I did not get to attend much of the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History this past weekend in New Orleans. I did manage, however, to slip in for Laurie Maffly-Kipp’s presidential address on Saturday night and crash the dinner buffet that followed! From all reports, including Emily Suzanne Clark’s synopsis at Religion in American History, it seems like it was a lively and engaging conference.
Here is a taste of Clark’s post:
Academic conferences are some of my favorite things (sorry brown paper packages tied up with string, well, unless there’s a copy of Color of Christ inside the paper). This past weekend was the meeting for the American Society of Church History, along with the American Historical Association and the American Catholic Historical Association. I had wonderful meals with fellow blog contributors such Ed Blum, Lin Fisher, Mike Pasquier, and Kelly Baker and lots of gumbo (not to mention a delicious chocolate bread pudding!). And I attended some wonderful panels too, a few of which I’ll offer some initial thoughts below. Before though, I have to give a huge shout-out to FSU doctoral student Shaun Horton who live-blogged the conference.
Upon getting into NOLA, I made it just in time for the first round of panels, which included an all-star line-up of John Corrigan, Liz Clark, Amanda Porterfield, and Kathryn Lofton in “Restructuring Religion: American Approaches to Modernism.” Corrigan explored the relationship between different ideas about “dead space” in art and ways to analyze religious competition in the modern American period. His idea that a main way religious groups make their identity is by pushing off other groups—especially as space became increasingly scarce—is one that continues to make me try to think through new ways to conceive of the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and often multi-tension-ridden nineteenth century New Orleans religious milieu. Clark introduced us to Catholic modernist and church historian George LaPiana and Porterfield offered us a new and innovative way to think about William James—as a scholar with a modernist esthetic. In her response, Lofton encouraged us to think about modernism as including the emergence of new subjectivities, always noting how those new subjectivities are concurrent with new modes of thinking and understanding the world, and the process of these two things together. Great way to start the weekend! They were followed by a panel of graduate students speaking about ideas regarding “God’s Kingdom” in supernatural and natural landscapes, which featured ideas about religion and technology, religion and the “free market,” and Sylvester Graham’s theology.