CFP: Drew University, Trandisciplinary Theological Colloquium - Haunted (by) Speech: Translating Religions and Religious Translations, CALL EXTENDED

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Call for Papers
March 17, 2023 to March 19, 2023
United States
Subject Fields: 
Religious Studies and Theology, South Asian History / Studies, Islamic History / Studies, Jewish History / Studies, African History / Studies

The Drew University Graduate Division of Religion is pleased to announce its 21st Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium to be held March 17th to 19th. This year’s conversation will be centered around our conference theme:

Haunted (by) Speech: Translating Religions and Religious Translations

“What is it, then, to translate? Deep language learning of the original, straining to be haunted by it so it can be learned before reason.” — Gayatri Spivak

TTC 2023 is inspired by previous colloquia (Planetary Loves in 2007; Decolonizing Epistemologies in 2008; Life Under the Baobab Tree in 2017; and Trans: Human/Divine Bodies Beyond Boundaries in 2018). However, while these conferences considered the importance of “translation” in relation to postcolonial and decolonial theory, Africana studies, and gender and trans studies, this conference narrows its focus quite specifically on the problematic of “translation” itself. Indeed, we ask what is lost, but also what is gained in the act of translating religion.

Our starting point is translation theory and studies, the rich and vibrant field that takes into account questions of coloniality, cultural fluency, linguistic equivalence, and accented speech. To think about translation opens up the question of being haunted, possessed by, even surrendering to language and all of the cultural, political, and religious implications found within it. But, this process is one that is marked by risk, as the very act of translation prompts us to consider the enacting of wounds, the losses that manifest in the process. We acknowledge that the very form of this conference participates in monolingualism (namely, a particular form of English) in a U.S. based university, and thus, it is marked by the risk of another symbolic violence of translation in the transnational imbalance of power. We call attention to such limitations in hopes of generating a more thoughtful debate on these important issues. We hope this self-reflective awareness will be a consideration for participants.

In addition, we do not seek to remain solely within the realm of words and language. We also want to see what happens when “translation” moves into other registers, religious and interreligious registers that require us to think about the translation of beliefs, feelings, and thoughts into action or practice. We also turn to the problem of translation to consider what might not be translatable. Where might the procedures of equivalence and comparison become hegemonic practices that do not enact an appeal to “planetarity” but instead to power and control? As such, this conference seeks to consider how practices, ethics, and aesthetics of untranslatability might reroute or even upend such controlling grammars.

TTC invites papers from graduate students that explore the many dimensions of translation: its politics, methods, figures, concepts, and future directions, especially as these relate to the domain of religion. This year’s conference will be hybrid in its modality, and as such, we eagerly encourage submissions from those individuals who will present via Zoom as well as those who will be present on campus.

Proposals should be 200-300 words in length and include, as an attachment, a CV or brief bio that indicates the applicant’s institution, program, stage of completion, and area of focus/research interests. We welcome proposals for transdisciplinary papers as well as proposals for teaching sessions, activist engagement, art, or storytelling, and other creative approaches to engage the conference theme. Please submit your proposal to by January 15th in order to be considered. If accepted, presentations should be approximately 20 minutes in length (1,800-2,000 words).

Below are a few ideas of the kinds of conversations we are interested in having:

  • The politics and aesthetics of translation
  • The figure of the “translator” or “interpreter” within religious, theological, and biblical studies
  • Community interpretation or the “community of interpreters”
  • Critical methods and methodologies for translation
  • Translating the category of “religion” across contexts (geographical, temporal, political, religious, etc.)
  • Symbols, symbolism, and symbolic languages
  • Untranslatable religious concepts or words
  • Translating thoughts, feelings, affects, or beliefs into action
  • The ineffable or ineffability
  • Poetics or theopoetics
  • Productive or inhibiting misinterpretations/mistranslations
  • The gift of tongues or speaking in tongues (glossolalia)
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