I have been a member of the steering committee of the Kierkegaard, Religion, and Culture Group of the American Academy of Religion, on and off, for many, many years. Sylvia Walsh Perkins brought me onto the steering committee, as she did Marcia Robinson. Sylvia was always looking out for younger scholars, and especially women, because she knew from experience how inhospitable the world of scholarship could be for women. 

Jennifer Veninga now enjoys the role, along with Lee Barrett, of co-chair of the committee. She sent out an email a few days ago encouraging the other members of the steering committee to encourage scholars they knew to submit proposals for presentations at the next annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. We had not yet gotten so many proposals as we had hoped, she explained. There are likely a number of reasons for that, chief among them being COVID. It isn’t so much, I think, that people are afraid of attending the conference as it is that COVID has been very disruptive of people’s lives. I’ve passed on several opportunities myself recently just out of a feeling of being overwhelmed. 

The annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion is always a wonderful event, though, especially for Kierkegaard scholars because there are always at least two session devoted to presentations on Kierkegaard, and there are occasionally even more sessions than that! Also, since the AAR does not have regional meetings to rival the one annual national meeting the way the APA does, that one annual national meeting is a huge event. Every publisher under the sun is there with deeply discounted (and sometimes even free on the last day) books. It is far and away my favorite scholarly conference and has been ever since I began attending it more than twenty years ago.

So I promised to do a post about the call. There are two calls, actually, and finished papers are not being solicited, only abstracts. The meeting is not until next November so should your abstract be selected, you will have plenty of time to work it into a full-blown proposal. Below are the calls. Both are really interesting, among the most interesting calls we’ve had in years, so my hope is that this post will help to generate some more proposal submissions.

I also wanted to remind people about the big book giveaway mentioned in the previous post. Many of the books are still available. The books will be available until the end of March, at which time, the ones that are not claimed will be donated to the United Lutheran Seminary here in Philadelphia.

Call for Proposals

This year, the Kierkegaard, Religion, and Culture Unit invites proposals for sessions on the following topics:

  • • Kierkegaard on Preferential Attachments and Love for Strangers and Enemies

This session calls for papers that explore the relation of ordinary human affiliative dispositions, such as friendship, romance, familial affection, patriotism, partisanship, and other loyalties to particular communities, to the more extraordinary forms of Christian love, such as loving strangers and enemies, in Kierkegaard’s literature. The problem, as Kierkegaard develops it, is that ordinary forms of attachment presuppose a preference for some people over others, while the exhortation to love all neighbors seems to have a universal scope and therefore to be non-preferential. For generations many interpreters of Kierkegaard have highlighted his frequent dichotomization of the preferential loves and non-preferential neighbor love, and have often seen this disjunction as an essential component of his critique of complacent collectivities. However, in more recent decades some of his expositors, inspired by the pioneering work of such scholars as Jamie Ferreira, have sought to find significant continuities between the two types of love. In the last few years the interpretive debate has heated up again, with proponents of both trajectories proliferating books and articles. The current rise of public debate about organic forms of human sociability, including nationalism and ethnic solidarity, and the valorization of romance and family cohesion, suggests that a reconsideration of Kierkegaard’s writings about these matters is extraordinarily timely.

  • • Kierkegaard and the Press, Then and Now

This session calls for papers that address Kierkegaard’s relationship to newspapers and members of the press during his lifetime and, relatedly, Kierkegaard’s significance for analyzing various trends and forms of traditional and emerging media today. In our age social media, multimedia production, the digital turn, and corporate media consolidation have radically altered the ways in which societies and individuals receive and interact with journalism, news coverage, ideas, opinion, and critical discourse. How did Kierkegaard negotiate his relationship with the press, journalism and critical discourse in the 19th century? How do Kierkegaard’s methods, approaches and ideas apply to the new sets of relations, platforms and technologies in the 20th and 21st centuries?

Kierkegaard’s journalistic writings form a substantial part of his authorship. He engaged in famous personal battles with members of the Danish press, warned against the dangers of a press bent on promoting social conformity, extolled the extraordinary possibilities of newspapers, and variously reflected on the obligations of the journalist, the editor, the singular “newspaper reader,” and the broader reading public. Across his writings Kierkegaard can be seen as journalist, editor, editorialist, media critic, cartoon caricature, reader, anonymous contributor, and pamphleteer.

Kierkegaard’s journalistic engagement and the scholarship that has emerged from assessment of his writings form a substantial discursive plane for examining contemporary media concerns and a climate in which journalism and the expression of opinion are in crisis. Social media, more than just a vehicle for entertainment and interpersonal communication, have become means and sources for media reporting, debate, readership, and the circulation of unmediated misinformation. Anonymity, in the form of discussion boards and comment sections, has resulted in hate speech, bullying, despair, and even death, sometimes by suicide.

The new pressures on journalism and the journalists, and the new venues for the expression of public opinion, have implications and consequences that call for a reconsideration of Kierkegaard and his unique relationship to and commentary on newspapers and the press.

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