The American Academy of Religion is nearly here! Over at Religion in American History, Kelly Baker has put together a great list of panels on religion in America. Also, Kelly and I will be tweeting our observations, thoughts, and snark throughout the weekend.
Due to the limited travel budget of a Ph.D. candidate (who already spent a weekend at the ASA), I’ll only be in lovely San Francisco for Saturday and Sunday. Here are the panels I plan to check out:
First, a star studded panel on “Narrativity in the Study of North American Religions”
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm
Each participant in this roundtable has written a monograph and/or edited a wide-ranging synthetic collection touching on religious diversity and conflict in North America. In a format emphasizing dialogue with the audience, they will reflect on the priorities, methods, and trade-offs involved in shaping such narratives. What are the optimum structuring themes? Are certain decisions about periodization and/or organization by tradition especially helpful? Do certain emerging themes need special attention? What overall logics, themes, values, or theoretical orientations offer optimum coherence (and/or productive incoherence) and structure (and/or productive lack of structure)? Such questions lead naturally toward wider discussions about the implicit structuring priorities and methods running through our field(s) at large. Overall, the panel seeks to spark a productive discussion of the pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, of different underlying narratives and emphases. In this way it hopes to respond to the challenge of clarifying priorities in our field.
Theme: Narrativity in the Study of North American Religions
Thomas Tweed, University of Texas, Austin Janet R. Jakobsen, Barnard College R. Marie Griffith, Harvard University Mark Hulsether, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Second, an interactive session from the Religion and Popular Culture Group:
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Rachel Wagner, Ithaca College, Presiding
Transmedia is the intentional distribution of related storylines or experiences all relating back to a core hub of experience, of branding, or of narrative. Transmedia includes the video games, films, books, apparel, publicity events, fan-fiction, promotions, costumes, and toys associated with a given franchise such as Halo or the Harry Potter universe, or brand names like Nike and Coca Cola. Consumers are not passive consumers of transmedia; they explore, discover, create, and transform, in some cases marketing themselves as transmediated entities. In this panel, we offer entrée into the world of transmedia via a series of short presentations describing key issues in the intersection of religion with transmedia, followed by an hour of open debate in which we will be joined via Skype by Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment and a well-known industry producer of transmedia storytelling. This discussion will show how an analysis of transmedia exposes the intimate connections between religious practice and media production, branding, and marketing.
Theme: Finding Meaning in the Space Between: Religion and Transmedia, an Interactive Panel
Mara Einstein, Queens College J. Sage Elwell, Texas Christian University Rubina Ramji, Cape Breton University Ted Friedman, Georgia State University
Third, a panel on religion, sexuality, and bodies:
Sunday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Sa’diyya Shaikh, University of Cape Town, Presiding
Theme: Contesting Bodies, Configuring Sexuality
Jill Peterfeso, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill “I Am a Daughter of My Heavenly Father”: Transsexual Mormons and Performed Gender Essentialism
Nadeem Mahomed, University of Johannesburg Sexual Diversity, Islamic Jurisprudence, and Sociality
Samira Mehta, Emory University Negotiating the Interfaith Marriage Bed: Religious Difference and Sexual Intimacies
Jason James Kelly, University of Ottawa Ecstatic Desire: The Evolution of the “Erotic” in the Work of Jeffrey J. Kripal
And finally, my own panel on Hinduism in North America (which I know you’ve added to your schedule):
Sunday – 5:00 pm-6:30 pm
Room: MM-Yerba Buena 11
Shreena Gandhi, Kalamazoo College, Presiding
The construction of the category of Hinduism, in any case a complex and contested issue, is further complicated in the context of North America by the predominance of a Protestant “lens” that shapes all categories relating to religion (including, of course, the category of religion itself) and by the emergence of self-identified practitioners of Hinduism who do not identify themselves as Indian. The papers in this session will explore these issues from a variety of perspectives and with a focus on distinct phenomena related to the category of Hinduism in North America. The first paper will problematize the frequently encountered conflation of the categories of “Hindu” and “Indian” through an examination of the Hindu culture of Indo-Caribbeans in Queens, New York. The second paper will focus on the Hindu American Foundation’s “Take Back Yoga” campaign and the various Protestant assumptions from which this ostensibly Hindu project operates. The third paper will investigate events in American cultural history that allowed Protestants to distinguish Hinduism from other traditions, enabling them to “see” it for the first time.
Theme: Constructions of Hindu Selves and Hindu Others in North America
Michele Verma, Rice University Indo-Caribbeans in the United States: Cracking the Conflation of “Hindu” and “Indian”
Anya Pokazanyeva, University of California, Santa Barbara Faith on the Mat: Hindus, Protestants, and the Construction of Yoga
Michael Altman, Emory University Sightings and Blind Spots: The “Protestant Lens” and the Construction of Hinduism
Steven W. Ramey, University of Alabama
See you in San Francisco!