In anticipation of the AAR/SBL Conference 2017

Over the next few days, several of our department shall be attending the American Academy of Religion Conference in Boston. Three give their anticipations for the conference:

Professor David Horrell:

I am more or less prepared to head off to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion, a gathering of around 10,000 scholars in Bible and religion that this year takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. The heart of the conference is of course the presentation and discussion of papers, and mine is, thankfully, pretty much ready. But apart from the paper sessions, the conference is an opportunity to attend various editorial board meetings, and to meet with publishers, international (distance) PhD students, and colleagues from around the world working in similar areas. And, I confess, two highlights for me are to share a hotel room with a good mate from PhD days, 25 years ago in Cambridge, and to gather for dinner with a few colleagues who have become good friends over the years.

Professor Christopher Southgate:

As usual I shall be attending the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in Boston in mid-November. This is held jointly with the Society of Biblical Literature and is an unparalleled opportunity for networking with scholars of religion from all over the world. Job interviews are held there, and there is much courting of the editors from the big publishing houses. This year there is a pre-meeting of the International Society for Science and Religion where some vital contemporary themes in biology will be discussed, in particular the ever-increasing understanding of the importance of cooperation and symbiosis in evolving systems, and the new technology of gene editing known as CRISPR. The ISSR pre-meeting is a really good place to get up to speed with these developments and discuss their implications.

After the pre-meeting the full postmodern smorgasbord of AAR opens up. There are plenaries – in Atlanta in 2015 I had the privilege of hearing ex-President Jimmy Carter, remarkably sharp and lucid at 91 – but more typically delegates are part of their own little micro-communities, each with their own ‘canon’ and ‘hierarchy’. My own typical drop-in spots are the Science, Technology and Religion Group where I am on the Steering Group, and the Religion and Ecology group. But it’s fun to see what other groups are up to – the people who know Schleiermacher backwards, the people whose canon begins and ends with Tillich. Because it is a co-conference with the SBL one can also immerse oneself in Second Corinthians, or come to that the application of texts of many religions to all sorts of politically correct causes. The papers are typically short and often delivered by young scholars seeking to make their way in the field. One drops in and out, and tries not to spend too long in the vast book hall…

I have the honour of chairing the last session of the Science, Technology and Religion Group on the future of the field, and will be fascinated to see where a very diverse constituency thinks it should go.


Dr David Tollerton:

Later this week I’m travelling to Boston, the home of the American Revolution, to talk about ‘British Values’. This isn’t some belated attempt to return the United States to Her Majesty’s rule, but rather to contribute to a wider discussion about religion, history, and education. The term ‘British values’, first coined amidst counter-radicalisation policy, has in recent years become ubiquitous in UK educational contexts, and in my paper I’ll be addressing how this development interacts with issues of religious diversity, national identity-construction, and perceptions of history. Hearing responses to my ideas from a specifically international audience is something I’m especially looking forward to.

Professor David Horrell is Professor of New Testament Studies and the Director of the Centre for Biblical Studies. Professor Christopher Southgate is Associate Professor of the University of Exeter. Dr David Tollerton is a lecturer in Jewish Studies and Contemporary Biblical Cultures and the Director of Postgraduate Research for the Theology and Religion department.

Also attending the conference from our department are Dr Louise Lawrence (Senior Lecturer in New Testament studies), Dr Brandon Gallaher (Lecturer of Systematic and Comparative Theology), Dr Daniel Pedersen (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) and Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion).

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