Call for Papers
Divining the Message / Mediating the Divine
April 2-3, 2010
Columbia University Religion Graduate Students' Conference
Whether sacred symbols or sanctioned authorities, intermediaries have been both conduits for and barriers to access to the divine. Mediating objects, forms, rituals, and people have long been central to religious practice and belief. They are conditions of both possibility and impossibility, at one and the same time providing glimpses of the heavens and anchoring us to the earth.
Institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Imamate have at times dictated the ways in which humans commune with the divine. In other places and at other times, charismatic leaders or apprenticed specialists have mediated more directly. Some of these leaders prophetically mediate between a culture's past and its future, and in the example of the archive, between its past and its present sovereignty. At other times, previously religious spheres have undergone near total reinscription, leaving passive forces like evolution and the invisible hand of the economy to dictate what was previously the realm of a more intentional being. The institutions mediating faith in markets and divine faith have changed radically, leaving us to wonder what may persist through their reinscription.
New media technologies have transformed not only how people commune with one another, but also how they communicate with the divine. With the printing press and telephone wires, and with television and the internet, we can now consider whether our message to the divine is best delivered by letter, email, voicemail, or text message. While many still attend brick and mortar churches, build a sukkah in their backyard, or chant at a Shinto shrine, the current moment of technological acceleration has changed the ways in which many people practice religion. Some study Buddhism in the virtual gaming world of Second Life, others visit a satellite campus of Saddleback Church to see Rick Warren's Sunday sermon streamed in from the other side of Orange County, and still others sit on the beach while reading the New International Version of the Bible on their Amazon Kindles. As intermediaries proliferate, and as our relationship to old mediations changes, so do the ways in which we practice religion, imagine the divine, and imagine ourselves.
The 2010 Columbia University Religion Graduate Students' Conference seeks to bring together papers from a wide range of disciplinary, theoretical, historical, and geographical perspectives that examine varying conceptions of mediation, including:
1. The media of mediation (print, TV, internet, cinema, icons, translation, etc.)
2. The institutions of mediation (Church, state, theology, tradition, economy, culture)
3. The people who mediate (the Pope, gurus, pastors, priests, sťance mediums, other spiritual leaders, and the spirit possessed)
4. Temporal mediations (prophecy, mourning, melancholy, and trauma, as mediating the past, present, and future)
Presenters from the social sciences and humanities are equally welcome. We also invite visual art proposals exploring the conference's theme to be displayed in the gallery adjoining the panel rooms for the duration of the conference.
Please submit an abstract (prepared for blind review) of no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 1, 2009. Final papers should be 9-12 double-spaced pages in length (presenters will have approximately 20 minutes to speak). Panel submissions are also welcome; for panels of 3 or 4 presenters, please include an abstract of 250 words detailing the common concerns tying the individual presentations together, in addition to the individual paper abstracts.
Joseph Blankholm, Liane Carlson, Benjamin Fong
Columbia University Religion Department,
Graduate Student Conference
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