“Towards a Different Reformation”
Date: Wednesday 29 – Friday 31 August 2018
Venue: Council Chambers, University of Johannesburg
The Reformation in Europe that started with Martin Luther nailing his “95 theses” to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, unleashed (arguably) the second big split in Christendom, and fractured the loose confederation of polities that constituted Western Europe and Western Christendom. The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 coincided with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, as well as the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Within political theory and history, Protestantism has often been seen as crucial to the development of capitalism as the dominant economic and political form in the 18th century.
Consequently, the 150th anniversary of Das Kapital and the centenary of the Russian Revolution afford a unique opportunity for scholars of religion and theology to recalibrate the way in which the Reformation and the origins of Protestantism are conceived, understood, and theorized. Whereas the history of Christian theological thinking casts the Reformation often primarily as a religious and theological event, we propose, rather to consider the Reformation as an iconic event, as discourse, as a series of contested social and ideological formations. As embedded in and as an epiphenomenon of shifts in Europe from the High Middle Ages to the Early Modern period, the Reformation is not to be understood as a singular event.
From the vantage point of a materialist framework we consider the reception history of the Reformation as an idea and concept through the long duration of performances of the Reformation, such that the colloquium not only considers it as an event in the past, but also considers the Reformation as a continually imagined cypher in service of various kinds of interests.
To get the question of the social, political, and theological force of contested inheritances of iconic events into greater focus, the colloquium is specifically not taking place in the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation but in the year following, so as to emphasize that reflection on the celebrations of the anniversary is itself part of our rethinking the Reformation.
In doing so, we draw on theories of religion and the social that are significantly informed by concepts of discourse. Discourse is understood here as the production of (religious) expressions and artefacts as well as the scholarship on such (religious) expressions as operations embedded in the field of discourse, that is, products of and producers of sets of representations (which range from the spoken word, text, gesture, ritual, religious spaces, and the rhythms of life as hidden persuasions), including the social locations that form the originary matrices for the particular inventions of these sets of representations. Thus, discourse includes, as well, the social interests encompassed/encapsulated in and giving rise to these sets of representations, in addition to the logic governing the interrelations between these factors or aspects. Discourse also encompasses the institutionalizations of such “domained” representations in canons of tradition, schools of thought, habitus as habituated action, social formations, cultural and socio-political-economic conventions, that is, as discursive formations.
Papers are invited that investigate the Reformation as historical event (especially addressing the question: what is an event?); and theorizing the Reformation as a discursive event; re-embedding the Reformation (and its reception or effective history) into trajectories of social redefinitions, economic interests, and politico-cultural formations. Papers should particularly consider the imagined Reformation as it continues to inflect contemporary constructions of Christian discourses and identity formations (including reflections on the 500th anniversary celebrations themselves). The emphasis will fall on the human agencies and the various power plays and power effects that underlie the construction of the historical process named the Reformation. In addition, papers should investigate the technologies of discourse production underlying these social redefinitions.
Selected papers from the colloquium will be published in Religion & Theology. A Journal of Contemporary Religious Discourse (Brill).
Conference fee: ZAR 800.00
Due date for proposals, abstracts: Friday 6 April 2018
Contact: Prof. Gerhard van den Heever or Prof. Maria Frahm-Arp
All inquiries and submission of proposals: firstname.lastname@example.org