me wish I was heading out there and many of them will be featuring friends of AUFS. I thought I’d start listing them now and other contributors can add to the list if they wish. We’ll post the list again closer to the date (Nov 7-10). I’ve moved the names of AUFS friends to the top of each session listed.

Bible, Theology, and Postmodernity Group
Theme: Trauma and the Cross

Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

Jon L. Berquist, Westminster John Knox Press, Presiding

Adam Kotsko, Kalamazoo College
Patristic Perspectives on the Cross: A Reinterpretation

This paper explores patristic reactions to the violent trauma at the heart of the Christian movement: the crucifixion. Many “theologians of the cross” have accused the patristic authors of evading or downplaying the crucifixion, out of motives such as shame or fear of appearing politically subversive. The author proposes an alternate reading of these “evasions” as a way of reducing the cross as the core tool of imperial domination to a harmless allegorical plaything. The author concludes by assessing this approach as a way of dealing with trauma.

Sharon V. Betcher, Vancouver School of Theology
Breathing through the Pain: Engaging the Cross through Tonglen, Taking to City Streets as Mendicants

Flora A. Keshgegian, Brown University
Rendering the Cross: The Gospels as Trauma Texts

Shelly Rambo, Boston University
Perilous Steps: Rethinking the Nature of Life in the Midst of Death

North American Association for the Study of Religion
Disenchantment and Reenchantment in Political Theology: Diagnosing the Crisis of Liberalism

Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

Bruce Rosenstock, University of Illinois
Hegel and Modern Political Theology

Benjamin Lazier, Reed College
Miracles and the Crisis of Liberalism between the Wars and Beyond

Kurt Anders Richardson, McMaster University
Legislation and Affection: On the Anthropological Dimensions of a Political Theology

Robert Yelle, University of Memphis
Liberalism Has No Charisma: Critiques of the Political Theology of Modernity in Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Philip Rieff

John Milbank, University of Nottingham

Theology and Continental Philosophy Group
Theme: Creation, Nature, and Flesh

Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

Claire Katz, Texas A & M University, Presiding

Lissa McCullough, Los Angeles, CA
Derrida in the Flesh
In “The Animal That Therefore I Am,” Derrida offers himself to an extraordinary auto-deconstruction that should become a lesson to us all. The apocalyptic implications are potent, though it is an apocalypse that approaches, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “on doves’ feet.” The revelatory event occurs uneventfully—silently and privately—in Derrida’s bathroom as he stands “naked” before the gaze of a cat. The impact of her gaze commences waves of deconstructive reflection that follow in a seeming infinitude of reverberations, unveiling a defensively elaborated world of manipulative naming, protective cultural clothing, and reflexive shame. Derrida is caught in the flesh and beheld in this condition by a nonhuman, nondivine gaze, obliging him to question all the biblical, theological, cultural layers of “being seen” “naked” by the “gaze of an other” who is, this moment, more truly other than any other. Can concrete relations with animals ‘dehumanize’ us in a wholly positive, enriching sense?

Daniel Whistler, University of Oxford [Co-editor of After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion]
God in Language in Nature: Schelling’s Physics of Divine Names
This paper takes Schelling’s philosophy of nature as paradigmatic for the recent resurgence of interest in nature within continental philosophies of religion. I argue that what has not yet been fully understood in appeals to Schelling’s work therein is the extent of the convergence between his Naturphilosophie and his philosophy of religion in the texts of his middle period (1809-15). In these works, an adequate philosophical construction of nature becomes identical to an enquiry into the divine conditions of the natural world – thus Naturphilosophie is only completed by means of theology. In this paper, having elucidated this method of collapsing philosophy of nature and religion into one another, I proceed to argue that it is possible for Schelling only on the basis of a reconsideration of language as a natural entity: it is only when language becomes subject to physics that the divine grounds of nature can be uncovered.

Francis James Sanzaro, Syracuse University
Using the Flesh to Avoid Transcendence in Contemporary and Late Antique Christology; or, How to Make Yourself a Being of Univocity

Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group
Theme: Issues in Film Theory and Production

Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

John Lyden, Dana College, Presiding

This session considers how the study of film and film theory impacts the religious or theological interpretation of films, through consideration of the unique nature of film as a medium. Attention to details of film production, style, technique, and ideology can inform the analysis of how films inform, challenge, or entertain.

