SORAAAD 2017: Appropriation and the Analytical Study of Religion

Schedule:  Appropriation and the Analytical Study of Religion SORAAAD 2017
11:00 am – 5:00 pm –  Full Program PDF

I. Introduction

Appropriation, Human Behaviors, and the Study of Religion & an Overview of Workshop Themes
William Arnal, Sean McCloud, Jamel Velji, Jennifer Knust and Ipsita Chatterjea

II. Case Studies: Appropriation, “Amnesia,” Narrative, Plunder, and Erasure

(Re)narrativizing Origins: the Case of Coffee
Jamel Velji

The Bible as Plunder The Theft of Codex Bezae and the Problem of                      Provenance
Jennifer Knust

Endogenous Appropriation: Gendered Labor and AME Women
Ipsita Chatterjea

III. Analytical Frames: Appropriation, Taking, Territoriality, and Identity

What’s in a Word?  Appropriations, Bricolage, Syncretisms, Hybrids, and Combinations in our Teaching and Research
Sean McCloud

Identity before and after ‘Cultural Appropriation’: Test-cases from Christian Origins, Jewish-Christianity, and Jewish-Christian Relations
Annette Yoshiko Reed


American popular culture has always been enamored with blue-eyed soul, rewarding it to the detriment and exclusion of the very black artists who pioneered these musical traditions.

Dr. Brittney Cooper – Rutgers University, on Adele’s win of Album of the Year for 25 over Lemonade by Beyoncé

I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it,
I twirl on them haters, albino alligators.
Beyoncé “Formation,” Lemonade

In year seven, SORAAAD will focus on appropriation. How is appropriation defined with respect to power and consumption? How is appropriation considered an act of interpretation and exchange? How are appropriation and its contestation meaningful for those we study?  What do instances or ongoing acts of appropriation tell us about  the politics of representation and classification? In this workshop we will consider the implicit and overt acts of exogenous and endogenous appropriation deployed by the subjects of our research, as well as those that we deploy ourselves when designing qualitative research. We shall look at appropriation as a function of exchange, agency, erasure, classification, and power. Jamel Velji, Annette Yoshiko Reed, Sean McCloud, Jennifer Knust, and Ipsita Chatterjea will address the erasure of the Islamic origins of coffee, Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity,  avenues for assessing mixing and power in new religious movements, plunder, archeology, and the Bible,  and the endogenous appropriation and erasure of Black women’s labor. Finally, we will discuss how we as scholars cite, borrow, and adapt from other scholars.

Religious studies is an interdisciplinary field. But does its status as such justify our sometimes undisciplined mechanisms of “borrowing” – methodological, topical, conceptual, or otherwise – from other fields? We routinely witness scholarly acts of appropriation that silence points made by other scholars and also ignore their standards for substantiation. To move beyond our own acts of appropriation by name-dropping, can we begin to talk about what we owe to other religion scholars and scholarship in other disciplines by way of disciplined adaptations? Can we justify our borrowings such that they might be viewed as sensible adaptations and complementary or logical extensions by those from whom we have borrowed?

Participants and panelists in this year’s workshop will explore questions crucial both to their areas of specialization and to religious studies as a discipline. How can we track the varied and dynamic ways that ‘appropriation’ morphs as an assertion of hegemony across space and time?  How do we relate event specific studies of relatively small populations to larger discourses without distorting particular expressions as either definitively representative or dismissible as insufficient evidence? Who gets to appropriate without stigma?  How do we track and contextualize fixations on specific narratives, persistent erasures, and outcomes? To what end and with what pivots can we productively compare observed appropriation and scholarly appropriation? In the case of the latter, how can we self-check a tendency to invoke theories and other disciplines developed in other contexts without clarifying the context of exchange and carrying out the methodological labor demanded by these approaches? How do we continue to integrate research that demonstrates how appropriation has warped our study of religions both in- and outside a “Western context,” e.g., by privileging some forms to the detriment of scholarly understandings of factionalisms, esotericisms, indigenous religions, fictional religions, and new religions?

“Appropriation and the Analytical Study of Religion” will be of interest to scholars who already enact social science and critical humanities research methodologies; to those who want to develop techniques to denaturalize appropriation and examine the nature of acquisition and deployments of culture where exchange over looks power imbalances; and to anyone who wants to rethink how appropriation manifests, functions, and is used to normalize activity within specifically heterogeneous power structures.

The SORAAAD Workshop Committee: William Arnal, Ipsita Chatterjea, David Walker, Ed Silver, Rebecca Raphael, Randall Styers, and Jens Kreinath.

SORAAAD at the University of Regina Religious Studies Department
Northeastern University Philosophy and Religion Department- Institutional Sponsor
Wellesley College – Religious Studies Department.
Texas State University – Philosophy Department

To register, please send an email to William[dot]Arnal[at]uregina[dot]ca. Place “registration” in the subject line, and include your name, indication of rank (independent scholar, graduate student, professor, etc.), and institution, if applicable, in the body of the email. You might wish to review the SORAAAD Workshop Ethos.

Registration is free, but required. Lunch will be provided.
SORAAAD thanks its sponsors for making this possible.
Participation Limit: 40

SORAAAD’s committee would like to thank Sean McCloud, Tim Jensen, David Frankfurter, Megan Goodwin, Matthew Sheedy, Stacie Swain, The Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, Christopher Cotter and David Robertson for their ongoing support of the workshop.

Social Media
#SORAAAD2017 is the official hashtag for “Appropriation and the Analytical Study of Religion.”  For news about the workshop, analytical scholarship in religion and cognate fields, the latest from our partners and your peers, and issues facing higher education please follow:  @SORAAADWorkshop.  SORAAAD is also on Facebook, and  LinkedIn

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