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June 8: Book Discussion, “Culture in Theology and Anthropology”

Thursday, June 8, 6:00-8:00pm
Book Discussion, “Culture in Theology and Anthropology”

Our final event of the year will be a discussion of two books in relation to each other: Kathryn Tanner’s Theories of Culture and Marilyn Ivy’s Discourses of the Vanishing. We will be focusing on their conceptions of culture.

The workshop has limited funds to purchase copies of the books for discussion participants. If you would like to participate in this discussion, please email and indicate whether you would like us to purchase the books for you.

The gathering will be hosted off-campus. Dinner will be provided.

May 15: Raúl Zegarra, “Liberation Theology and Pentecostalism”

Monday, May 15, 12:00-1:15pm (Swift 208)
Raúl Zegarra, PhD student in Theology
“‘The Latin American Church Opted for the Poor and the Poor Opted for Pentecostalism’: A Re-Assessment”

Abstract: In this paper I study comparatively the emergence and development of Pentecostalism and liberation theology in Latin America. My interest is to help fill the gap in current research, for many studies exist on Pentecostalism and liberation theology, but very few study both phenomena in relation to each other. Moreover, there is no investigation that compares both movements within the framework of secularization theories, which is the aim of this presentation.

The main question of the paper is why and how these two movements massively expanded in Latin America almost at the same time despite the fact of their quite different orientations. Moreover, given the consistent growth of Pentecostalism and what seems to be the stagnation of the liberation theology movement, I would like to provide a hypothesis to both explain the reasons of these different outcomes and also suggest some clues regarding how the future may look for both movements.

The paper proceeds, first, by offering some general theoretical background in order to understand both movements. My goal in this section is to show that liberation theology and Pentecostalism are better understood in the context of the general process of secularization, in its particular Latin American version. Second, I discuss both movements directly paying attention to their emergence, major developments, and highlighting their main differences and commonalities. Finally, after adding some nuances coming from more recent studies, I go back to the issue of secularization to suggest that these movements show us two different but potentially complementary forms of re-sacralization of both the person and society. I maintain that both movements can learn from each other and find fruitful paths of collaboration that can renew the face of Latin America and help the poor to find both spiritual and social-political transformation.

Lunch will be provided. Please email for more information. Copies of the paper are also available but need not be read in advance.

April 5: Syllabus Discussion, “Teaching Contextual Theology”

Wednesday, April 5, 6:00-8:00pm
Syllabus Discussion, “Teaching Contextual Theology”

In order to see what other scholars are currently reading and teaching (in the fields of Global Christianities, Contextual Theology, and beyond) we are collecting syllabi from our colleagues at other institutions. Please look over these syllabi. What themes or trends do you notice looking over them? Are there any texts that surprised you? What did you learn from these syllabi? What would you do differently?

If you would like to participate in this discussion, please email for access to the Google Drive folder where you can share and read other syllabi.

The gathering will be hosted off-campus. Dinner will be provided.

Feb 15: Group Discussion, “What is Contextual Theology?”

Wednesday, February 15, 6:00-8:00pm
Group Discussion on Contextual Theology

This informal discussion will center around the topics of contextual theology and contextual religious ethics. Please consider the following sub-questions in advance and come prepared to discuss them:

a) Do I consider my work contextual? In which way?
b) What are the marks of contextual thinking when considered in contrast to other approaches?
c) What is the role of the social sciences in my understanding of the contextual task?
d) Do I see my understanding of contextual theology/ethics as something shaping the field in the years to come? Why / how?

The gathering will be hosted off-campus. Dinner will be provided. Please email for more information.

Jan 24: Robert A. Cathey, “Where We Live, What We Believe”

Tuesday, January 24, 12:00-1:15pm (Swift 208)
Robert A. Cathey, “Where We Live, What We Believe: Thinking Contextually with Ateek, Raheb, and Gregerman about Israel / Palestine.”

