Call for Papers: 2014 Fordham Theology Conference — The Limits of the Thinkable

The Theology Graduate Student Association at Fordham is organizing its third conference, centered on the theme of religious experience and apophaticism at the limits of thought. The theme is meant to encompass both historical inquiry and constructive work mysticism, apophaticism, ecstatic revelry, theophany, and records of experiences that remain at the edges of “proper” forms of knowing. The conference will take place on Saturday, February 8th at Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus.  

Catherine Keller will be delivering a keynote address at the end of the conference on the logic of the infinite in Nicolas of Cusa. Previous conferences have brought together a rich collection of papers, and presenters have come from all over the Northeast (from as far as Toronto and Ohio). 

If your interests lie in the area, I would encourage you to submit an abstract. Your proposal should be roughly 300 words, and should be sent to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com by January 17th. Notifications will be sent by January 28th. We can provide housing (staying with grad students) for some of the presenters to help defray the cost of attendance.

The full, official text of the CFP is below:

The Limits of the Thinkable: Religious Experience and the Apophatic Impulse Between Antiquity and Modernity (with a keynote address by Dr. Catherine Keller)

2014 Fordham Graduate Theology Conference: Call for Papers

“The concept of limit-situation is a familiar one in the existentialist philosophy and theology of the very recent
past. Fundamentally, the concept refers to those human situations wherein a human being ineluctably finds manifest a certain ultimate limit or horizon to his or her existence… either those ‘boundary’ situations of guilt, anxiety, sickness, and the recognition of death as one’s own destiny, or those situations called ‘ecstatic experiences’- intense joy, love, reassurance, creation… Such experiences… seem to demand reflection upon the existential boundaries of our present everyday experience.”

—David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order

“For any ‘modernity’ to be worthy of one day taking its place as ‘antiquity,’ it is necessary for the mysterious beauty which human life accidentally puts into it to be distilled from it… By modernity, I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent, which makes up one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.”

—Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life

For contemporary scholars of religion, David Tracy’s description of limit-situations as the “stuff” of theological reflection provides a helpful lens through which to consider religious experience. And yet, while one might easily suppose that such “ecstatic” and “boundary” experiences name timeless or perennial aspects of human life, Tracy himself is quick to note that the limit situation is itself a distinctively “modern” discursive phenomenon, having its roots in existentialist philosophy, and entering the mainstream of theological discourse only in the last several generations.

Today both historians of religion as well as constructive theologians are faced with the task of deciding how far religious experiences and limit situations can be meaningfully discussed as separate from their contextual origins in time, language, and culture. As Baudelaire suggests, such a disentangling of what is “eternal and immutable” from the “accidents” of the present-day constitutes a daunting task. And indeed, as each successive generation’s “modernity” seeks to distinguish itself even further from the “pre-modern” preceding it, entanglements between limit-experiences and the new discourses that attend to them can only grow in complexity.

The 3rd Annual Fordham Graduate Theology Conference seeks to examine the relationship between such limit- experiences and their historical and discursive contexts. The Theology Graduate Association warmly invites submissions from graduate students in the disciplines comprising religious studies and theology (and cognate fields). Students whose research is primarily textual/biblical, sociological, historical, philosophical, ethical, or constructive are all invited to submit and attend. Submissions are especially welcomed which: explore the relationship between “religious experience” and “religious history”; situate apophatic and negative theological texts/traditions within their broader historical, social, and discursive contexts (including proposals dealing with modern and contemporary constructive apophatic/negative theologies); explore the ways in which religious communities make use of shared “limit-situation” religious experiences, e.g., as in mystical traditions, Pietism, Pentecostalism, etc.; consider diachrony and synchrony in the construction of theological concepts such as history, memory, affect, and identity; and address the “limits” of religious language generally. Papers addressing related themes beyond these suggestions are welcomed as well.

Abstracts (of roughly 300 words) proposing 20 minute presentations should be sent via email
to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is Friday, January 17th, 2014. Notifications regarding submissions will be given by Monday, January 27th.

The conference will be held on Saturday, February 8th at Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus. A keynote address by Dr. Catherine Keller (Professor of Constructive Theology in the Graduate Division of Religion at Drew University) will consider the curiously “modern” logic of the infinite in Nicolas of Cusa. Complete conference schedule and program to follow. Limited New York City lodging for graduate student presenters is available. Please direct any questions to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com.

Sacred Topographies: or, Parks and Revelation


The second rendition of the Fordham Graduate Theology Conference will take place on October 20th, from 9:30AM – 6:00PM at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus (60th and Columbus). Dr. Elizabeth Castelli of Barnard/Columbia will be giving a keynote address at 5 PM. Fellow student John Penniman has done a fantastic job pulling this year’s conference together.

If you are in the area and interested, I would encourage you to come for all or part of the proceedings. The program is available here, and promises a wide range of interesting papers/panels. Here is the conferences official site.

Sacred Topographies (or) Parks and Revelation

I would encourage you to distribute the following CFP far and wide, and put in a proposal yourself. This year’s conference promises to be an excellent event.

Photo by Angela Lau

Call for Papers :: 2012 Fordham Graduate Theology Conference

 “Places do not, of themselves, defile us, but the things done in the places (by which even the places themselves are defiled).” ~ Tertullian

“Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body.” ~ Michel de Certeau

The Greek word for “place” – topos – carries with it all the ambiguities that modern theorists have come to see as embedded within the concept.  It is both the physical location and one’s orientation to it.  It is both the structural building and the office one holds within it.  And it can be both a reference to a particular part of the human body as well as an occasion or opportunity for that body to act.  Michel de Certeau distinguished the static, stable quality of a place (i.e. the sidewalk) from the malleable, productive, and performative quality of space (i.e. the pedestrian whose walking re-creates this “place” as her own “space”).  Put simply, topos represents the interplay between place and space.

The 2nd Annual Fordham Graduate Theology Conference seeks to investigate the ways in which religion both produces and has been produced by its understandings of space/place. The Theology Graduate Student Association at Fordham invites submissions from graduate students in the disciplines comprising religious studies and theology (and cognate fields).  Students whose research is primarily textual/biblical, sociological, historical, philosophical, ethical, or constructive are all invited to submit and attend. Examples of topics within the scope of the theme include (but are by no means limited to):

Shifting topographies: i.e. What are the ways in which immigration, forced migration, multiculturalism, empire and globalization impact religion’s construction of/by its spatiality? How does human embodiment and its topographical setting inform and give meaning to one another?

Structural topographies: How has religion been influenced by and contributed to an understanding of “constructed” space?  (e.g. the relationship of art and architecture to ritual and religious practice/identity; the appropriation of non-religious – “secular” or “profane” – space for “sacred” use; the mutually determinative relationship between religion and geography, etc.)

Abstracts of 500 words or less should be sent via email to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com by Monday, May 21st.

The conference will be held on Saturday, October 20th at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan. Papers of 15-20 minutes will be given by graduate students. The keynote address will be given by Professor and Chair of the Religion Department at Barnard College, Dr. Elizabeth Castelli. Complete conference schedule, keynote address theme, and other information to follow. Questions may be directed to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com.

Complete conference schedule and program to follow. More information available at the conference website