Rhetoric and Religion as Resources for Resistance: An Interdisciplinary Conference

Andre E. Johnson's picture
Call for Papers
Tennessee, United States
Subject Fields: 
Communication, Composition & Rhetoric, Religious Studies and Theology, Digital Humanities, Linguistics

An Interdisciplinary Conference
The University of Memphis
Memphis, TN
October 19-21, 2023

In times of unabashed misogyny, xenophobia, “alternative facts,” “fake news,” open vitriol, racism, and hate, if I do not preach and act out the fundamental truth that God loves all, then I lose my self-respect. If I do not reach deep into moral imagination and envision a world beyond the supremacist, nationalistic, and oppressive culture in which I live, then I have sacrificed my principles and embarrassed my calling as a minister of the gospel.
– Frank A. Thomas,
How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon


Rhetoric is indeed, as many theologians feared, risky and messy.
– Majorie O’Rourke Boyle,
“Rhetorical Theology: Charity Seeking Charity”


In Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, David Dark observes that religion — and we’d add rhetoric — “is the question of how we dispose our energies, how we see fit to organize our own lives and, in many cases, the lives of others.” Majorie O’Rourke Boyle nicely captures the contingency of such a claim when she notes that rhetoric — and we’d add religion — is risky and messy. Religion and rhetoric coalesce around virtually every human concern, which is why we feel compelled to open this call for papers asking what roles religious rhetorics, and rhetorics of religion more generally, play in helping us to “envision a world beyond the supremacist, nationalistic, and oppressive culture” that Frank Thomas calls out in How To Preach a Dangerous Sermon? It’s a perennial question, of course, but as scholarship that interrogates the intersections of rhetoric and religion continues to proliferate, Thomas reminds us of the role religious rhetorics play in cultivating communities of resistance, especially ones that can rise to the challenge of imagining a more hopeful and just future starting in the present.

We invite scholars to submit individual or coauthored paper and panel proposals focusing on any project related to rhetoric and religion, but we are especially interested in work that helps us imagine the resources that can be cultivated from the study of religious rhetorics, whether those resources are pedagogical, philosophical, homiletic, activist-focused, or something else.

As with the previous Rhetoric & Religious Traditions conference that took place in 2018, presenters might examine the intersections between work on religious rhetorics and other subfields of communication studies, rhetoric and writing studies, religious studies, homiletics, sociology, anthropology, or other fields that engage with the philosophy of language and communication. Presenters might discuss the ways scholarship on religion and rhetoric might be invigorated by studying spiritual traditions and practices of particular groups. Other researchers might examine the ways scholarship on rhetoric and religion can help us explore key cultural concerns in our current moment, including how problems like the ones Thomas names — things like white supremacy, xenophobia, and misinformation — can be engaged using the resources of particular rhetorical and religious traditions.

Importantly, we also want to make space for work that is anti-religious, non-religious, or takes a critical perspective on religious rhetoric. We wish to cultivate an interdisciplinary space that welcomes believers, skeptics, atheists, activists, scholars, and religious leaders. We especially hope scholars doing work on non-Western religious traditions will consider submitting a proposal.

We welcome Single Paper and Full Panel (3-4 speakers) proposals. Please limit Single Paper proposals to 250 words and Full Panel Proposals to 500 words. For Full Panel proposals, please include the names/email addresses of each speaker.

Please submit proposals via this submission link by March 15, 2023.

Inquires can be sent to Dr. Will Duffy and Dr. Andre E. Johnson at rrtconference@gmail.com

Contact Info: 

Andre E. Johnson

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