Abstract: This paper compares the work of two Palestinian Christian theologians, Naim Ateek and Mitri Raheb. Naim Ateek is an Anglican Palestinian with Israeli citizenship in Jerusalem who calls his project ‘Palestinian liberation theology’ and Mitri Raheb is Lutheran Palestinian pastor in Bethlehem who calls his project a contextual theology for Palestinians. The paper then discusses the critique of Ateek and Raheb by Adam Gregerman, an American scholar of Jewish classical texts, who sees in Ateek and Raheb’s theologies new forms of ‘Christian anti-Judaism.’

Please email for a copy of the paper, which should be read in advance.

Lunch will be provided.

Jan 10: Alice Yeh, “Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession in China”

Tuesday, January 10, 12:00-1:15pm (Swift 208)
Alice Yeh, Ph.D. student in Anthropology
“Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession in China”

We will be discussing a grant proposal by Alice Yeh (Ph.D. student in Anthropology) for her dissertation research on Maoist Self-Examination and Christian Confession in China. Please email for a copy of the proposal, which should be read in advance.

Overview: This project investigates how the pedagogical legacy of Maoist self-examination has informed Christian confession in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, where economic prosperity and Christian growth have influenced the cultivation of self and subjectivity. How does confession reproduce and recirculate not only Euro-Christian forms of “sin” but also contemporary Chinese understandings of civic cultivation and the self? In what ways has the discourse of Cultural Revolution-era criticism and self-criticism continued to circulate in Chinese society? What are the political economies of the discursive interaction between secular aspirations and religious belief? By following the linguistic practices of self-discipline in both Protestant and Catholic contexts, my research seeks to delineate the multi-faceted tensions that construct and contest the object of “Chinese Christianity.” How do different orientations toward the state and distinct ideologies of sincerity inform the style and content of Protestant testimonies and Catholic confessions? Understanding how secular pedagogical discipline inflects the religious labor of converting self into discourse is critical to re-conceptualizing the shifting place of religion in the postsocialist state. The corpus of sample or parodic confessions I plan to collect will illuminate the most salient stylistic features of the confessional genre and the metapragmatic awareness its composition requires. This ethnography of confession engages with and aims to contribute to scholarship on linguistic ideologies of the public/private distinction, the metapragmatics of ritual, and the anthropology of Christianity.

Nov 15: Aaron Hollander, “Lionslayers: Hagiographical Imagination and National Struggle”

Tuesday, Nov 15, 12:00-1:15pm (Swift 208)
Aaron Hollander, Ph.D. candidate in Theology: “Lionslayers: Hagiographical Imagination and National Struggle on the Island of Saints”

In 1961, a “National Struggle Museum” was created to remember and glorify the heroes of the Greek Cypriot anticolonial war. This museum functions, I will argue, as a hagiographical medium, rendering for local and international publics an aura of sanctification around the fallen fighters. Such an impression is generated by the museum’s spatial mise-en-scène, its progressive orientation of visitors who move through its halls, its ways of curating belongings and images of the dead, its narrative construction of the life and conduct of the fighters, and its subtle evocation of traditional saintly patronage (in particular that of Saint George) associated with the island’s communities. Drawing on original fieldwork in Cyprus between 2014-2016, I will treat the National Struggle Museum as a tight lens through which to consider the diversity of processes by which modern Orthodox Christians in (post)colonial situations construe, commemorate, and maintain relationships with holiness.

Lunch will be provided.

Nov. 9: Ekaterina Lomperis, “Costs of our Healing”

Wednesday, Nov 9, 2016, 4:30-6:00pm (Swift 208)
Ekaterina Lomperis, Ph.D. candidate in Theology: “Costs of our Healing: On Martin Luther, Facebook, and the Problem of Global Health”

The paper examines little-studied theological teachings about medicine by the founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, based on close readings of his writings, especially his lectures on Genesis and Deuteronomy. I argue that, for Luther, human pursuits of healing were spiritual and morally charged enterprises. I further show that his writings on medicine were informed by his concerns about the limits of healing and ethical dangers inherent in the pursuits of health. Renewed attention to such concerns can shed a new light on present public conversations regarding medicine: from Facebook’s new biomedical research initiative to global health inequalities.

*Note the unusual meeting time. This event will be co-sponsored by the Theology & Religious Ethics Workshop. Refreshments will be provided.