Thomas Lynch, Durham University
Cinema and Subjectivity: On the Possibility of Theological Films

This paper presents a reconsideration of the role of film in relation to theology. Challenging the common practice of using films to illustrate theological concepts, I will argue that film must be understood as a non-theological practice. This argument will proceed through four stages. First, I will present the dominant approaches to film and theology found in theological literature and university courses. Second, I will reject this practice through an exploration of what it means for film to function as non-theology. Third, I will explain how this non-theological function relates to processes of subjectivisation. Fourth, I will argue that this re-configuration of the relationship of film to theology is crucial to understanding the role of film in teaching theology. By demonstrating how film does non-theology, I will bring continental philosophy’s recent interaction with film to bear on theological issues.

Joanne Mercer, Queen’s College
Theology and Film Form in the Work of Norman McLaren

Ryan Parker, Graduate Theological Union
Life After Death? Independent Christian Filmmaking in a Post-Passion World

Ken Derry, University of Toronto
“Holy Christ-figures, Batman!” Zealous Nationalism and Prophetic Realism in Iron Man and The Dark Knight

Tony S. L. Michael, York University
Show Abstract co-presenter with Ken Derry

Wildcard Session
Theme: Whither the “Death of God”: A Continuing Currency?

Sunday – 3:00 pm-4:30 pm
PDC-517A; View Map

Lissa McCullough, Los Angeles, CA, Presiding

This session features a conversation between prominent radical theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer and well-known cultural critic Slavoj Žižek on the continuing and changing currency of the “death of God” idea within theology, religious studies, philosophy, the arts, and the trajectory of global culture in general. How has the notion of the death of God evolved as the secularization thesis has declined? Has the phrase become passé or is it alive, current, and still significant? Must we understand this phrase in new senses in the present globalizing world? What are the most important resources and thinkers for contending with its meaning? Around the core exchange of the two panelists, some thirty or more scholars, junior and senior, who have been closely engaged with the death of God idea have been invited to participate actively from the audience, with the intent to catalyze a lively, multifaceted conversation on these issues.


Thomas Altizer, Mt. Pocono, PA
Slavoj Zizek, University of Ljubljana

North American Association for the Study of Religion
Postcoloniality, Secular Critique, and Democratic Futures

Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am

Jeffrey W. Robbins, Lebanon Valley College, Presiding

Clayton Crockett, University of Central Arkansas
Vodou’ Economics: Haiti and the Future of Democracy

Ananda Abeysekara, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Impossibility of Secular Critique, Future Memory of Postcolonial Religion

Laura Levitt, Temple University
American Jews, Religious Pluralism, and the Secular Public Sphere: Reconsidering the Terms of Democratic Inclusion

Arvind Mandair, University of Michigan
Infecting Democracy: Indian Secularism and the Problem of Interdiction

Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Group and Theology and Continental Philosophy Group
Theme: Theological Interventions: Love and Kenosis

Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm

Christine E. Gudorf, Florida International University, Presiding

Jodi Belcher, Vanderbilt University
Subversion through Subjection: A Feminist Reconsideration of Kenosis in Christology and Christian Discipleship

This paper reformulates Christological kenosis and its implications for Christian discipleship in light of the confusion surrounding “self-emptying” language and the painful ramifications of its prescription in Christianity, particularly for women. The central thesis claims that understanding kenosis in terms of subjection not only subverts the traditional, simplistic construal of self-emptying as loss of self, but also provides a recapitulation of kenosis as a transformative and empowering re-identification in God that feminist theology can plausibly engage and affirm. To develop this argument, the paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach, initially giving a constructive critique of Sarah Coakley’s conception of Christ’s kenosis as the concurrence of divine power and human vulnerability. This evaluation of Coakley is then supplemented with Judith Butler’s philosophical account of power and subject formation in the process of subjection. The argument concludes by proposing a constructive contemporary retrieval of kenosis as subversive subjection.

Dennis King Keenan, Fairfield University
On the Genealogy of Love

Christianity and Academia Consultation
Theme: Theology in the Saeculum of the University

Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm

C. Hannah Schell, Monmouth College, Presiding

Christian theology has had a complicated relationship with secular universities in the contemporary era. Through a series of studies that combine elements of historical, theological, sociological, and disciplinary analysis, these four papers explore the complexities of this relationship. By analyzing public figures, student perceptions, and larger methodological issues surrounding the place of theology and spirituality in the secular university (or in especially secular spaces within such institutions), this session raises substantive questions about the theory and practice of theology as an academic discipline in the postmodern era.

Christopher Rodkey, Lebanon Valley College
The Last Public Theologian: Thomas Altizer at Emory University

Thomas Altizer, professor at Emory, found himself in the middle of the “death of God” controversy in 1965 that culminated in being condemned by the Methodist Bishops in 1966, an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show, and even a cover story on Time magazine that is still remembered today. This paper will investigate the progression of these events, and how Emory University’s defense of Altizer created a new culture of academic freedom in church-related colleges. Conversely, the entire episode also confined the role of the undergraduate-teaching theologian to be more strictly defined as being in the classroom. Finally, this paper will also suggest that the situation also closed the media off to the possibility of a public theologian in the United States.

Paul Macdonald, Bucknell University
Theology as Knowledge: Finding a Place for the Study of Christian Theology in the Secular University

Lake Lambert, Wartburg College
Spirituality in the Business Curriculum

James Pitts, University of Edinburgh
Theologians in Exile: Student Perceptions of the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh

Christian Systematic Theology Section
Theme: The Apocalyptic Turn in Theology

Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm

Damon McGraw, National Institute for Newman Studies, Presiding

In Theology and the Spaces of Apocalyptic, Cyril O’Regan has provided us with a fresh analysis of and a programmatic apology for the apocalyptic turn in contemporary theology. In this session, three outstanding participants in this phenomenon respond to O’Regan’s argument, voice their own assessments of the apocalyptic turn, and articulate their convictions about the way forward.


Thomas Altizer, Mount Pocono, PA
Catherine Keller, Drew University
Graham Ward, University of Manchester


Cyril J. O’Regan, University of Notre Dame

17 thoughts on “AUFS Approved AAR Sessions

  1. Lissa McCullough’s reference to that Derrida passage reminds me of the scene from Alien when the ship engineer’s lackey is killed (the first time the full-grown alien kills someone) — instead of showing the attack, they show the cat watching it happen.

  2. The last two were my additions. The first one, “Theology in the Saeculum of the University” because of (a) the debate in these parts about that very subject, and (b) because Chris Rodkey (who has commented a few times here) should deal w/ the topic in an engaging way. The second one I include because Cyril O’Regan is an interesting guy in his own right; and the session is made all the more interesting by the very bizarre mixture of personalities on the panel.

  3. Isn’t this session up your alley APS?

    Theology and Continental Philosophy Group”
    Anne Joh, Phillips Theological Seminary,

    Theme: Theology and Gilles Deleuze/Felix

    F. LeRon Shults, Agder University
    Theology after Oedipus? Deleuze, Infinity,
    and the Liberation of Desire

    Luke Higgins, Drew University
    Becoming Bestial as Spiritual Politics: Virtual Animals in Deleuze-Guattari and Origen

    Bradley H. McLean, University of Toronto
    The Exteriority of Biblical Meaning and
    the Plentitude of Desire: An Exploration of
    Deleuze’s Non-Metaphysical Hermeneutics
    of Kafka

  4. Hey, thanks for highlighting my paper. The Christianity and Academia consultation has asked the papers to be fairly short but I hope what I can present will live up to the recommendation. I will be submitting it to journals after the conference.

    If anyone would like to see the draft of the full version please email me and I’ll send it to you (cdrodkey AT yahoo DOT com).

    Also, Luke Higgins’ paper should be good too, he was a classmate of mine at Drew; he is a student of Catherine Keller’s.

  5. I left Kerr’s panel off since it has been mentioned on the two big blogs (Faith and Theology and Inhabito Dei) and from there mentioned on a number of other, smaller blogs. Dave Belcher, husband to Jodi Belcher whose paper is mentioned above, is also presenting on those sessions.

  6. I guess I should note that the whole “AUFS seal of approval” thing is a joke and by no means does it mean that if a session isn’t listed that we have somehow not bestowed our blessing on it. We’re not actually megalomaniacs!

  7. Let me clarify, beyond stating that Adam and I have mutual interest in letting our eyes gaze upon similar words:

    Adam, would you be able to make your paper available to those of us not going to AAR?

  8. Myles, Sure. My point in responding to your comment was that I haven’t written it yet, and I would like to be able to read it because that would mean it’s done.

    Alex, Failing that, you could always go straight to the source and read the Derrida text itself.

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